The Wamego Times, Thursday April 3, 2003 Volume 116 Number 14
by Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor
William Leonard Pickard, accused of heading an LSD conspiracy ring, testified last week he and co-defendant Clyde Apperson came to Wamego nearly 2 1/2 years ago to destroy an LSD lab concealed at the converted Atlas-E missile base northwest of Wamego.
Pickard and Apperson, both of the San Francisco Bay area, are charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 10 grams of LSD. They were arrested in early November of 2000, after leaving the missile base with an LSD lab which authorities said had the capability of producing more than 800 million dosage units of the hallucinogen.
Under direct examination by his defense attorney, William Rork, Pickard said Gordon Todd Skinner, former owner of the missile base and admitted co-conspirator in the LSD case who cooperated with authorities in exchange for immunity, had claimed he might have part of the clandestine laboratory of George Marquardt and some of Marquardt's ergotamine tartrate (ET), a chemical precursor of LSD. Marquardt was imprisoned in the early 1990s after authorities busted his fentanyl lab near Wichita.
PICKARD TOLD jurors Skinner had promised many times to show him boxes containing part of the Marquardt lab, and that portions of the lab were at Skinner's missile base, which he had converted into a home and a spring factory.
"I kept trying to get the ET from him," Pickard told jurors, adding that he declined a request from Skinner to set up an LSD lab at the converted missile base. There was only one use for the ET, he said, and if Skinner had the chemical it was important to know that and to get it back.
Pickard said he and Apperson went to the missile base November 4, 2000, to help Skinner move out of the base, but discovered what Pickard thought might be a drug-production lab, not the Marquardt lab. Pickard said he saw a series of green military containers inside a metal building at the missile base site.
"Inside them were white buckets that were heavily scaled," Pickard said. There were also black containers holding a black liquid, he added.
In cross-examination, Assistant U. S. Attorney Greg Hough asked Pickard why he didn't call police after discovering a clandestine lab at the missile base; why he fled from authorities the night of November 6, 2000; and why he had 15 different identification cards, none of which contained his real name.
"I WASN'T aware of an LSD lab between November 4 and November 7," Pickard said. "I could have called police, but I felt it was premature to do so because of Mr. Skinner's generosity to me previously and not knowing yet what was in the black buckets."
According to previous testimony, Pickard, driving a rented Buick, sped up and tried to pass the Ryder truck driven by Apperson and containing the LSD lab when Kansas Highway Patrol Troopers tried to pull them over the night of November 6.
"My memory of the event is different than theirs," Pickard said. "I would never try to flee another vehicle. I recall stopping the car, opening the door and bolting into a residential area, around a house, and into a field"
Pickard said "after a very long and trying night," he wound up at a rural farm home (the home of Bill Taylor on Military Trail Rd. between Wamego and St. George where he was arrested the following day).
Hough: "You didn't ask to use the Taylors' phone to call police or call your good friend Peter Louie, did you?" (Pickard had testified earlier he had a longstanding relationship about illegal drug trafficking with Louie, a special agent for the U. S. Customs Service).
Pickard: "Things were pretty scary at that point. I needed time to think things through."
Hough: "And when the deputy and Officer (Matt) Pfrang arrived, you ran front them, too, is that right?"
Pickard: "Yes, that's correct. I didn't call anyone while I was a fugitive. I was stumbling through the brush and the creeks."
Hough: "And after your arrest, you didn't call I anyone from DEA or Customs?"
Pickard: "At this point, we were at an adversarial setting."
THE EXCHANGES between Hough and Pickard during cross-examination were often contentious. When Hough asked Pickard if he recalled a piece of testimony and said, "Use your mind," Pickard retorted, "Excuse me, Mr. Hough, don't be insulting."
When Pickard testified he was concerned about his wife and child, Hough asked which child he was talking about, the one with Trais Kliphuis, or Natalya Kruglova. Pickard retorted, I think that's reprehensible on your part, sir"
At one point, U. S. District Court Judge Richard Rogers intervened in an argument between Hough, Pickard and Defense Attorney Rork.
"I'm used to some of this in this trial, and I want you to stop," Rogers said. "And I want you to stop, and I want you to stop quarreling."
