Friday, January 15, 2010

The Acid King By Peter Wilkinson Rolling Stone Issue 872 July 5, 2001

The Acid King
By Peter Wilkinson
Rolling Stone Issue 872
July 5, 2001
For more than two decades, authorities believe, Leonard Pickard was a
major player in the LSD underground. Now, sitting in a federal prison,
he tells his tale for the first time. Late last year, a new prisoner arrived at the Shawnee County Jail in Topeka, Kansas a polite beanstalk of a man from the San Francisco Bay Area who stood out amoung the petty criminals who make up the majority of Shawnees inmate population. He spoke in a rapid whisper, practiced
yoga, meditated in his cell and read difficult books on mathematics and
physics. Along with his prison blues, he wore sandals with socks. A
princely mane of silver hair fell almost to his shoulders.
The mans name was William Leonard Pickard. A few days before, on
November 7th, 200, the fifty-five-year-old Harvard graduate had been
arrested not far from an abandoned Atlas E missile silo outside Topeka
and charged with being one of the busiest manufacturers of LSD in the
world, a chemist with the means to cook up acid by the kilos. If the
governments charges prove true, this would make him one of the high
priests of acid manufacture, part of a clandestine fraternity that
probably numbers no more than a dozen worldwide.
Acid cookers are notoriously hard to catch. A lab can be set up quickly
and broken down easily, and it only takes about ten days to perform a
series of complicated chemical reactions to produce a sizable batch of
the drug enough, once diluted and dipped onto blotter paper, for
hundreds of thousands of hits. The trickiest part of the process is
obtaining the precursor chemical known as ergotamine tartrate, or ET.
Heavily regulated in this country, where it is used to treat migraines,
ET is often smuggled in from Eastern Europe, where sale of the compound
is less restricted. Acid manufacturing might be one of the last criminal enterprises where those involved are motivated by more than the prospect of making money.
Even now, more than three decades after the Summer of Love, to cook acid
is to perform a sacrament, a public service. Members of this small band
operate with great stealth and are rarely informed on by their
associates, even those facing long prison terms. The Drug Enforcement
Administration had not taken down an LSD lab since 1991.
The case of U.S. v. Pickard is just the latest, and perhaps final,
chapter in the strange and often fantastic tale of William Leonard
Pickard and his journey from a privileged boyhood in Atlanta, through
the manic, hallucinogenic heart of the 1960s, to the forefront of social
drugs research in the 1990s, conducted at some of the nation's most
prestigious universities. Along the way, under various aliases - he
crossed paths with such rock stars as Sting, and befriended members of
the British House of Lords, State Department officials and the district
attorney of San Francisco, Terence Hallinan. He earned a master's from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he studied drug trends in the former Soviet Union. Pickard also has a rap sheet stretching back to his teens and has served
two prison terms for manufacturing drugs, including LSD and the rarely
seen synthetic mescaline. In recent years, though, his life seemed to
come together - he'd fathered a child and had become a serious convert
to Buddhism. He had a Job at a respected drug-policy think tank, and he
planned to attend medical school so he could finally dedicate his life
to alleviating the suffering of others. But he had also become bizarrely
entwined with - and then, he says, hideously betrayed by - a man named
Gordon Todd Skinner, a Porsche-driving pot dealer from Tulsa, Oklahoma,
twenty years younger than Pickard When Pickard comes to trial, most
likely later this year, the proceedings promise to shed light on the
dangerous and secret world of LSD manufacturing for the first time in
decades. Perhaps greater truths will be revealed, too.
In some ways, the story of Leonard Pickard and Todd Skinner is a story
about the collision of Sixties idealism with the materialism and
pragmatism of the nineties -Timothy Leary's America versus Bill
Clinton's, if you will. And its moral will be clear even before the
Judge calls the court to order; The sweet but easily corruptible dream
of the flower-power generation never really stood a chance - but It was
fun while it lasted.

The Acid Triangle
Most of the Acid consumed in the past thirty years is believed to have
been made in temporary basement and warehouse labs in and around San
Francisco's Bay Area, a part of California drug agents call the Acid
Triangle. The last time those agents made a significant (1 million hits
plus) acid bust, in 1993, they identified a supplier who lived in
Bolinas, the northernmost point of the triangle.
A supplier, that is - not a chemist. The narcs never located the
chemist. LSD today is a much lower dose (20 micrograms versus 2oo-plus)
than the high-test stuff Augustus Owsley Stanley III sold as orange
sunshine'' in the Sixties; more of a party high than an eight-hour trip.
"Triple set - LSD that is reworked three times to in- crease purity -
it's not found as often," says Dave Tresmontan, special agent in charge
of the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement's San Francisco office.
"The LSD today tends to be a little dirtier and not nearly as
sophisticated as it once was," It's difficult to tell exactly when
Leonard Pickard first involved himself with LSD. BNE believes he was
part of the legendary Brotherhood of Eternal Love, which operated in and
around the Acid Triangle in the late 1960s and early 1970s, selling
hashish and LSD cooked by Owsley and other important chemists like Tim
Scully and Nick Sand.
The Brotherhood's philosophy, at least the beginning, was simple and
beneficent: with LSD, turning people on, expanding consciousness and
changing the way people perceived the world took precedence over making
a profit.
When the subject of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love came up one day in
the Shawnee County jail, Pickard stopped short of admitting any contact
with the group, but did speak of their activities with a certain knowing
reverence: "I understand there have been a few LSD chemists that would
never make a batch of LSD ever, ever, without offering prayers for the safety of the people that might use it. And it should act as a good
medicine throughout the world. So I'm told." He added, "I think their
mantra was something on the order of, 'Those that say, don't know. And
those that know, don't say." Pickard smiled, conspiratorially, as he
talked, sitting cross-legged and as calm as a Buddha on a plastic chair
in an interview room barely big enough to contain his
six-and-a-half-foot frame.
A federal trial in San Francisco in 1973 crippled Brotherhood operations
and seemed to fragment the cooking culture, or at least send it further
underground. BNE didn't take down a lab of any real size in the Acid
Triangle for years after the Brotherhood case, just a few seizures now
and again. "We might find some pretty good chunks, 15,000 hits or
100,000 hits," says Dave Tresmontan. Then, in 1988, reports came into
the Bureau of strong chemical smells emanating from a ware- house in the
city of Mountain View, California, about forty-five mites south of San
Francisco. On December 28th, as the narcs arrived to execute a search
warrant, a tall, pleasant man of forty strolled out of the warehouse,
carrying multiple pieces of identification bearing a number of different
names. His real name was William Leonard Pickard.
