The Wamego Times, March 27, 2003, Volume 116 Number 13
by Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor
William Leonard Pickard, testifying on his own behalf last week, refuted evidence and testimony of key government witnesses in the LSD conspiracy trial in U. S. District Court, Topeka.
Pickard concluded seven days of testimony last Thursday and was expected to continue testimony early this week under direct examination of his defense attorney, William Rork.
Pickard, 57, and Clyde Apperson, 47, both of the San Francisco Bay area, are charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 10 grams of the LSD. They were arrested in early November, 2000, after leaving the former Wamego missile base with an alleged LSD lab capable of producing more than 800 million dosage units of the hallucinogen.
PICKARD SAID he met Gordon Todd Skinner in February of 1998, at a conference of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists in San Francisco. He said he found Skinner fascinating and extremely knowledgeable of synthetic hallucinogens and that he counted on the Tulsan's professed wealth and connections to help fund his (Pickard's) drug research projects. However, Pickard said he was duped by Skinner, the former owner of the Wamego missile base and an admitted co-conspirator in the LSD case who cooperated with federal authorities in exchange for his own immunity.
"Mr. Skinner had a constant source of cash, which I assumed was from Gardner Spring . " Pickard testified. Gardner Spring is the factory owned by Skinner's mother at Tulsa for which he started a temporarily subsidiary in 1996, in the missile base. "He alluded to financial activities offshore, trading silver options, real estate investments, and the 100 year-old Gardner Industries complex that supplied 20 percent of the springs in the United States," Pickard said. "Initially, I was an honored guest and eventually I became a worker for Mr. Skinner."
Pickard said Skinner gave him $5,000 in cash for his proposed online drug research website called FEDS, Future Emerging Drug Study; through Gardner Spring, paid for his trips to the Netherlands and the Far East for drug research; and gave him bank drafts totalling $150,000 as start-up capital for a private online venture called Special Services Limited. After his arrest in November of 2000, Pickard said he discovered the bank drafts were counterfeit.
Pickard said Skinner also claimed to know the head of millionaire Warren Buffet's Maybe Foundation and promised to present Pickard's drug research proposals to the foundation for grant funding. He later learned that Skinner "led me along" about Buffet and the foundation, Pickard said.
PICKARD SAID Skinner "was deeply impressed with the ayahuasca experience. " Ayahuasca is an hallucinogenic tea brewed from South American rain forest plants and used in conjunction with an hours-long religious ceremony that includes chanting, lighted candies, and ceremonial garb and music. "He was closely bound with a group of ayahuasca users and he had great expertise in the area of tryptamines," Pickard said.
It was Skinner and Alfred Savinelli, the owner of Native Scents at Taos, N. M., and an admitted coconspirator in the LSD case, who discovered that materials extracted from certain grasses grown in the United States could duplicate the "ayahuasca experience," Pickard said. The two wanted to develop an industrial extraction process at Taos and supply ayahuasca to the Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) Church at Santa Fe, N. M., a branch of a Brazilian church which uses ayahuasca in its religious ceremonies.
Ayahuasca is an illegal controlled substance in the same class as LSD because it contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an hallucinogenic drug under the U. S. Controlled Substances Act. In Brazil, ayahuasca is legal and is recognized as the sacrament of several Brazilian-based churches, including the UDV. In May of 1999, U. S. Customs agents seized several bottles of the brew imported from Brazil for use by members of the UDV.
PICKARD REFUTED previous evidence and testimony by key government witnesses, saying the alleged LSD manufacturing activities in Santa Fe, N. M. and in Kansas were totally related to Skinner's illegal production of ayahuasea. For example:
David Haley previously testified that John Conner (aka William Leonard Pickard) paid him $300,000 over a two-year period to sub-lease a remote Santa Fe house for what Haley later found out was a clandestine LSD lab. Pickard said Skinner "had control" of the house, paid the $300,000 to Haley, and used the house for his own ayahuasca production.
The glassware and lab equipment seized in the Ryder truck the night of November 6, 2000, outside the Wamego missile base were similar to materials shipped by Skinner from Tulsa to Savinelli's business in the early 1990s, to develop an industrial extraction process to produce ayahuasca at Native Scents.
After U. S. Customs agents seized several bottles of ayahuasca imported from Brazil to Santa Fe, a grand jury investigation ensued and Skinner relocated his ayahuasca lab to Kansas where he wanted to convert his missile base into "a temple for ayahuasca use and entheogen use, in general," Pickard testified.