AN INMATE at a Springfield, Mo. prison testified last Thursday that he saw lab equipment at the converted missile base near Wamego during the time he worked there as an electrician and later when he "socialized" at the base with Gordon Todd Skinner from 1996-99.
Twenty-four-year-old Brandon Valerius, serving 92 months for three convictions of methamphetainine possession and distribution, was the final witness to testify in the I I -week LSD conspiracy case.
Under direct examination by Pickard Attorney Rork, Valerius identified numerous government photographs of lab equipment seized by authorities the night of November 6, 2000,as being very similar to equipment he saw inside a generator room in the missile base several years before the lab was reportedly moved to Wamego from an Atlas-E missile base at Carneiro, KS.
The testimony of Valerius may have been diluted, however, when it was revealed that prior to his transfer to Springfield, he had spent time at Leavenworth CCA, a holding facility for federal detainees, where he became acquainted with the co-defendant in the LSD case-William Leonard Pickard.
In cross-examination by Hough, Valerius said he tried to give authorities information about the lab equipment, but "they didn't want to hear it."
"WHO? WHO did you offer to tell?" Hough prodded.
"My attorney told me..."
"No, that's hearsay," Hough interjected. "I want to know what you did."
Valerius said that was the only way he knew how to answer and was excused.
In his closing arguments, Hough said no other witness had testified to seeing lab equipment at the base prior to the bust November 6, 2000, and that as a "final act of desperation, he (Pickard) brings in Mr. Valerius, the jailbird,"
U. S. District Court Judge Richard Rogers last Thursday pushed the prolonged LSD conspiracy trial to a conclusion, denying requests, by defense attorneys to call more witnesses and to delay closing arguments until Monday, March 31.
William Rork, defense attorney for William Leonard Pickard, told the court he wanted to call four more whitnesses, three of whom were no I not available until early this week, and a fourth who would not testify unless he was granted immunity by the government.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Greg Hough objected to allowing the witnesses to testify, saying they had no relevant. information to add to the case. For the same reason, Hough said the government would not extend immunity to the fourth witness.
ROGERS AGREED. "The court is not going to extend this case any further," he said, "This case came to the court two years ago and the attorneys have had ample time to prepare this and get your witnesses here. My plan right now is...to have final arguments in this line o'clock in the morning. I feel we need to bring this case to a head and I intend to do it."
Defense attorneys, however, asked the court to delay closing arguments until Monday, giving them more time to prepare.
"To suggest that you two very experienced attorneys need more time to prepare your final argument is not a good excuse at all," Rogers said, adding that this has been the longest and most difficult case he has presided over in 26 years on the bench.
"Although we may be experienced, judge, there were over 900 exhibits and thousands of pages of reports and notes," Rork, countered "I'm not Superman, judge,"
MARK BENNETT, defense counsel for co-defendant Clyde Apperson, echoed Rork's appeal, "I've got more experience than I like to admit to, and that experience leads me to ask the court to have closing arguments Monday," Bennett said. "I would respectfully submit that it's not going to make that much of a difference in the overall scheme of things if we delay one more day:'
Rogers, however, would have none of it. "There's been a great deal of wasted time ... a great deal of wasted time in this case," he said. "You need to have some consideration for the jury, which non of us have had for the past I I weeks."
With that, defense attorneys rested their case to prepare for closing arguments the following morning.
After hearing I I weeks of testimony in the LSD conspiracy trial, one of two alternate jurors was dismissed Friday morning, March 28-the final day of the trial-,-after he overslept and missed about the first 30 minutes of the government's closing arguments in the case.
The Wamego Times, April 03, 2003
by Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor
After 42 days of testimony by 29 witnesses and the introduction of more than 1,000 pieces of evidence, the case against William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson was turned over to the jury just before 5 p.m. Friday, March 28.
Pickard, 57, and Apperson, 47, are charged with 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 what authorities described as a ,'very large" LSD lab.
Jurors heard closing arguments from the prosecution and defense attorneys Friday before receiving final instructions from U. S. District Court Judge Richard Rogers.
"AS YOU can see, this was a hard tried case," Rogers told the j jurors. "I think the attorneys all did a very good job with a very difficult case. I'd say this was an unusual case. In my 26 years (as a federal judge) I've never had one go this long.