A Little Preppy
Leonard Pickard grew up precociously in Atlanta, a city unfamiliar in
the 1960s with the concepts of tolerance and experimentation. His
father, William, practiced civil law. His mother, Lucille, a Columbia
University Ph.D., researched fungal diseases at the Centers for Disease
Control. The Packards lived comfortably in the city's genteel northwest
suburbs, a social, church-oriented neighborhood populated by academic
families.
"The governor of Georgia's mother taught me Sunday school," Pickard
rhapsodized in a letter from prison.
"Suits on Sunday, no alcohol, learned to handle rifles at nine. Read
endlessly. Azaleas, rhododendrons, lightning, Fireflies. Many happy
moments as a small boy observing paramecia under my great-grandfather's
microscope. Visiting scientists from all over the world stayed with us.
Much conversation." Something of a science prodigy, Pickard spent the
summer of 1962 interning at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.
A year later, at the age of seventeen, he won a Westinghouse Talent
Search, one of forty teenagers recognized as he top science students in
the United States. Twenty-two scholarship offers rolled in, unsolicited.
Pickard chose Princeton.
The temptations of Greenwich Village jazz clubs, a brief train ride
away, distracted him, and after less than a year, he dropped out: "I
wasn't as smart as I thought I was,'' out: Supported by his trust fund,
Pickard hit the road, looking for "greater experience of the human
condition than tenure track might have provided.''
As he wandered the country in the mid-196os, trouble found him
everywhere. Eighteen years old and freshly removed from Princeton,
Pickard was arrested twice in Alabama in 1964 for forging checks. The
following January, he was arrested for stealing a car, "joy riding," as
he recalls. "Youthful idiocy." Pickard showed up on the West Coast in
1967, where he met Talitha Stills, Stephen Stills' sister. "It was an extraordinary time," she says. Everybody was hanging around Berkeley and
Stanford, whether they were enrolled or not, because they were involved
in the protests. Leonard was hanging out at Stanford with a lot of the
people who were in the know. He was beyond university before he ever got
to university. He had a real interest in medicine and the chemistry and
pharmacology underlying the drug movement.
Stills also remembers a less studious aspect of her friend's
personality. We were sort of the rich, bright kids she says. "Leonard
had his little trust fund, so he could just dedicate himself to going
out. He was all over the place. It was almost impossible to keep tabs on
him. He was a pretty serious ladies' man." For a period of about seven
years, Pickard lived the life of a psychedelic freebooter, part of it in
a commune in Austin.
It was a time, he says, of "naked moonlight swimming, endless campfires
and theology in the High Sierra, refinement of the soul in the vast
deserts, finding what was of true value in the world and what was proper
conduct among others." In 1974, Pickard formally returned to school,
enrolling at Foothill College, in Los A1tos Hills, to study biology and
chemistry. Then he was off to San Jose State, from 1976 through 1978, to
study organic chemistry and neurophysiology. Then Pickard, in his early
thirties, seemed to discover his calling: cooking illegal drugs, but
doing so with a Californian epicure's taste and sophistication.
Besides chemistry, he knew the law, and rather than brazenly break it,
Pickard tried to skirt it. The first compound he experimented with was
MDMA - a drug few had even heard of at the time but now known as
Ecstacy.
To get around the fact that it was illegal, Pickard fiddled wit the
formula and came up with a chemical cousin, MDA, a somewhat trippier
version of the drug. In time, Pickard's neighbors in Redwood City
complained about chemical odors wafting from his apartment. Sheriff's
deputies who knocked on the door on October 10th, 1977, discovered a
functioning drug lab in the basement.
Alan Johnson, chief inspector at the Santa Cruz, district attorneys
office, interviewed the young chemist. "I had a delightful conversation
with Leonard," Johnson says. "He struck me as a really bright kid. He
was dressed in a little V-neck sweater. He was a little Preppy. We're
talking about a whole different culture back then," Johnson recalls.
"Todays Cookers just get a recipe from some criminal. They mix a little
of this and a little of that. They don't really know what they're doing.
This fellow was trying to change the MDMA to make it legal. He was
making the argument, and it was a new argument, that he's manufacturing
an analogue.''
Ultimately, Leonard's analogue argument failed. In 1978, while taking
chemistry classes at Stanford, he was found guilty of attempting to
manufacture a controlled substance, a felony, and served eighteen months
of a three-year sentence. In a letter from prison, Pickard offered up an
elaborate excuse, denying that he had been brewing illegal drugs.
He claims that he was busted after he was trying to sell some lab gear
that once belonged to a brotherhood of Eternal Love chemist, gear that
contained traces of MDA. Incarceration didn't seem to quell his fascination with clandestine
chemistry. In February 1980 not long after his release, police in
Gainesville, Georgia, arrested Leonard Pickard for making amphetamines.
A few months later, in June, authorities in Deland Florida, pinched him
for distributing MDA, the Ecstasy analogue.
No threat of imprisonment, it seemed, could interfere with Leonard's
quest to liberate the collective mind. "I believe it was genuine, his
belief that psychedelics were helpful," says Rick Doblin, a Harvard
Ph.D. who is leading the effort to have Ecstasy for clinical study in
the United States, and an acquaintance of Packard's. "I think he was
after money, but he had a romantic notion about the value of
psychedelics, like a lot of us do."
123,278 Pills and 89,802 Tabs
By 1987, the two strands of Pickard's life came together when he turned
up at San Francisco State University and fell under the influence of the
legendary drug researcher Alexander Shulgin, a white-haired eccentric
who, with his wife, Ann, has dedicated his life to studying
hallucinogens and advocating their therapeutic value.
For many years, Shulgin counted himself among the few researchers in the
nation allowed to possess Schedule I drugs (like MDMA and 2C-cool.gif,
and his books on the subject, among them PIHKAL, A Chemical Love Story
(PIHKAL stands for "Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved" are
perennial underground best sellers. "I hold Sasha as a real hero," says
Pickard, who claims to have received "letters of condolence'' from
Shulgin after his arrest.
Nobody is exactly sure when, or if, Pickard actually set up the LSD lab
in Mountain View, but by 1988 it was operational. The lab was contained
inside a trailer - of the type you might see at a construction site -
that had been dragged into a warehouse in an industrial section of the
city. It contained state-of-the-art lab equipment, including a
roto-evaporator, heating mantles and a pill press, an item that DEA
restrictions make almost impossible to obtain. On the floor were stacked
boxes of blotter paper in a raft of colorful, eye-catching designs:
Escher heads, album covers, samurai shields and black-and-white tropical
scenes.