THE LAVISH marble, Mexican artwork and $100,000 speaker system Skinner had installed in the missile base were all part of the ayahuasca ceremony, Pickard said, adding that on several occasions in New Mexico and Kansas he saw Skinner prepare the hallucinogenic tea and that he knew of two ayahuasca sessions held in the missile base.
Skinner's testimony about Pickard telling him someone had been killed in relation to an LSD lab in Oregon may have been linked to an event in the summer of 1999, at Savinelli's Taos, N. M. home. "Yes, there was ... on two or three occasions there were discussions of death," Pickard testified.
In the summer of 1999, Pickard said he ws in Santa Fe and received a call from Skinner. "He said 'Help,'" Pickard said. Skinner was at Savinelli's with Harvard psychiatric researcher John Halpern and all three were "in the final phases of some experiment with an ayahuasca mixture. They liked to experiment a lot," Pickeard testified. "They were conscious, but unable to walk when I arrived"
Pickard said he cared for them for several days making herbal teas and talking to them. "The were in various states of extreme psychological distress. This went on for 2.5 days and then they began to recover. They were having death experiences.
THE CONVERSATION turned from death to murder conspiracies, Pickard said, and he mentioned to Skinner he knew someone in Boston who had been killed.
"I was referring to someone involved in the Marquardt affair who was killed gangland style with shots to the back of his head," Pickard testified. (Marquardt was the self-taught chemist whose Boston fentanyl lab was responsible for the deaths of hundreds along the eastern seaboard. He later relocated the lab to Goddard, Kansas, where he was busted and was ultimately imprisoned in Oregon).
"Mr. Skinner was obsessing rocking back and forth," Pickard said. "It was an exhausting few days. It was not unusual to find him like this. He cultivated the edge of hallucinogenic use."
Other testimony by government witness refuted by Pickard last week:
David White, special agent with the San Francisco DEA, previously testified that on February 22, 2001, DEA agents conducted a consent search of a storage locker at Roseville, Calif., and discovered $170, 100 in cash. The locker, White said, had been rented April 11, 1997, by Deborah Connor (aka Deborah Harlow), Pickard's first wife. Harlow gave DEA agents permission to search the locker and told them Pickard had given her the money.
PICKARD TESTIFIED last week the money had been given to him by Abdul Malik Pehlwan (aka Malik Han), the primary commander of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Afghan warlord and heroin trafficker who later became Deputy Minister of Defense in Afghanistan.
Pickard said he was Dostum's liaison to the State Department on a trip to the United States in 1997, and the money was actually financial contributions to Dostum from Afghans living in the U.S. Since Dostum couldn't legally take the case out of the U.S., his commader, Malik Han, gave it to Pickard for safekeeping.
Ralph Sorrell, a DEA task force officer who participated in the November 6, 2000 bust near Wamego, previously testified that a piece of paper seized from Pickard's briefcase that night had a notation on the back in Pickard's handwriting: "5 kg of ET 20 million doses of LSD."
Pickard said he wrote the note during a conference on chemical terrorism he had helped organize. Participants in the conference had learned that the terrorist who dumped serin gas in a Tokyo subway had possessed ET (ergotamine tartrate, an LSD precursor), and creating that much LSD could be considered an act of terrorism.
THE LIST of names on the other side of the paper were the participants at the conference, Pickard testified.
Guadalupe Teniorio Matias, the Mexican artisan who did tile work for Skinner at both the Wamego and Carneiro missile bases, previously testified that in December of 1999after working three days alone at the Carneiro basehe was awakened by two men he identified in court as Pickard and Apperson. The LSD lab was allegedly located in the Carneiro base at the time, and the two men gave him a ride back to Wamego.
Pickard said he never heard of a missile base at Carneiro or Salina or Ellsworth. In early winter of 1999, he said, he accompanied Skinner to an unknown location "to pick up Lupe." When they arrived at their destination, Pickard testified, Skinner told him to "Go down and get Lupe and I did."
Deborah Lehman, a Menlo Park, Calif. graphic artist, previously testified she received an unsolicited call from Pickard in August of 2000, about developing websites for him. Pickard and an associate arrived at her house September 7, to discuss their proposal and gave her a thick envelope which they said con contained $5,000 in cash as a down payment.
"I DIDN'T open the envelope," Lehman testified. "I didn't want to take the money. My instincts told me this could be drug money."
Pickard testified last week that Lehman never indicated any concern over the money which, he said, came from Skinner as an investment in the commercial website proposal. "I don't think she understood our proposals," Pickard said of Lehman.
Pickard said when he returned later to retrieve the cash, he walked back to his car. He said he did not run, as Lehman testified.