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Police 'glass guru' testifies at Norman pipe trial

Friendly Market at 1100 East Constitution is seen on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 in Norman, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Friendly Market at 1100 East Constitution is seen on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

NORMAN — A police detective known as the "Glass Guru" for his investigation of local pipe shops said he met with The Friendly Market owner and agreed to stop investigating the business if items viewed by authorities as drug paraphernalia were taken off its shelves.

Testifying in the trial of business owner Robert Cox, 63, and store manager Stephen Tyler Holman, 32, on Friday, detective Rick Newell said he met with Cox in June 2015 at a Starbucks to discuss the state law on glass pipes.

Newell said he provided Cox a copy of the state statute on drug paraphernalia. He said the businessman then asked him to join in a prayer before leaving the Starbucks.

"I go to church, so I said that was OK," Newell testified, "and then, I think, I made a joke that 'God told me he wants you to follow the law.'"

Newell said he agreed to stop investigating The Friendly Market if Cox would voluntarily take the pipes off store shelves. "I saw it as a win-win," the detective said.

With his distinctive white hair and goatee, Newell is known in Norman — home to the University of Oklahoma — as the "Glass Guru." Holman is an elected Norman city councilman.

The police department has taken a tough stance on shops selling items it considers to be drug paraphernalia, including glass pipes. Now closed, The Friendly Market was one of several stores police investigated.

During cross-examination, Newell conceded that the pipes seized from The Friendly Market could be used to smoke legal tobacco.

Attorney Blake Lynch, who is defending Cox, placed a number of the colorful glass pipes in front of Newell on the witness stand.

"You could smoke tobacco out of all of these products," Lynch said.

"Yes, you could," Newell said

After the meeting with Cox at Starbucks, Newell said, he made a later visit to The Friendly Market and found the store had complied with his request to stop selling glass pipes. But when undercover police visited the store again a few months later, the pipes were back on the shelves, he testified.

Jurors also listened to a recording of a later conversation Newell had with Cox in February 2016 when Newell was wrapping up his investigation. Cox debates the drug paraphernalia law and police enforcement with Newell.

Cox also can be heard saying the store did not mean to sell glass pipes to be used with marijuana. "That's not what we intend people to use it for," Cox states.

In the recording, Cox said police allowed similar stores in Edmond and other cities to continue selling glass pipes without any problems.

Newell replies, "I hope it goes to a jury because it needs to be decided."

Cox and Holman each are facing a felony charge of acquiring proceeds from drug activity, as well as misdemeanor charges of possession of drug paraphernalia.

The state has presented more than 50 exhibits at trial including undercover police recordings, video and dozens of items seized from the store. The trial is expected to enter its second week of testimony Monday.

Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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