After Pickard had been at the spot for some time, apparently cooking
acid by the kilo, neighboring businessmen reported smelling chemical
odors. Agents of the BNE moved in. "It was a huge lab," says Ron Brooks,
special agent in charge of the BNE'S San Jose office, who was on the
scene that day in Mountain View. "He was making windowpane, microdot and
blotter.'' And it was a diversified operation. Pickard was making not
only LSD but a synthetic mescaline, which is very difficult to
synthesize, and a bunch of other stuff. He was an excellent chemist.
Excellent and prolific, on par almost with Owsley himself in terms of
output. Bear, as he was known, claimed to have turned out a total of
three or four kilos during his storied career. Agents found a beguiling
note tucked inside a brown vial in the Mountain View trailer, which
seemed to be addressed to one of the chemists distributors and to describe the scale of his operation. As I prepare my third kilogram of
LSD, it said, I think with amusement of our last conversation three
weeks ago, when you called me a liar, and I had to walk you down the
hall to get you the very first gram that was supposed to be offered to
you preferentially. Since July of 1984, our friend has taken thirty
grams in that year, thirty grams in the second year and seventy-five
grams in the last six to eight weeks. The recent change indicates that
someone close to you has accessed an existing system as well as its
potential problems. I hope you can monitor these proceedings in some
way, since you come from the finest psychedelic heritage, prior to being
seduced by some sleezy cocaine and qualude {sic}nightmare. Whether
Pickard wrote this note, and who the intended recipient was, have never
been made clear.
A kilo of drugs might not sound like much if youre talking about pot or
coke or heroin, but a kilo of pure LSD is enough, DEA estimates, for 10
million trips. One of the criminalists who donned protective gear to
process the trailer crime scene, Lisa Brewer, counted 89,802 tabs of
acid and 123,278 acid pills, a form of acid rarely seen in 1988. Only
Pickard knew how much product had been already mailed to middlemen. This
was not the big one, Brewer says of Pickards laboratory. Nobody sees
these.
Later, when Ron Brooks consulted Darryl Inaba, a leading drug expert at
the Haight-Ashbusy Free Clinic, he mentioned the fact that hed collared
a guy making synthetic mescaline. No fucking way, Inaba replied. Thats
just too hard to make. There are only a few people in the whole world
that might have the capability.
It was a beautiful, pure white, needlelike crystal, recalls Brooks.
Aparently, it was only synthesized several times, ever, and Pickard was
a guy who knew how to do it. That was the only time we ever saw it. Guys
like him do that just as a challenge, just to prove they can do it. I
dont think theres a market for it. It probably cost him way more to make
than he could ever sell it for.
Not surprisingly, a BNE search for Pickard accomplices proved fruitless.
We followed up leads in Daly City and in San Francisco, says Brooks,
also out in the southern East Bay, but never had anything solid. He was
very good about covering his tracks, and he and his circle of friends
were all the masters of using multiple identities and blind mail drops
and phones forwarded to other phones. I recall Mr. Pickard back in the
interview room, says BNE agent Tresmontan. He played a lot of things
close to the vest. I remember him sitting there with his legs crossed,
very calm, very friendly, somewhat guarded. My thought was, Heres a very
intelligent individual, maybe slightly eccentris.
When agents first encountered Pickard in the warehouse, he warned them
not to dismantle the lab. This is all bad stuff, Pickard advised. If I
were you, Id burn this place to the ground. I wouldnt process this
scene. Somebodyll get hurt.
Pickard proved to be right. One BNE agent on the scene, Max Houser,
somehow got dosed upon entering the lab, even though he wore a full-body
protective suit and a respirator. Whitin an hour or two, Houser went
into convulsions. An article about the case in a California forensics
journal describes what happened next: The agent was taken to the
hospital, where they administered Valium by IV to calm the anxiety. A few hours later, he was discharged and went home. He was in the shower
when the Valium began to wear off and he began convulsing again. This
time he was taken to the Haight-Ashbury clinic and treated.
During his time in the emergency room, the article continues, he
reported a loud, buzzing and distressing sound that totally drowned out
all the other sound. The hospital people were talking to him, and he
could see people were talking to him, and he could see their lips move
but could onlu hear the loud noise. He was finally able to determine the
noise was coming from the automatic door that leads to the emergency
room.
The agent is starting to feel better but still has bouts of depression
and anxiety. These bouts continued for months.
Pickard expressed only limited sympathy for Housers plight. I regret his
difficult moments, he told me, although I suffered he same effects
without the benefit of protective suits a statement in which Pickard
seems to admit, for the first time pulicily, that he was indeed an acid
cooker, or at least spent time around LSD labs. Anxiety can spin out of
control when taken to the ER with a mind-set expecting psychosis and
surrounded by people who are inexperienced. Ideally, a talk-down should
suffice. A meadow and friends would be a completely different experience
than guns, radio, and fear, I am told. Even now, its almost impossible
to study overdose phenomena like these. Sustained exposure to unkown but
massive dosages of LSD, Pickard pointed out, as experienced by the few
unkown individuals worldwide who are responsible for its distribution,
has no parallel in clinical settings. I understand various psychiatrisrs
and pharmacologists would like to interview them, but they are,
necessarily, unavailable.
In 1988, Pickard was sentenced to eight years in Californias Terminal
Island Prison. Released early, in 1992, he went to live at the Zen
Center, on Page Street in San Francisco, and came under the wind of the
centers spiritual leader, Blanche Hartman, better known as the Abbess.
She took me hand when I left prison, Pickard said. I lived there for two
years as a monk.
Pickard claims he tried to chart a new course: I lost contact with a
large early portion of my life after the prison years. He paid about
$350 a month for one of forty small rooms at the center. With the other
students, Pickard rose with the 5AM bell, sat in meditation for an hour
and a half, chanted, helped clean the temple and then ate breakfast.
Monastic practice involves twenty-four hours a day, says Hartman. The
bulk of the day he did whatever he was doing, and I have no idea what it
was.
I never felt fully invited into his personal life, Hartman adds. There
was always an air of mystery about him. I assumed he had some money left
over from his earlier days dealing, but I have no idea.
