Norman says it will not return glass pipes, even after criminal charges dropped
NORMAN — City officials say they won't return glass pipes and other items police seized from a now-closed store suspected of selling drug paraphernalia, even though all criminal charges have been dismissed.
City Councilman Stephen Holman, 32, former manager of The Friendly Market, said he expected the items to be returned. Holman was acquitted of drug-related charges in May in connection with his employment as manager of the business.
"I didn't expect the city to be the one to stand in the way of returning the property," Holman said. "After all the resources the city has spent, it's surprising they would want to continue this issue."
City Attorney Jeff Bryant sent a letter to The Friendly Market's attorneys advising the city will hold on to much of the store's inventory.
The city made the decision after consulting with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, according to the letter.
Bryant stated in the letter "some of the property meets the criteria establishing the property as drug paraphernalia."
Items the Norman Police Department will keep include glass water pipes, rolling papers and containers believed to be used for storing marijuana. Police seized the items during two raids on the store in 2015.
The merchandise is worth about $15,000, said Blake Lynch, an attorney for The Friendly Market owner Robert Cox.
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Lynch said he believes this is the first time Norman has not returned seized property to its owner after an acquittal.
"They just don't want to return it," Lynch said.
Cox's attorneys filed a court petition Thursday asking for return of the property.
Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, said he could not comment on the specifics of The Friendly Market case. In general, the state looks at several factors to determine whether an item is drug paraphernalia, he said.
Factors include whether an item contains drug residue or is found near a drug, or if the items meet the criteria for size and dimensions of drug paraphernalia as defined by state law.
After a six-day trial in May, a Cleveland County jury acquitted Cox, 63, and Holman on a felony charge of acquiring proceeds from drug activity and 12 counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.
The district attorney's office dropped its prosecution of the remaining charges against Cox and another former store clerk, James Maxwell Walters, 22, earlier this month after three previous jury trials failed to deliver a single conviction in connection with The Friendly Market.
Prosecutors also dropped a civil asset forfeiture lawsuit, and about $3,500 police seized from the store was returned earlier this week.
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 ›