The Wamego Times, March 20, 2003, Volume116 Number 12
by Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor
William Leonard Pickard, testifying in his own defense last week, said that as a student at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in the 1990s, he researched drug trafficking in Kansas, Afghanistan and the former Soviet Union in an attempt to stem the proliferation of drugs in the United States.
Pickard, 57, and Clyde Apperson 47, are charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 10 grams of LSD. They were arrested in early November, 2000, after leaving the former Wamego missile base with an alleged LSD lab which law enforcement officials said had the potential to produce 826 million dosage units of the hallucinogen.
Pickard told jurors he collaborated with officials of the U. S. Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration on three drug research fronts: a Boston-to- Kansas lab which produced fentanyl, a potent, synthetic form of heroin which killed hundreds on the eastern seaboard; the explosion of fentanyl use in the former Soviet Union following the fall of communism; and heroin trafficking in Afghanistan at the time the Taliban was seizing control of the country.
PICKARD SAID his research took him to Moscow, where he met with government officials about drug use, and to Northern Afghanistan where posed as a drug trafficker to infiltrate a heroin trafficking ring run by an Afghan warlord who became the Deputy Minister of Defense following the fall of the Taliban government.
To lend credibility to his testimony, Pickard dropped the names of some heavy hitters in the U. S. Government, including Robert Bonner, commissioner of the U. S. Customs Service and former director of the Drug Enforcement administration, and Robert Gelbard, assistant secretary of state and ambassador to Indonesia during the Clinton Administration.
Bonner flew in from Washington D. C. last Wednesday to testify in the LSD conspiracy trial in U. S. District Court at Topeka (see related story this page), and Gelbard is on Pickard's list of defense witnesses.
The prosecution, however, claimed Pickard never had government authorization or encouragement to conduct the drug trafficking research, and raised objections to much of Pickard's testimony, calling it third-party hearsay and irrelevant to, the LSD case.
"NO ONE in government cared about Mr. Pickard's actions," Assistant U. S. Attorney Greg Hough told' the court. In fact, Hough said, Pickard's report on heroin trafficking in Afghanistan titled "Operation Infrared," was "rejected and shredded" by a U. S. Customs official. "It's irrelevant," Hough said.
Shortly after beginning work on his Master's Degree in Public Policy at Harvard in 1994, Pickard said he received an appointment as a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and began researching the outbreak of fentanyl use in the United States, thought to have been caused by the clandestine lab of George Marquardt, a self-taught chemist tracked by the DEA from Boston to Goddard, Kansas, where, in 1993, he was busted and later imprisoned.
With the knowledge of the Harvard faculty and DEA Senior Chemist Roger Ely, Pickard said he corresponded with Marquardt in an Oregon prison and received responses "in surprising detail" to a list of 15 questions posed by Pickard.
"I wanted to know the addictiveness of the drug," Pickard told the jury, "Is it pleasant or does it have a bad effect like peyote? That's an important question. If you prefer the fentanyl, we have a serious problem. If you prefer the heroin, that's a different matter." Fentanyl has the street names of "China White," "Tombstone" and "Tango and Cash."
"THE GEM of his reply," Pickard said, was a response to one of the questions in which Marquardt claimed the DEA seized only a portion of his fentanyl lab in the Goddard raid, and that "the bulk of his lab was safe and secure. "
Hough objected to an implication by Pickard that Marquardt's lab fell into the hands of Gordon Todd Skinner, former owner of the Wamego missile base and admitted co-conspirator with Pickard and Apperson in the LSD case. Pickard claimed the defense had learned that Richard Dawson, the Wichita scrap dealer who sold the missile base to Skinner, was an "associate" of Marquardt's.
"These letters are complete and total hearsay," Hough said in his objection. Pickard's testimony that Marquardt's lab was still hidden in Kansas and that the DEA was not interested "is a far leap from what the documents say. It's exactly what the hearsay rule prevents."
Marquardt's responses to Pickard's 15 questions were ruled by the court as hearsay and inadmissable as evidence. U. S. District Court Judge Richard Rogers said Pickard "totally misquoted" Marquardt's response to the question about the lab, and he instructed the jury to disregard any comments made about Marquardt's responses.