He was trying to change, she continues. I dont know if I want to say
live more constructively. I dont know how he felt about his
manufacturing LSD, whether he thought it was good or bad. I never asked
him about it. My guess is, even though its illegal, he didnt think it
was wrong to make LSD, because he thinks theres something beneficial
about making it, or he wouldnt have done it. Leonard Pickard returned to school during his two years on Page Street
to study neurobiology at the University of California at Berkeley with
David Presti, an authority on addiction and the way that drugs- from
stimulants and depressants to psychedelics and steroids affect the
brain. Under Prestis guidance, Pickard focused on drugs of abuse rather
than his old area of interest, the possible therapeutic applications of
controlled substances. (Though Presti has described Picakrd as a dear
friend, he was unwilling to discuss Pickards work at Berkeley, missing
an appointment for a planned telephone interview before backing out
entirely.)
From Berkeley, with Prestis backing, Pickard arrived at Harvard in 1994
and found work as a neurobiology research associate at the medial
schools Division on Addictions. There he met Mark Kleiman, a junior
member of the faculty who was already a leading authority on social
drugs and drug policy. Following the lead of RRick Doblin, another
member of the Harvard drug research crew, Pickard applied the Kennedy
School of Governments masters program. Kleiman oversaw Pickards masters
project, a second year paper that focused on drug problems in Russia,
discussing the extent to which the emergence of a free-market economy
had led to a proliferation both of drug consumption and of drug
production and traffic. Leonard spent some time talking to people in
Russia, says a Harvard source. He was obviously very good at that. He
made contact with various figures in law enforcement, including the FSB,
which is the successor to the KGB.
Experts in this field have to be careful about their reputations.
Researching the use of illegal drugs is regarded with suspicion by many
in law enforcement and on the right wing, who worry that by not
demonizing these drugs, researchers tacitly advocate their use.
Everything, as Rick Dolbin says, needs to be done with the permission of
the DEA and other government agencies. When another of Pickards teachers
at Harvard, Mark H. Moore, Guggenheim Proffesor of Criminal Justice
Policay and Management, heard vague details about Pickards prospective
funding sources in Russia, he felt uncomfortable. I didnt know their
reputations, recalls Moore, who knew nothing of Pickards criminal
record. They were unfamiliar to me then and have remained unfamiliar
with me now. One Harvard source calls Pickard the kind of student who
was more talk than action. He presented himself as a person who was
well-connected and could see what was happening in the drug scene, but
he was never able to make much out of that or demonstrate the truth of
what he was observing. I ended up regarding him with a great deal of
skepticism. Nothing ever happened with him.
Pickard received his masters in public policy from the Kennedy School of
Government in 1997, and when Mark kleiman moved to California a short
time later to head an influential drug-policy group at UCLA, Picakrd
followed. Pickards work was not funded by the university. He took trips
to Russia to seek funding, and on one of them he met his current wife,
Natasha, a lovely pre-med student in her late twenties whom Pickard
brought back to the united States with him. Pickard, Natasha and her
father shared a small apartment. Kleiman was impressed enough with
Pickard to name him as his deputy. Pickard gave Kleiman his word that he
wasnt cooking any drugs in the United States.
Again, the subject matter of Pickards research involved drug use in the
former Soviet Union. This time, Pickard concentrated on evaluating a
deeply flawed Russian system of estimating the extent of its drug problem. Working with Kleiman in California, however, Pickard seemed to
grow lazy. Even though it wasnt our money, he didnt actually produce
much, says a UCLA source. We fell for the story, the he was a brilliant
guy with sort of an outlaw past that he was now trying to transcend.
During this period, Rick Doblin socialized with Pickard back in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a Sasha Shulgins home in Northern
California. But Dolbin says he never trusted Pickard: What can you say
about somebody who always wears a suit and tie to meetings that are
usually more relaxed He wanted to pass in a lot of profeddional circles
or responsible circles, even anti-drug-abuse circles. It felt like he
was playing the role.
Hed tell these shadowy stories that were somehow connected to Russians
who had made out in privatization in perhaps less than completely
ethical ways and who wanted to help out their country by studying drug
abuse issues. I didnt know what to believe. I always felt there was more
going on than he was saying. There were some major missing pieces in
what he was sharing.
A Brand-New Friend
In the psychedelic community, the graying tribe gathers several times a
year, in this country or in Europe, to discuss new drugs and drug
research, to burn incense and chat about Native American art. It was at
one of these gatherings, devoted to the study of psychedelic mushrooms,
in 1997, that Pickard met a man who impressed him with his generosity,
intelligence, humor and charm. His name was Gordon Todd Skinner.
Like Pickard, Skinner is a big, rangy man, though Skinner is the bulkier
of the two at 240 pounds, bald, with a ZZ-Top type beard. One
acquaintance describes his look as a cross between an Amish man and Bozo
the Clown. To Pickard, Skinner was something of a fellow traveler. When
I met him, he was using exotic structures every week or every few days,
Pickard says. He loved to eat ayahuasca [a hallucinogenic plant] and its
various analogues.
Skinner told Pickard he was an expert in international finance and
boasted about various celebrities he supposedly knew, including Warren
Buffet, the Omaha, Nebraska, superinvestor. In the beginning, at least,
Pickard says he believed Skinner, especially when Skinner told him that
he could raise money from Buffet to fund his drug research. The Buffet
money, Pickard figured, would be a ticket back to Harvard. Skinner
struck Pickard as somebody who had access to large amounts of money,
often receiving electronic transfers but always cash poor. He probably
couldnt draw more than $3,000 out of his accounts at one time, Pickard
says.
Besides Warren Buffet, Skinner also claimed to know Sting. In October
1999, when the star hit San Jose, California, on a tour stop, he
attended a party Skinner threw at a house he was renting in Stinson
Beach, a home formerly owned by Jerry Garcia. Chris Malone, who
installed a stereo system in the house for Stings visit, says Skinner
and Sting acted like old friends. Pickard was there, too. Through his
publicist, Sting acknowledges attending the party, where he met some
very charismatic people, but would comment no further.
By Tulsa standards, Skinners family was well-to-do. His father Gordon operates the Skinner Clinic, a chiropractic office. His mother,
Katherine Magrini, one of Tulsas leading hostesses, according to the
Tulsa World, runs Gardner Spring, for many years a manufacturer of
standard and custom-made industrial springs, with sales of $5 million to
$10 million annually. She also started a gourmet candy company,
Katherines Supreme Gourmet Chocolates, and sits on a wide variety of
Tulsa benefit comities. After divorcing Gordon Skinner, Katherine, in
1981, married Gary Magrini, an agent with the Criminal Enforcement
Division of the IRS. For a time, Magrini was assigned to the Organized
Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, in the Northern District of Oklahoma.
