LAFAYETTE, La. (IND) – Thursday afternoon the jury in the federal Curious Goods conspiracy case heard closing arguments from two federal prosecutors and the defendant himself, high-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford. Stanford will know soon the wisdom of choosing to represent himself in the synthetic marijuana case, where he faces 13 counts, including conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue (AM-2201), conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce and money laundering.
The jury got the case at about 4:30 p.m., and U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote said it deliberated for several hours before she released them. Deliberations will resume tomorrow morning.
In his closing arguments, Stanford, who passionately maintained his innocence, called into question the witness testimony from the other former defendants who have agreed to plea deals.
Stanford, who has been on trial since last Tuesday, is the lone defendant in what was originally a nine-person indictment, which also included charges against Curious Goods owner Richard Buswell, Stanford’s client in a securities fraud scheme. The other defendants (seven remain after the death of attorney Barry Domingue, who committed suicide in April during the first Curious Goods trial), Alexander Derrick Reece, Drew T. Green, Thomas Malone Jr., Boyd Anthony Barrow, Joshua Espinoza, Richard Buswell and Dan Francis, have cut plea deals. With the exception of Malone and Buswell, who were not called to testify, they all took the stand for the prosecution.
The feds raided and shut down six Curious Goods stores in December 2011 and unsealed an indictment against the nine co-defendants in October 2012.
“Some of these people pled guilty almost two years ago, and none of them have been sentenced,” Stanford said. “But they all claim to tell the truth. When you’re neck is on the chopping block, you’ll say just about anything.”
Stanford was particularly critical of Francis saying, “He can convince you that he’s a scientist. Some people thought he was a lawyer. He doesn’t tell the truth.”
One of the themes outlined in the prosecution’s case centers on the date Nov. 28, 2011. That’s the day Stanford filed papers for the incorporation of a nonprofit Louisiana chapter of the Retail Compliance Association, an organization first created by Francis in California as a way of helping businesses comply with laws surrounding the sale of synthetic cannabinoids like Mr. Miyagi. The feds say the local RCA chapter was Stanford’s way of advising retailers selling Mr. Miyagi on how to elude law enforcement and that he used purported connections to high-ranking officials in law enforcement to convince RCA members he had their back.
The Mr. Miyagi product was labeled “not for human consumption,” but everyone involved in the case, including Stanford, knew that it was sold solely for its marijuana-like high.
Stanford denied the former co-defendants’ claims that he bragged of a “handshake agreement” with Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell that would offer protection from any prosecution relating to the sale of Mr. Miyagi.
In the prosecution’s closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Collin Sims referred to the articles of incorporation for the Retail Compliance Agency, which clearly stated Stanford as the organization’s director as well as former defendant Francis as its president.
While Stanford maintained that checks written to him by Curious Goods were for his representation of Buswell in a securities fraud case (Buswell was convicted in that case), Sims pointed out that at least one check from Curious Goods to Stanford included “RCA Dues” written in the memo line. Sims showed the jury at least three checks from Curious Goods to Stanford, all for $6,250. Sims claims this is undeniable proof that Stanford was running “a shell game.”
“This case is all about greed, money, lies and drugs,” Sims told jurors, repeating the same line from his opening statements. “Stanford figured out a way to scam $6 million in drug money. Instead of defending a drug dealer Stanford became one.”
Read more on the Curious Goods story here.
[This article originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2014 edition of The Independent and on TheIND.com.]