Pickard in Russia
While at Harvard, Pickard said he prepared a "briefing paper" for the U. S. State Department entitled "What Should the State Department Do About the Drug Problems In Russia?' Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard was his sponsor for the project, Pickard testified.
PICKARD'S research for the paper twice took him to Russia where he said he met with Russia's head forensic chemist and the head of the MVB (the Russian version of the FBI) to discuss the "explosive outbreak" of fentanyl use by students in Moscow.
The purpose of the study, Pickard testified, was to "anticipate the next inevitable fentanyl lab and the ineviable deaths from it." The recipe for synthesizing the drug had been posted on the internet and "in my view, that was a very big problem," Pickard said.
In his briefing paper, Pickard said he recommended that Russia initiate money laundering controls and investigations into the offshore banking industry. Russia had no central bank nor credit cards, "everything is done, in cash," he said. "There are hundreds of millions in U. S. currency of unknown origin in Russia, hence the opportunities for money laundering are enormous. "
Pickard said he sent the briefing paper to Gelbard and communicated his findings by e-mail to the DEA's Roger Ely, who testified in the trial last Tuesday.
ELY SAID he learned of Pickard through Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, a toxicologist-pharmacologist, who e-mailed Ely and asked if it would be okay for a Harvard student working on a project to contact him. Shulgin has invented dozens of mind-altering drugs and is often referred to as "The Godfather of Ecstacy."
Ely said Pickard contacted him and discussed the use of the internet to get illicit drugs; the use of encrypted messages to elude law enforcement investigators; Russian drug trafficking; and synthetic illicit substances.
Ely said he became cautious about dealing with Pickard after Shulgin told him Pickard, in 1988, had been arrested at an LSD laboratory at Mountain View, Calif. Pickard was later convicted of possession of mescaline and possession and manufacture of LSD.
Following his 1988 arrest and subsequent conviction, Pickard was. imprisoned in the U. S. Federal Corrections Facility at Terminal Island, Calif., where he met Mohammed Akbar, an Afghan national serving a 12-year sentence for heroine importation.
SEVERAL YEARS later, as a student at Harvard's JFK School of Government, Pickard said he tried to broker a deal to retrieve four Stinger missiles in the hands of an Afghan warlord in exchange for Akbar's early release. He said he was also instructed by U. S. Customs officials to arrange for a large shipment of heroine from Afghanistan to the United States to try to uncover the smugglers' U. S. distribution system.
Pickard said at the direction of U.S. Customs, he traveled to Afghanistan and represented himself as a drug trafficker to Akbar's family and friends, and he met with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Northern Alliance warlord in charge of the heroin ring who is now Deputy Defense Minister of Afghanistan.
When Hough objected to the term "direction of Customs," Judge Richard Rogers asked, "Who were these people (in Customs)? Who paid for these trips?"
"I did," Pickard replied.
"I received explicit instructions from Customs,'Pickard testified. The arrangements for the heroin shipment "were left to my discretion," he said. "My instructions were to induce the system to ship heroin to the United States and let them know I could move money around," Pickard testified. "This way we could determine who they were shipping to and arrests could be made."
IN TESTIMONY earlier in the week, U. S. Customs special agent Peter Louie said he had been contacted by Pickard family and Pickard provided serial numbers for several Stinger missiles, and the numbers were "credible," Louie testified. The Customs Service passed the missile information to an unnamed federal agency, but that agency didn't do anything with the information and the missiles- for-release trade never took place.
Pickard said the Stinger deal fell through because the CIA did not want to participate. The Stingers, shoulder mounted missile launchers, were given to the Afghans by the United States during the Soviet invasion of the country, and the U. S. wanted them back, Pickard testified. They wanted the Stingers, but they weren't willing to trade for Akbar, he said. The Stingers fell into the hands of the Taliban later that year, he said.
The heroin shipment also fell through, Pickard said, saying the Afghans offered to trade 800 kilograms of heroin for Akbar, but were unwilling to trade another heroin trafficker for him.
WHEN HE returned to the U. S., Pickard said he wrote a report on his trip--called "Operation Infrared"and sent copies to Louie and Ambassador Gelbard.
"Your honor, this is a document that Peter Louie and other witnesses rejected," Hough said. "It's irrelevant. Louie said the document was rejected and shredded. It's irrelevant."
