Norman store's glass pipes may be sold to people seeking 'little piece of history'
The owner of a Norman business who has been fighting for the return of hundreds of glass pipes seized by police said he hopes eventually to sell them as commemorative items.
On Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a request by the Cleveland County District Attorney's office to order a lower court judge to rule on whether the glass pipes are drug paraphernalia. The ruling clears the way for the eventual return of The Friendly Market's store inventory.
Robert Cox, owner of the now-closed business, said he wants to package glass pipes used as court exhibits along with evidence photos from the case and sell them as a "little piece of history."
"We've got big plans," Cox said. "To some extent, this is historic property."
Cox was acquitted earlier this year of drug-related charges in connection with his ownership of the Norman store, which closed in 2015. Norman City Councilman Stephen Holman, who managed the store, and a store clerk also were acquitted of criminal charges stemming from the case. A second store clerk's trial ended in a hung jury.
"You'd be getting an item that has been determined through three different jury trials not to be drug paraphernalia," said Blake Lynch, an attorney for Cox.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Cox said he felt vindicated. He hopes eventually to reopen the store. However, the criminal case has cost him his business and two years of his life he'll never get back.
"Two years later, everyone says 'you weren't doing anything wrong,'" Cox said. "It's been really an unfortunate situation."
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A few procedural matters still have to be taken care of in court before Cox can ensure the return of the store inventory, said Brecken Wagner, who also represented The Friendly Market defendants.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn's office declined to comment Tuesday, stating that it had not been formally notified of the Supreme Court's ruling.
Cox has been trying to get police to return hundreds of glass pipes and other store inventory valued at $15,000, seized during two raids in 2015.
The store was forced to close after the raids.
Cleveland County Special Judge Steve Stice ruled in July that items Norman police seized should be returned to Cox. The judge made no finding as to whether the items are drug paraphernalia.
Wagner said he is confident The Friendly Market will be in compliance with state law if it reopens.
"There should be no reason for law enforcement, the city of Norman and Greg Mashburn's office to be concerned," Wagner said. "If the last two years didn't help them understand that, I don't know what will."