Prosecutor in Norman: Cost of prosecuting glass pipe case "worth it"
NORMAN — Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said his office has spent just $114.24 to prosecute drug paraphernalia cases stemming from a store that sold glass pipes.
The Friendly Market in Norman closed its doors after two police raids on the store in 2015.
Mashburn's office revealed the sum in response to an open records request from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU has been critical of Mashburn's prosecution of four Norman men known as The Friendly Market Four on drug paraphernalia charges. Mashburn said the cost of prosecuting the case is "totally worth it."
"If I can curb drug use by them not having the paraphernalia to ingest it, then maybe I don't have to have the conversation with a family who lost a loved one to a driver who was high," Mashburn said. "I would spend $114 every day of the week if it means I have less of a chance to talk to a family who has lost a loved one."
Ryan Kiesel, executive director for ACLU of Oklahoma, described Mashburn's prosecution of the men for running a shop that sold glass pipes in Norman, as "a petty and unproductive crusade."
Kiesel said the $114.24 figure released by Mashburn does not give an honest representation of how much taxpayer money was spent on three criminal trials involving The Friendly Market defendants.
The $114.24 is what Mashburn's office paid in witness fees in the Friendly Market case, Mashburn said.
The sum includes mileage reimbursement to the police chief of Saint Jo, Texas, who traveled to Norman in May to testify at the trial of The Friendly Market owner Robert Cox and store manager Stephen Holman.
The accounting does not include the cost of staff time in prosecuting the case.
"Those lawyers were working regardless," Mashburn said. "They would have been working that week anyway. It's not any extra outlay for that specific trial."
Kiesel said the numbers released by Mashburn's office do not give an honest reflection of what Mashburn's office spent in man-hours to prosecute the case.
"Greg Mashburn's accounting for the cost of the glass pipe prosecution represents a disturbing amount of contempt for the people who elected him," Kiesel said.
After a six-day trial in May, a Cleveland County jury acquitted Cox and Holman on a felony charge of acquiring proceeds from drug activity and 12 counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. Holman, 32, is an elected Norman city councilman.
During that trial, District Judge Tracy Schumacher told jurors that a one-week trial typically costs Cleveland County between $5,000 and $7,500.
In February, another jury acquitted Cody Franklin, a former clerk at The Friendly Market, on a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Cox still faces additional criminal charges stemming from a second police raid on the store in December 2015.
Another former clerk, James Maxwell Walters, also faces a second trial on a single misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. His first trial ended in a hung jury in October.
Despite three acquittals and one mistrial, Mashburn said he has no plans to dismiss the remaining pending charges against Walters and Cox.
The Friendly Market sold glass pipes and bongs that Norman police and Mashburn say are drug paraphernalia. The defendants insist the pipes can be used legally to smoke tobacco and a variety of legal herbs.
"It's against the law. It's a law that's on the books and it's illegal," Mashburn said.
Cox has said he would like to reopen The Friendly Market if cleared again in his remaining case.
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 ›