update on terrorist glassblowers

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Feb 27, 2003.

  1. Authorities released indicted Eugene businessmen Jason Harris and Saeed Mohtadi on Tuesday without requiring the men to post bail. The two men, who are scheduled to appear in federal court in Pennsylvania on March 9, were among 55 individuals served with indictments Monday in nationwide raids against suppliers of alleged drug-related paraphernalia.
    Friends and family of Harris and Mohtadi gathered Tuesday morning at the federal courthouse in Eugene to support the men in pre-trial hearings. Both are charged with five paraphernalia-related offenses, including conspiracy to sell and offer for sale drug paraphernalia from August 2002 to January 2003.

    Mohtadi, dressed in a long-sleeved black T-shirt, with dreadlocks spilling down to his waist, sat at a table surrounded by lawyers and federal authorities and said little. Harris, Mohtadi's business partner, did not attend the 9 a.m. hearing because officials were holding him in custody with state-related charges that were later dropped.

    After the hearing , Mohtadi's lawyer Greg Veralrud said he was disappointed officials had decided to proceed with the case in Pennsylvania.

    "The government's made some choices here," Veralrud said, speculating that perhaps the Department of Justice hoped to find more sympathetic jury members outside of Oregon. "The question should be asked, 'Why there?'"

    Most of Harris and Mohtadi's business operations were still shut down Tuesday. No one answered phone calls at the warehouse or at Universal Glass, 55 N. Seneca St., the business' distribution center. Two of the businesmen's three Web sites, Ghettoweb.com and Smokelab.com, were not working.

    However, their retail shop Higher Source re-opened Tuesday, one day after U.S. Marshals raided the store.

    According to Hugh Glass, an employee at Higher Source, marshals seized water pipes, glass pipes and hookahs, destroyed a security camera, disconnected the remainder of the cameras and turned off all electrical appliances in the store.

    The marshals "stormed in with guns ablazing," Glass said.

    Deputy Marshal Eric Wahlstrom said he didn't know why security equipment was damaged, saying the Drug Enforcement Agency was running the operation.

    "I'm not sure why or what was done in the store," Wahlstrom said, although he did speculate that the reasons could be for evidence, or that there were undercover operatives.

    DEA officials could not be reached for comment.

    Displaced glass blowers and their families, however, had plenty to say about Monday's raids.

    Dave Querubin, a glass artist who worked for Jerome Baker Designs, said he wondered why the government has not treated liquor store owners the same way it treated Mohtadi, Harris and their employees.

    "Why is it such a harsh reality when a kid gets his hands on a glass bong, but not a harsh reality when a kid gets his hands on a glass bottle of whiskey?" he said.

    His wife, Donna, agreed.

    "We all have families, we all have kids," she said. "And now we don't have jobs."

    Veralrud said he thought the government's charges had little merit. Even if Mohtadi was convicted, Veralrud said he doubts his client would serve more than a year in prison. Right now, the lawyer said he's working on changing the trial location from Pennsylvania to Oregon.

    Other Eugene headshops remain unaffected by the crackdown. Employees at Hunky Dory Pipe & Tobacco and Sweet Potato Pie said they did not encounter DEA or other government agents on Monday, and workers at Lazar's Bazar refused to comment.

    Even though Higher Source is open once again, Glass is skeptical the store can operate without the sale of glass pipes or other material the DEA now considers "drug paraphernalia."

    "I don't know if we can recover from this type of a loss," he said.

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