As a boy, Todd Skinner loved math. He attended Cascia Hall Prep, a
Catholic boys high school in Tulsa, and thou he never earned a college
degree, he says he studied for a while at the University of Heidelberg,
in Germany. There is no way for me to describe the depth of Todds
knowledge, says Moise Seligman, a retired Army major general who has
been a friend of the Skinner family for twenty years. Ive never met
anyone who could sit in the same room with Todd Skinner, as far as brain
power is concerned.
All along, Skinner would tell Seligman that he loathed drugs. He was
bitterly opposed to the whole dope process. He would never stick a
needle in himself, he would never sniff something, or whatever you do to
take it.
On and off through hi twenties, Skinner worked at his mothers spring
plant. Other times, he wandered around California and the Caribbean,
sometimes with a friend from Holland who described himself as a
manufacturer of powdered milk. Skinner, like Pickard, used a number of
aliases, telling different people in different places that he was Dwayne
Miller or P.C. Carroll or Gerard T. Finegan. He also developed a nose
for trouble. After leasing a seventy-eight-foot oil-field utility vessel
for use off the coast of Louisiana, Skinner installed fancy electronic
gear on the boat, then wrecked the craft, which he had failed to insure,
off the coast of Jamaica in a hurricane. Custom officials in the Cayman
Islands boarded the boat and gave Skinner an hour to leave the country.
Skinners friend Mo Seligman ended up getting stuck for part of the
$80,000 in unpaid lease bills.
By 1989, Skinner was in the pot business. He made a poor showing with
that, too. When he and a friend from Tulsa tried to move forty-two
pounds of weed in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, undercover cops nailed them
and indicted Skinner on conspiracy charges that left him facing life in
prison as a drug kingpin and held him on $1 million bail. Waiting for
trial, Skinner spent about a year in prison in New Jersey. Then, from
behind bars, he cut his teeth on another business, one he would return
to during his friendship with Leonard Pickard: the unclean business of
being a snitch. Skinner struck up a friendship with another inmate, John
Worthy, and mentioned he had thirty pounds of pot to sell. Having piqued
Worthys interest, Skinner went straight to the D.A> and laid out the
deal. His bail was reduced to $500,000, and he returned to Tulsa, where,
at the behest of the New Jersey prosecutors, he had taped some calls to
John Worthy. These calls are almost comical. On the tape, Skinner pleads
with Worthy, who can barely scrape together $2,000, to meet him at a
hotel in Vineland, New Jersey, and take possession of $34,000 worth of
weed.
If Worthy wasnt satisfied with the quality, Skinner assured him, he'd take the load back. I can sell it the next day. Youre not gonna be stuck
with anything with me. Im not in the business of screwing someone over.
Im too fuckin busy. I want you to find a product that you can get rid of
in a hurry. Anyway, a man in Skinners position never stuck people with
bad shit. The big weed dealers dont do that, Skinner tells Worthy on
tape.
Skiner was a motherfucker, says Brian OMalley, one of Worthys lawyers.
He got friendly with my client and said, Hey, we can make a million
bucks, giving my guy visions of the life of Riley, whoever the black
Riley is. This guy wove a web. The way he saw it, he had no choice but
to screw somebody else, pass the weight on.
The day after Worthys arrest at the Vineland hotel, Skinner pleaded
guilty to one reduced count of conspiracy and was back on the street,
with a three year term of probation, which was terminated in less than
two. Years later, an appeals court would throw out John Worthys case,
ruling that Skinners taping of phone calls from Oklahoma violated New
Jerseys wiretapping laws.
Owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to various lawyers and other
creditors, Skinner filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tulsa in 1992. He
didnt fold his tent in the face of adversity. He simply relocated. He
meandered north to Kansas, and in 1996, through a trust, took control of
an abandoned Atlas E missile base on Say Road, in Wamego, and moved in.
Decommissioned Atlas E and Atlas F sites ring the city of Topeka. The
last nuke left the state in 1986, and since then these eerie monuments
to the Cold War have been snapped up by people looking for unusual
places to live. One former nuke base serves as part of a Kansas high
school. Most consist of vast, multilevel underground chambers, connected
by metal ladders. Built to withstand the blast from the worlds most
powerful nuclear weapons, the Wamego base provided Skinner with 15,000
square feet of underground space on a twenty-eight acre plot of land.
Why would Skinner be attracted to such a place I have no idea, says his
mother, and I dont give a damn.
Skinner offered her a deal. Todd said to me, Why dont you move your
manufacturing up here in Kansas says Magrini. And we did. This arm of
the company, went the word around Wamego, would manufacture springs for
NASAs Space Shuttle program. Some Gardner employees arrived from Tulsa.
Skinner also hired a few local people to work a small spring-making
machine. Big rolls of wire would arrive from Tulsa about twice a month,
the wire would be wound, and the springs would be shipped back to
Oklahoma. Skinner employed local cops to work around the base as
security officers and gardeners.
Drawing on what seemed like an unlimited budget, Todd set up about
sprucing up the base interior. Computers were installed, as well as a
new kitchen and a twelve-line phone system. Skinner mounted his oak bed
on a pedestal and installed a bathtub lined with marble. Baskets of
massage oil sat in the corner of another room. Young women, local girls
in their twenties, were in and out of Skinners tub. From an audiophile
shop in Sacramento came an 800-pound, $120,000 Dynaudio Evidence stereo
system. The speakers, one of only five pairs in the United States, went
for eighty-five grand. Connecting cables alone cost $10,000. Todd would
buy CDs and never listen to or even opn them, just leave them scattered
around the floors, Pickard recalls. His tastes didnt compare with his
equipment. According to Chris Malone, who installed the system, Skinner mostly listened to Seventies pop Cat Stevens and Styx. Outside the
underground chamber, Skinner parked his latest automotive purchase:
three late model Porsches, including a 4WD Boxster, which sells for
about $225,000.
Life at the missile base resembled some sort of kooky Sixties idyll.
Every few days in the course of a year or so, Skinner would call Pickard
in California and regale him with tales of psychedelic drug trips.
Pickard, of all people, understood where Skinner was coming form. He was
in his early thirties, says Pickard. I guess he was exploring. He had
nothing else to do. Livestock, including llamas and chickens and
rabbits, and even Clydesdale horses and a mule, roamed the property. A
vegetable garden thrived. Fruit, nut and pine trees were planted, and a
water-pumping windwill was installed. Skinner employed a number of local
people, at around $7 an hour, to clean, paint and garden, paying them
with checks drawn on the Tulsa accounts of Gardner Spring Inc. Much of
the time, it didnt seem to matter what work got done or how quickly. One
woman, who baby-sat Skinners two young children once in a while, spent
three days digging thistles, for which she received a $235 bonus.
