Subscribe for 17¢ / day

KALISPELL - A Flathead Valley tobacco shop owner has been acquitted of possessing drug paraphernalia for sale, a day before a similarly accused but convicted Missoula man was sentenced by a judge critical of the prosecution.

A federal jury Thursday acquitted Bradford Moore, 46, owner of Heads Up Tobacco Shop. He is one of four Montana business owners arrested last year during an investigation by federal drug agents.

The four include David Sil, 61, of Missoula, who Friday received a sentence of two years on probation, for distribution of drug paraphernalia. The two years include six months of home confinement.

The jury in the Moore case deliberated fewer than two hours, at the end of a trial that began Monday. Defense attorney Jack Quatman of Whitefish argued all the items sold at Heads Up can be used for tobacco.

Moore's business was shut down about five years ago when Heads Up was in Kalispell, which has a law against selling drug paraphernalia. He moved the business to the outlying Evergreen area, where the law did not apply.

In 1989 he received a suspended sentence for felony possession of materials used to manufacture drugs.

Appearing before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula on Friday, Sil said he had been unaware any of the merchandise in his store, The Vault, was illegal. The store, which he operated for about eight years, has closed.

"There was nothing clandestine about this operation," Sil said, adding that "this stuff is sold over the Internet."

Paraphrasing the late U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., Molloy said the case "will have all the effectiveness of a single solitary snowflake falling on the bosom of the Potomac."

In a news release, U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer said: "As we try to protect our communities from the scourge of drugs, we will continue to enforce the laws that Congress has created to help us fight this problem. I thank (the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) for its efforts on this case. I am confident that this prosecution will deter others from engaging in the commercial distribution of drug paraphernalia in Montana."

Said Molloy, "I don't think cases like this deter anyone."

At the sentencing, defense lawyer Martin Judnich emphasized Sil's clean record, and Sil himself spoke about his community involvement and experience counseling veterans, battered women and victims of incest.

Molloy acknowledged Sil is "the kind of person who has reached out to those in need and reached in a way that reflects what citizenship is about. I have no concern there will ever be any criminal conduct by you."

In other developments related to the four paraphernalia cases, Steve Andriakos and Tom Robinson are scheduled for a trial in Butte during the coming week. They own The Grateful Shed in Bozeman.

Appearing before a federal judge in February, Sue Kerkes of Blue Moon Music in Great Falls changed her plea to guilty. She is scheduled for sentencing June 19.

0
0
0
0
0