Pickard said he continued his contacts with the Afghans through 1997, then decided to "disengage."
"The political climate changed," Pickard testified. "I just had a new baby and was about the graduate from Harvard. It was all getting to be too much ... too threatening. I felt like I was getting in over my head. I decided to leave it in the hands of the State Department."
After receiving his Master's Degree from Harvard, Pickard said he spent time at Taos, N. M., studying Buddhist meditation and preparing a treatise on potential drugs of the future
The Wamego Times, March 20, 2003
by Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor
William Leonard Pickard last week testified about his first meeting with Gordon Todd Skinner, the former owner of the Atlas-E missile base near Wamego and the person who ultimately turned Pickard over to federal authorities in exchange for his own immunity in the LSD conspiracy investigation.
Pickard, 57, and Clyde Apperson, 47, are charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 10 grams of LSD. They were arrested in early November 2000, driving away from the missile base with an alleged clandestine LSD lab.
Pickard said he first met Skinner in February of 1998, at a conference of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists at San Francisco, Calif.
"I WANTED to stay abreast of forensic developments, even though I'm a policy person and science is difficult for me," Pickard testified.
Although Skinner testified earlier he had met Pickard in 1997 at an ethnobotany conference at San Francisco, Pickard said he doesn't recall that meeting.
At the 1998 conference, Pickard testified, the two men met in the lobby of Skinner's hotel and Skinner invited Pickard to his room and later "put me up in a nice room. He was a very generous person. He pressed gifts on people."
Skinner told Pickard he said was heir to a spring factory fortune and his family was very affluent. "He carried it off very well," Pickard testified. "He was staying in a $1,700-per night suite paid by Gardner Spring Factory." Pickard said he learned about two years later that Gardner Spring had only about 10 employees.
PICKARD DESCRIBED Skinner as a "fascinating person" who showed an expertise on chemical compounds and who talked freely about his "ayahuasca" experiences (ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic tea brewed from rain forest plants).
"Mr. Skinner talks and everybody else listens," Pickard said.
Following the forensic science conference, Pickard said, the two talked often by phone, and some months later, Skinner invited Pickard, to Kansas to see his refurbished missile base.
"He said it was one of five he owned in Kansas, and he also owned one in Colorado-a former NORAD headquarters," Pickard testified.
"HE WAS incredibly generous. I'd never seen anything like it, Pickard said. "I assumed his funding was legitimate. I was delighted to make a new friend and an interesting friend."
At the conclusion of Pickard's testimony last Friday, jurors received their first glimpse inside the former Atlas-E missile base when defense attorneys played a 29-minute video recorded October 31, 2000, by an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Robert Bonner, commissioner of the United States Customs Service, testified last Wednesday in trial of William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson, the San Francisco area men charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more, than 10 grams of LSD.
As head of the U. S. Customs Service, Bonner answers directly to Tom Ridge, recently-appointed director of Homeland Security for the United States, Bonner is also former director of (he Drug Enforcement Administration and a former U.S. District Court judge at Los Angeles
In 1998 or 1999. while in private practce, Bonner said he received a call from a man named William Leonard Pickard, claiming to have knowledge of fentanyl manufacturing and trafficking in Russia, Fentanyl, used as an anesthetic, is a very potent, synthetic form of heroin.
"From what he (Pickard) said, there was a concern I had...that somehow he was involved in the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl," Bonner testified under direct examination from Pickard defense attorney William Rork.
Bonner said be counseled Pickard to contact someone in the DEA immediately. Bonner said he later agreed to make contact with the DEA on Pickard's behalf and he (Bonner) contacted Donnie Marshal, head of criminal operations at DEA, and gave him Pickard's name and phone number, "I don't know what happened after that," Bonner said.
Under cross-examination by, Assistant U. S. Attomey Greg Hough, Bonner said he had never met Pickard and, as head of the DEA and U. S, Customs, never authorized Pickard to investigate criminal matters, on behalf of those agencies.
"As a defense witness, should we impugn in any way that you are appearing here on his (Pickard's) behalf?" Hough asked.
I'm here because I was subpoenaed," Bonner said. "When you get subpoenaed, you're required to appear, so I'm here." Bonner testified for about 40 minutes, then flew back to Washington, D.C.