Jurors began deliberations in the case Monday morning, March 31.
In closing arguments Friday, Assistant U. S. Attorney Greg Hough told jurors: "What you have here is two California men who want to sell you some ocean-front property in Kansas. The fact is, the ocean is not in Kansas. You see the defendants before you, stripped to the bone for what they are ... LSD manufacturers with an LSD distribution network."
Defense attorneys for Pickard and Apperson-William Rork and Mark Bennett-claimed the government presented only the evidence that was supportive of their case. They discredited the government's informant and main witness, Gordon Todd Skinner, calling him a liar and a thief.
"THIS WAS a set-up, ladies and gentlemen," Bennett told the jury, "a set-up in which Gordon Skinner was trying to get out of his own problems. The government, much to their chagrin, found out later Mr. Skinner never met a lie he didn't like or embrace."
Bennett said he did not dispute that Apperson was driving the Ryder truck containing the LSD lab the night of November 6, 2000. "But we do dispute he had knowledge he was transporting an illegal lab," Bennett said. "He has no criminal record and there is no evidence Clyde Apperson was involved with any glassware or chemicals."
"Would you buy a used car from Mr. Skinner?" Rork asked jurors. "Mr. Pickard's misfortune was meeting him in 1998, and later becoming financially dependent on him. If it doesn't fit the government's case, you ain't gonna hear it, I guarantee it. It's like the old Wendy's commercial: "Where's the beef?"
Of the 29 witnesses called in the trial, the government called 20, and Rork called nine to testify on behalf of Pickard. Bennett chose not to call any witnesses and his client declined to testify.
Hough told jurors that aside from Skinner's testimony, there were undisputed facts in the case proving the guilt of Pickard and Apperson; that Skinner had "admitted all of his warts" on the stand; and that Pickard and Apperson could be linked to three of the four LSD labs ever busted by the DEA dating back to 1988, when Pickard's LSD lab was busted at Mountain View, Calif.
"WE KNOW that Pickard and Apperson returned to Wamego because they wanted their ET. They demanded their ET," Hough said, advising jurors to review video and audio tapes secretly taped by DEA agents in the days leading up to the bust.
"Mr Pickard was the chemist, the lead man. He's not the mild-mannered policy schmuck he would have you believe. Mr. Pickard was in charge all along," Hough said. "Mr. Apperson would have you believe he's stupid. Anyone-a fifth-grade kid-has had enough science to know this was a laboratory. "Regarding the audiotapes, Rork pointed out that two DEA recording devices malfunctioned November 3, 2000-the day agents accompanied Skinner to Tulsa to meet with Pickard and Apperson.
"Oh, gee golly whiz," Rork said. "If that (conversation) was on tape would that have hurt the government's theory? Again, I can go on and on about dozens of pieces of evidence that don't fit the government's plan that you won't hear about. You have Skinner's version and you have Pickard's version.
"I'M NOT going to ask you to vote not guilty. I'm not going to ask you to vote guilty," Rork said. "I'm going to ask you to vote as if it was your loved one or brother facing this charge. Hold Mr. Hough-anything he says-to the record. It's not a contest. Did the government meet its burden of proof?"
"Test what he says," Bennett said of Hough. "Challenge in your mind what he says. Don't just accept at face value what he says because the government's not always right and the government doesn't always do what it ought to do.
"I told you in my opening statement we were going to prove ... that Mr. Skinner and the truth are total strangers, and we did," Bennett said. "Give his testimony no credibility. Throw it out. Everybody except Skinner got on the stand and told you what they know and not one of them told you they had any knowledge Clyde Apperson was involved in anything".
"Conspiracies hatched in hell do not have angels as participants," Hough said of Skinner. "The defendants want you to go right to Skinner and disregard everything else. There's simply no justification for ignoring the man's testimony because of the corroboration. Eight hundred pieces of evidence and 19 (government) witnesses tell you these men are guilty.
"THEY CHOSE Gordon Todd Skinner as their accomplice and coconspirator," Hough said. "The men shared the love of LSD. It's what those two men are about; it's what Mr. Skinner was about; it's what this case is about.
"The defendants are gamesmen and gamblers," Hough said. "But the truth is ... in this case, they've rolled craps."