Men, friends of Skinners, would arrive from California and other points
west and stay for weeks at a time, guys with long beards and long hair
who looked like zombies. One spent hours cutting up apples for oatmeal;
another urinated in a glass jar and carried it around with him wherever
he went. These guest smoked weed freely. Morning beers were available.
Strange deliveries were common: a dozen pressure cookers here, a
truckful of acetone there. Todd and his friends worked at night. Some of
them would still be there in the mornings when Id arrive for work, but
they didnt stay around long, says Janice Eichen, a Wamego resident who
worked at the base for a year. Youd ask them their name, and they would
only tell you their first name.
Todd thought he had all the money in the world, Eichem says. He could
buy anything in the world he wanted to hear him tell it.
One day in April 1999, the party turned deadly. An employee of a Tulsa
computer company, Paul K. Hulebak, 41, slumped over in front of a
computer screen. Pickard, it turns out, was sort of a witness to
Hulebaks death. Skinner was on the phone to me, describing his latest
drug episode, Pickard says, at the time Hulebak overdosed on narcotics.
Ive got a problem, Skinner told him. Call you back.
An autopsy turned up track marks on Hulebaks body and listed the cause
of death as a multidrug overdose methadone and hydromorphone, a
methadone derivative. Sheriffs deputies investigated but found no drugs
or needles. The base, Pickard explained, had been sanitized of fentanyl,
dilaudids, et cetera.
Several rooms underground, always locked, remained off limits to all
except Skinner and jis right-hand man, Gunner Guinan. The son of a
carpet-industry executive from Hoboken, New Jersey, Guinan, like
Skinner, loved computers but didnt seem to have an extensive employment
history. Gunnars sister, Dr. Eva Guinan, director of the Bone Maroow and
Stem Cell Transplantation program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institue in
Boston, says her brother had lived in Kansas for a while but that she
had seen him only twice in the last ten years, at family gatherings. She
says she knew nothing of the DEA investigation in Wamego and had never heard the name Todd Skinner.
Residents of Wamego, a down-at-the-heels village of 5,000, wrote Skinner
off as a spoiled rich kid and Gunnar Guinan as his loopy factotum. But
coffee-shop conversation often came around to the question of what was
really going on at the missile base. What was the spring-plant story a
cover for A few locals figured the base for a methamphetamine lab. The
county sheriff called the DEA, but nothing came up of it.
Two years ago, Skinner abruptly evicted his mothers business from the
missile base. One day he tells me to move out, at enormous cost, Magrini
recalls angrily. Youve hit a subject here that Im not going to relive. I
brought everything back to Tulsa, and thats where its going to stay.
In the course of the last year or so, neighbors noticed Ryder trucks
rumbling along Say Road almost twenty-four hours a day and then
disappearing behind a locked gate. Youd see all these rigs from
Oklahoma, Missouri, says Linda Lada, who runs a beauty shop near the
base entrance. I couldnt figure out why, because the spring factory was
supposed to have been closed.
Security, always tight, included a sophisticated camera monitoring
system, motion detectors and infrared sensors. One day I was driving a
pickup that had New Mexico tags on it, recalls Janice Eichem. And, boy,
as soon as I pulled in there and walked up to the Quonset hut to clock
in, here comes Gunnar: Whose pickup is that I said, Im driving that. Its
my ex-husbands. And he said, Youre the only one in it, then I said,
Yeah. Finally Gunnar relaxed.
Pickard and Skinner and an entourage that included Skinners mother and
Moise Seligman spent a few days in Las Vegas last June. Seligman came
along to talk with Skinner about a solenoid valve that Skinner was sure
could make them millions: I was out there to discuss this valve with
Todd, and I met Pickard. I came home from there and told my wife, I met
a man named Leonard Pickard, and he was a distinguished gentleman. Ive
never met anybody whos impressed me as favorably in recent years.
Katherine Magrini, there at Skinners invitation to celebrate Mothers
Day, was less impressed by her sons new friend. Pickard, she say,
introduced himself as Leonard Thiessen. This Leonard is a real
sleazeball, whatever his name is. He sounds like a bag of crap. I was
immediately suspicious of him.
Pickard alleges that Skinner, in Vegas, had more on his mind than
solenoid valves. Skinner, he claims, also engaged in some smurfing, or
money laundering, buying $200,000 worth of chips, gambling a bit and
then redeeming the chips for the casinos cash. Why Skinner was doing
this, if he did, remains unclear. Skinner, thorugh his Topeka attorney,
Thomas Haney, declined to be interviewed for this story.
Renovating the base, Skinner did business with several local contractors
and for a while paid his bills promptly, or at least his Kansas sidekick
Gunnar Guinan paid them. Gunnar was the one who would call on us when he
needed work done or wanted to buy parts, says Toni Stremel, office
manager at Thermal Comfort Air, which installed a hot water pump on the
property. He would come in with his shirt unbuttoned, the hair on his
chest sticking out, and hed be bragging about how he had to go to Kansas
City to pick up a bride that hed ordered out of a magazine. Guinan would lay a briefcase fill of cash on the desk and flip it open. Hed take out
what he owed us and walk away.
Leonard Pickard visited Todd Skinner at the Wamego missile base a
handful of times over the past couple of years, staying either a few
days or as long as a few weeks each time. But, he says, he never enjoyed
the place: it wasnt comfortable, and the karma was wrong. The only real
bedroom belonged to Skinner; guests slept on mattresses out in the old
missile bay. Leonard also disapproved of Skinners manner toward his
so-called friends: Todd was imperious. He treated everybody as workers.
Rather than a psychedelic temple, as Skinner intended, Pickard says the
base became more of a temple to the ego.
Last summer, Skinners cash flow mysteriously dried up, and, Pickard
says, his use of psychedelics increased. Skinner cracked up one of his
Porsches and totaled Gunnars truck. Concerned, Pickard approached
Skinners mother, Katherine Magrini: I talked with her numerous times
about Todds profligate ways and about how hes accident prone. This boys
got to slow down, because not a week goes by where theres not some sort
of situation happening. Theres no peace ever.
Magrinis voice exploded over the phone when I asked her to verify this
exchange. What she shouted. That is a bold-faced lie! Why, that sack of
lying crap! Where is that son of a bitch Im going to go up and sue his
ass with a bevy of lawyers.
