Federal Criminal Trial Beginning for 'Last Place' Owner

Posted at: 09/16/2013 8:13 PM
Updated at: 09/16/2013 9:27 PM
By: Alan Hoglund

As his shop in Duluth sits closed, a federal criminal trial against the owner of the Last Place on Earth, his girlfriend and his son is getting underway in Minneapolis.
Jim Carlson, girlfriend Lava Haugen, and Jim's son, Joseph Gellerman, are accused of selling illegal synthetic drugs at the shop. In all, they face 55 federal criminal charges. 
Some charges against Carlson include Causing Misbranded Drugs to be Introduced into Interstate Commerce, and Aiding and Abetting Distribution of a Controlled Substance.
On his first day in Minneapolis Monday, Carlson was already looking forward to the end of the trial. "We want it out of the way and over with. We're hoping for the best results," he told Eyewitness News outside the U.S. Courthouse.
He called the charges filed against him "overkill," and asked "how many do you really need to go after a person?"
"Fifty-five charges? I mean holy cow, the Boston bomber got 30 you know? It's ten of this and ten of that and five of this," Carlson said.
While he's accused of selling illegal synthetic drugs, he said he has been told otherwise a number of times. 
"I've always felt that what I'm doing is legal and I have mentioned time and time again that 100 government officials told me this is legal, and that we need to change the laws because this is legal right now."
In his courtroom on the 14th floor, Federal Judge David Doty called the case "overly complicated." 
He told the court that recently "it's become more overly complicated...it's not okay with me and it shouldn't be okay with you." 
Judge Doty expressed concern that the jury may be overwhelmed and confused when they begin hearing the case. At one point he said he wished the prosecution would dismiss all but four or five charges, but didn't see that happening.
An attorney for the defense, John Markham, said jury selection will begin Tuesday morning. Judge Doty said jurors will be from the Twin Cities area and to the west and south, but no one from Duluth.
The trial is expected to take three weeks, according to Judge Doty. The prosecution will spend about 1 1/2 weeks making their case, and the defense expects to make theirs in about two or three days. 
The prosecution said it would be calling 30 witnesses, but that was before agreeing with the defense and Judge Doty that newspaper reporters would not be called to the stand.