Last Place on Earth defendants file for new trialDefense attorneys for Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson and two other defendants have asked a federal judge to grant a new trial.
By: Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune
Defense attorneys for Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson and two other defendants have asked a federal judge to grant a new trial.
In motions filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, attorneys detailed the reasons they believe Judge David S. Doty erred during the course of a three-week trial. In a 40-page joint motion filed for Carlson and his girlfriend, Lava Haugen, attorneys argue that Carlson was denied his Sixth Amendment right to “present a full and complete defense to criminal charges” because Doty’s rulings limited defense evidence.
“The preclusion of this evidence through other witnesses and documents, as well as through Carlson himself, led to an unjust verdict,” Carlson’s attorney, Randall Tigue, argues in the motion. “Defendants respectfully request that this court grant defendants a new trial to right this wrong.”
Carlson, 56, was found guilty on Oct. 7 of 51 federal crimes for the sale of synthetic drugs at his downtown Duluth shop. In addition to drug charges, he was found guilty of labeling violations and money laundering. Haugen, 33, was convicted of four crimes, while Carlson’s son, Joseph Gellerman, 35, was convicted on two counts.
During the trial, Doty denied repeated attempts by defense attorneys to present evidence, including public statements made by members of Congress and other government officials. Defense attorneys said the evidence would support the defendants’ claims that they believed the products they were selling were legal.
“Not only did the Court’s rulings prohibiting this state-of-mind evidence preclude the defense from offering it through witnesses who could have shown that it was seen or heard by the defendants, it effectively muzzled defendant Carlson and precluded him from taking the stand in his own defense,” attorneys argue in the motion.
The motion also claims that Doty mis-instructed jurors on several points, including the law regarding analogue drugs and labeling violations.
Attorneys for Haugen and Gellerman, meanwhile, argued that the weight of evidence does not support convictions against their clients.
“The evidence only showed that defendant Haugen worked in her boyfriend’s store, assisting with general management and bookkeeping, she openly sold products to customers, maintained records on all purchases from manufacturers and sales to clients, refused sale to customers who stated an intent to use any product for an illegal purpose, and heard the public statements of defendant Carlson, presented by the government at trial, that these products were not banned,” attorneys John Markham and Richard Holmstrom wrote in Haugen’s motion.
Gellerman and his Minneapolis attorney, Charles Hawkins, filed a separate motion Monday seeking either an acquittal or a new trial.
The motion claims that there was insufficient evidence to convict of Gellerman of labeling violations, saying he was a victim of government entrapment and that the evidence does not show that he had any knowledge of product misbranding. The motion asks that if the acquittal motion is denied, a new trial be granted based on erroneous instructions to the jury and lack of weight of evidence against Gellerman.
All three defendants made an oral request to Doty for a judgment of acquittal after the prosecution rested its case on Sept. 30. Doty took the requests under advisement, but has not issued a formal ruling.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Carlson and Haugen also filed a renewed motion for an acquittal Monday. The motion does not state specific reasons in support of an acquittal, but instead requests a three-week extension to submit a supplemental memorandum.
Defense attorneys told the News Tribune earlier this month that they would appeal the convictions to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals if they are unsuccessful in convincing Doty to grant either an acquittal or a new trial.
Carlson remains in custody at Sherburne County Jail, while Haugen and Gellerman are free on their previous bonds. A sentencing date has yet to be set.