For the first time, bills, thousands and thousands of dollars worth,
went unpaid. A number of contractors sued to get their money. Gunnar,
Toni Stremel says, called here wanting to know if we would trade out a
baby grand piano for our debt. The Sacramento audio store filed suit
against Skinner in August, having been paid nothing on its $120,000
bill.
More important, as far as Pickard was concerned, Skinner wasnt making
good on a promise to come up with $440,000 to fund some new drug
research at Harvard. Months and months dragged by while Skinner
supposedly arranged for the money to come from a foundation run by
Warren Buffet. I was hanging on because I really wanted to do this
project, Pickard says. I was dying to get back to Cambridge. When
Pickard contacted officials at the Kennedy School about the Buffett
arrangement last June, they knew nothing of it. I was taken for an
enormous ride, Pickard claims. Id been lied to. Once I realized it was
all a charade, I felt very used and started backing away.
Skinner faced difficulties of his own. One night the previous January,
gambling at Harrahs Prairie Band Casino on the Pottawatomi Indian
Reservation, not far from Wamego, he had hit a run of good luck. Asked
for identification when cashing in his chips, he produced a phony
Interpol badge and declared himself to be a special agent of United
States Treasury Department. Sheriffs deputies, alerted by casino
officials, arrested Skinner later that night, and federal prosecutors in
Topeka soon filed a two-count felony indictment against him. Skinner
pled guilty last June to possession of a false identification, a
misdemeanor, and was fined $10,000.
Pickard says he tried to avoid Skinner. I decided it was best to step
away from him. He was unpredictable and kind of crazy. From mid-July
until October, we had no contact. His life was unraveling. Then he called me. Remembering the conversation, Pickards eyes hardened. It was
a controlled call. Controlled in the sense that DEA agents, including
Special Agent Karl Nichols, a clandestine lab hunter with the agencys
Richmond, California, office, were listening in, tape recorders rolling.
Just what they discussed, and previously why Skinner may have fallen in
the arms of the DEA in the first place, remains unclear at this point,
although both mysteries may be cleared up at trial, during which Pickard
will be represented by William K. Rork, one of Topekas leading
criminal-defense attorneys. This much is certain: That monitored call
last fall set in motion a series of events that could end Leonard
Pickards colorful life as a free man and snuff out whatever future he
might have had as an innovative scientist. It may also, if the
government is to be believed, have significantly curtailed the
production of American-made LSD.
The Silver Buick
October 23rd, 2000, 8:40PM. Driving a rented tan Buick Century, Leonard
Pickard swung into the parking lot of the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in
San Rafael, California. While his pregnant Russian wife, Natasha, waited
in the hotel bar, Pickard met with Todd Skinner in a room upstairs, as
DEA agents listened in an adjoining room. The sit-down lasted about
thirty minutes. Skinner and Pickard talked about a number of LSD-related
topics, including the eventual setup of an off-shore lab. Skinner called
Pickard on October 29th, wanting to know when he could get the keys to
the Dodge, a phrase the two men used to describe the acid lab.
Pickard and a friend of his, Clyde Apperson, a computer consultant from
Sunnyvale, California, appeared at the Wamego missile base a few days
later, on November 4th, driving two rented vehicles, a silver Buick La
Sabre and a fifteen-foot Ryder truck. Skinner, never shy, seemed fuller
than ever of braggadocio. Im not afraid of the Mafia or the government!
Pickard recalls Skinner declaring, Im more powerful than you realize!
whereupon Skinner left for parts unknown. Pickard and Apperson set about
unloading the Ryder truck with Military crates full of glassware and
chemicals. Six kilos of ergotamine tartrate, worth $600,000, were
stashed in the silver Buick. That much ET, the government claims, is
enough to manufacture 15 million doses of LSD. Loading complete two days
later, Apperson slipped behind the wheel of the Ryder truck, and Pickard
took the Buick. It was time to move out, to a new lab site, prosecutors
allege, somewhere near Aspen, Colorado. Pickard claims he was merely
carting the lab away to destroy it and prevent further legal trouble for
his friend Skinner.
They didnt get far before a unit of the Kansas State Highway Patrol
clicked on its red lights and pulled them over. Though Apperson was
quickly captured, Pickard scampered off into the night, sprinting across
snowy ground into the woods, two highway patrolmen half his age in hot
pursuit, a chase that eventually joined by DEA agents, helicopters with
infrared scanners and tracking dogs. Pickard eluded them for nearly
eighteen hours before deputies from the Pottawatomie County sheriffs
office brought him in. His wallet, later found at a convenience store in
Wamego, contained a Mastercard in one of Pickards several alias, James
Maxwell, three false identification cards under that name, a business
card from UCLA in his real name and eleven telephone calling cards.
That night, Sheriff Anthony Metcalf dropped by Pickards cell in the local lock-up. Pickards manners impressed him: He looked like a
distinguished old gentleman. If somebody said to me, Hey, theres a
big-time doper over there, Pickard would have been the last guy youd
ever think of.
Metcalf visited the missile base during a cleanup that lasted several
days and employed a squadron of technicians wearing bright-blue
hazardous-materials suits. How big is this, and who is this guy he asked
one of the DEA chemists on the scene. Theres probably seven people in
the world that could run an operation this large, and Pickard was one of
them.
Pickard on Ice
While Pickard adjusted to life at the Shawnee County Jail in Topeka, I
tried to track down some more information about him in California. It
was a frustrating and often fruitless task. An address for Pickard in
Mill Valley, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, turned
out to be a MailBoxes, Etc. in a mall. Another address, in Berkeley, was
also a mail drop, the Berkeley Mailroom. LSD distributors, BNE agents
told me, traditionally use businesses like these to ship out their
product. Until Pickards wife, Natasha, mailed me some of his research
papers, I could not find the address of the apartment in San Francisco
that Pickard shared with her and her father but neither, at least early
in their investigation, could agents of the DEA.
The same was true for Todd Skinner. He moved out of the Wamego missile
base, which is now on the market for a reported $1.5 million. A visit to
his last known address, in Berkeley, turned up no traces of the elusive
informant. A member of Pickards defense team says that Skinner has been
seen around Mendocino, the picturesque village north of San Francisco,
in between trips to Topeka to huddle with federal prosecutors.
