Opening statements begin in Jim Carlson federal case

By KBJR News 1

Opening statements begin in Jim Carlson federal case

September 17, 2013 Updated Sep 18, 2013 at 2:52 PM CDT

Minneapolis, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Jury selection and opening statements are underway in the federal case against Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson.

Carlson is facing 55 counts related to the sale of synthetic drugs at his Duluth store on Superior Street.

14 jurors were selected from a panel of 60—9 women and 5 men.

Prosecutors wasted no time in highlighting their case in which they say they intend to prove that Jim Carlson is guilty of all 55 counts against him.

Also facing some of those charges: Carlson's son Joseph Gellerman, and his girlfriend Lava Haugen—both of whom worked at the Last Place on Earth.

Prosecuting attorney Surya Saxena said in opening statements that all 55 allegations can fit into three simple categories.

He said Carlson knew he was selling synthetic drugs with the intent for human consumption.

Saxena told the jury they will hear testimony from undercover officers, former LPOE clients, and former employees who were allegedly told by Carlson how to ingest the substances, and that they wouldn't show up in a urine test.

Saxena also said that the jury would see how the products were intentionally misbranded.

The prosecution also made clear that the bulk of Carlson's business in recent years—about 80% to be exact—has been the sale of synthetic stimulants, cannabinoids, and analogues. In all, they say it has made Carlson millions of dollars annually.

While there's no denying the business it has brought Carlson, defense sees it differently.

Defense attorney John Markham, who represents Lava Haugen, said during his opening statements that Carlson and Haugen tried, and succeeded, in being law abiding citizens by effectively stopping the sale of any banned substance as soon as they knew it had been banned.

While similar products were sold in place of them, Markham says the scientific community agrees that those products aren't the same, and therefore not illegal.

In the words of Carlson's attorney Randall Tigue, just because the FDA bans butter doesn't make it illegal to sell margarine.

Both men also claimed that Carlson had no intention of misleading or defrauding anyone, let alone the government, with his sales.

They added that there were constant lines outside of his store, media attention, and interviews given by Carlson to the media about the sale of what he calls incense reinforce that.

They said the trial would also make clear that Carlson was told by "reliable sources" in government and politics that the products in his store were legal.

Gellerman exercised his right to withhold an opening statement until his side of the case begins.

Judge David Doty has asked both prosecution and defense teams to withhold comments to the media until the trial is over.

Witnesses are expected to begin taking the stand Wednesday morning.

Billy Wagness

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