Prosecutors told a judge Tuesday that customers would line up outside Akron’s Odd Corner store, waiting for it to open so they could buy coveted packets of powder known as “Joy bath salts.”
Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Aaron Howell recited staggering figures logged on the store’s cash register for the six-month period from October 2011 to March 2012:
• $8 per box, paid out by the store to acquire the salts.
• $36 per half-gram, taken in by the store for each individual sale.
• Gross profits for the period, $66,702.
Howell said store owner Harry Jackson was selling the salts to drug users with severe addictions to heroin, methamphetamine or crack cocaine, and he was doing it in the middle of East Exchange Street “right next to the University of Akron.”
Jackson, previously convicted of aggravated drug trafficking and two lower-level felonies for complicity to trafficking, was sentenced Tuesday to a total of four years in prison, along with $25,000 in fines and a five-year suspension of his driver’s license.
And when Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter handed down Jackson’s sentence, his case was anything but over.
Defense attorney Kirk Migdal, who had said beforehand an appeal will be filed, argued at length for Jackson to be released, pending the outcome of his appeal.
Migdal told the court that Jackson, 65, is a man of considerable wealth, no previous criminal record, no danger to community safety and no threat whatsoever to flee. He said Jackson traveled to his holiday home in Brazil three times before being indicted and returned to the U.S. each time to await trial.
He then offered the court the following terms for Jackson’s release: a routine, $100,000 10 percent bond, plus an unsecured bond of $4 million to ensure all future court appearances.
“If he decides not to come back, everything would be gone,” Migdal told Hunter, referring to Jackson’s money.
Hunter rejected the offer.
In a brief explanation, she said the trafficking charge was a serious offense, had caused “significant harm” to the many users who frequented the Odd Corner and that Jackson’s jury found him guilty in a relatively short time of four hours, on “very strong evidence.”
Shackled and weeping at the start of his statement to the court, Jackson said: “I’m sorry. I never did anything to hurt anybody. If I thought anything I have ever sold would hurt anybody, I wouldn’t do it.”
Jackson then said he has been in business for 40 years, “with almost a spotless record.”
“I’m not a drug dealer,” he told the judge, “and my employees are not drug dealers.”
Afterward, outside of court, Migdal said one of the main issues in Jackson’s appeal will be the little-known laws known as “analog statutes.”
In both federal and state primary drug laws, Migdal said, there are lists of controlled substances that are prohibited. Under the analog statutes, the laws upon which Jackson was convicted, selling substances similar in chemical composition and user effect also is illegal.
In remarks to Hunter, Migdal said that despite practicing law for 27 years, he had never known those statutes existed until this case.
One of Jackson’s co-defendants, store clerk Dannielle L. Hileman of Tallmadge, was sentenced to two years in prison with a three-year license suspension.
Another co-defendant, Eugene B. Hoover, who worked at the store and lived there in an upstairs apartment, was given 30 months of probation and a six-month license suspension.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or email@example.com.