Pickards friends some feeling betrayed, others worried about
repercussions for their own drug research are not rushing to his
defense. After Talitha Stills read about Pickards arrest in the Santa
Cruz Sentinel, she told me, quite frankly, You just cant hold a bad boy
down. But when I called Sasha Shulgin to inquire about the learned
chemists relationship with Pickard, Shulgin began, He was a student of
mine100 years ago, but hes been in his own little world, which I dont
really know that much about. Ann Shulgin interrupted our conversation.
Wed rather not comment at all on this entire matter, she said. Its very
sad, and I dont think we have any information that could possibly help
you. The Shulgins are not the only friends of Pickards distancing
themselves from him. Agents who searched Pickards apartment in San
Francisco on November 15th turned up a supportive letter written by the
citys district attorney, Terence Hallinan. When I was in private
practice, I represented Leonard Pickard on some legal matters, it read.
I always found him to be an honorable person who kept his word. Hallinan
wont comment further. Mark Kleiman, Pickards mentor at Harvard and his
boss at UCLA, also declined a request to discuss his friend.
Either caught red-handed or very carefully set up, said Blanche Hartman,
the Abbess of the San Francisco Zen Center. It sure doesnt look good. I
was surprised and dismayed, and extremely sad. His girlfriend gave birth
just days after he was arrested. She was totally distraught.
Leonard Pickard maintains he is guilty only of being in the wrong place and the wrong time. I am not a psychedelic chemist, he told me
resolutely. Then, he adds, Remember, I just left Boston in 97. I cant
obviously be making kilos of LSD and doing my work at Harvard in the
meantime. Besides, he said, LSD is more than a bit pass in the world of
social-drugs research he now inhabits: Im concerned with the need for
new regulatory structures for new drugs of abuse. Im more concerned with
whats coming than with whats present.
After the bust, Todd Skinner called his old friend Moise Seligman. Says
Seligman, He said, I want to send you some articles on Leonard Pickard.
I am mentioned in there. I am in no way involved with him. You know me
and drugs. He was not a drinker and not a drug man of any kind. A few
weeks later, Skinner called again, to invite Seligman and his wife to
join him in Washington or New York, where Skinner would purportedly
receive and award for his work on the Pickard prosecution. Todd said, If
they are successful in locating the cash that Pickard may have stashed,
I would come in for a portion of that money, up to a third. Skinner
promised to call back with more details, but never did. I dont know
where he is. I dont know if he got an award or got shot, says Seligman.
More than anything, in the course of several meetings in the Topeka
jail, Pickard sounded embarrassed by the current federal case against
him, frustrated that the whole business couldnt be sorted out in a
gentlemanly fashion by rational men. At a detention hearing in January,
Pickard stood before a federal judge and offered, in essence, to trade
his freedom for somebody elses: If released, even in the most severe
constraints, I would immediately proceed to report to the federal
building [and] cooperate even aggressively with DEA in any matters that
they wish. The judge, however, refused to grant Pickard bail.
Almost every week, Pickard wrote letters from jail. Sometimes two or
three arrived on the same day, with carefully worded answers to my
questions, interspersed with Van Morrison lyrics and quotes by a wide
variety of luminaries from Berkeley fixture Wavy Gravy and poet W.H.
Auden to Carlos Lehder, the assassinated Colombian cocaine baron
(Cocaine is an A-bomb pointed at the heart of America). The letter gave
me the impression of a man in complete control, confident thqt the
breadth of his intellect and experience would enable him to surmount all
obstacles. Mare than once, he hinted at a wilder tale to be told only
after his trial ends: A post-disposition retrospective would be a more
thrilling and soulful read.
Rick Doblin wont want to hear it. Hes been caught multiple times in the
past and has felt it convenient to supply the police with information on
people who have been involved in other drugs that he doesnt think are so
useful. Thats a difficult game to play, he says. Once you start
cooperating, its easy to lose sight of what your own values are.
The drug-dealer code of honor is that you dont turn anybody else in,
Doblin continues. Thats lost from the public consciousness. And thats
more true from the old days, from the pot dealers. That sort of shifted
when the pot dealers got into coke. But thats always been the case with
the LSD dealers. Thats why the DEAs been very rarely busting labs and
major distributors for LSD.
The DEAs investigation of Leonard Pickard continues. Does Pickard have
anything to offer the feds Agent Nichols believes Pickard employs a
worldwide distribution network. So far, Pickard hasnt shown any inclination to discuss such a network. This time, it would seem, the
pressure Pickard feels is somewhat greater than it was in 1988, when he
was a single guy cooking drugs in Mountain View. He missed the December
2000 birth of his daughter, also named Natasha, and held the child for
the first time, for a minute, inside a Kansas courtroom surrounded by
armed federal marshals. Thinking about this tearful moment later,
Pickard wrote, It was a glimpse of limitless joy. Surrounded by the
sacred, I whispered what love and comfort I could, and vowed to return
to them. I could have held them, and hold them even now, forever.
Says Pickard, If this ever went away, Id probably go straight back to
Cambridge and finish my Ph.D.
I regard myself as marginal, or as they say in Zen, nothing special. My
regret is not giving more to society in the form of substantive
research, but perhaps some time is left to do that, God willing. In
March, after local jailers grew frustrated handling Pickards many phone
calls, federal authorities transferred him from the relatively calm
Shawnee County Jail to the maximum-security federal pen in Leavenworth,
Kansas, a prison notorious for its violence and gang activity.
Even now, Leonard Pickard is surprised that Todd Skinner has done
nothing to help him. I though he would at least provide some legal
support. But I guess not. He must feel really lousy, assuming he has
feelings at all.
I forgive him his confusion, he wrote in a letter. He is, after all,
somewhat like the Wizard of Oz. Seemingly very impressive, but behind
the (stolen) amplifier, quite small and afraid.
Skinner faces new problems of his own. On May 16th, state authorities in
Kansas arrested him on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the
drug-overdose death of the computer-company employee, Paul hulebak. The
dead mans sister, Kirstin Reynolds, a ballet teacher in Tulsa, says,
Todd Skinner is evil. He considers himself very smart, but I can tell
you from speaking with him numerous times that hes used to dealing with
stupid people. Skinners sidekick, Gunnar Guinan, she says, spilled the
beans.
Looking back on his life, Pickard wrote, All in all, a complex story.
Suffice it to say that everything was done with dedication and focus,
and I have prepared for this day for many years.
In another letter, Pickard enclosed a prayer, one favored in times of
trouble, amoung psychedelic people in the Sixties.
May the long-time sun shine upon you
And all love surround you
And the clear light within you
Guide your way home.
If you see fit, Pickard wrote, you might include that, for the young people

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