You win some, you lose some…
Today Coffee Wonk owner Micah Riggs won a big one. For two and one half years the 30 year-old Midtown businessman has been battling prosecutors and Kansas City Police who busted him for allegedly selling illegal “incense” in 2010.
That after police responded to a call from Riggs shop to investigate a robbery. One thing lead to another and the cops ended up busting Riggs and confiscating his supply of SYN- a legal substance, he insist and the court today upheld – that had replaced the recently banned synthetic pot known as K2.
On and on the government dragged things out until Riggs finally got his day in court this past Monday. The jury delivered the verdict today.
“I just got out of court and I won!” Riggs says. “I had two counts against me and on the main one I won. On the second count, which was the minor one, the jury couldn’t decide. They felt they didn’t have enough information, so it was a hung decision.
“The first count was the Class B felony for possession with intent to distribute and selling SYN incense out of my coffee shop,” Riggs adds. “And the ruling was not guilty – we proved our case. It’s been two and one half long years and it’s good to have that off my back.”
What turned the tide in Riggs favor?
“We didn’t hear any answers from the jury,” Riggs says. “It was a very hard case for us to defend because we had lab work demonstrating that (SYN) was free of any of the compounds that were scheduled. And the state’s position was it was illegal no matter what was in it.
“And they said it tested dirty, but half their tests more or less said it was free of JWH018 which had just become illegal and was one of the original K2 compounds. And half their tests said it was there, so we got it tested by a third party who said it had like .05 percent, a trace amount. But their own chemist admitted that for that small an amount it was definitely not there intentionally and could have been from cross contamination, possibly from their own labs. So it was clear (the government) was grasping at straws.
“We couldn’t bring that up but the fact that so much of it tested negative I think gave us reasonable doubt. I mean, I was in a roomful of police officers and I was still selling it to customers, so if I thought I was doing something illegal I sure wouldn’t have been doing that.”
Which brings us to Riggs latest bust right before the trial last month.
“They came in under the guise of being Regulated Industries, but Regulated Industries has no jurisdiction over incense and potpourri, that’s not what they do. They investigate cigarettes and alcohol. I spoke to a woman at Regulated Industries and she said, ‘That was not us.’ And the (police) said they didn’t need a warrant because they were with Regulated Industries.
“I’ve got the October bust on video and it’s just sad. They questioned my friend who was working there without Mirandizing him and took all my money and product to test or something like that. They didn’t even know what it was and they said it was illegal under Federal guidelines. They’re going to have some real problems with this case, because our police department shouldn’t act like vigilantes and operate above the law or outside the law to achieve what they want.”
The $64 million question being, will Riggs reopen Coffee Wonk?
“Yes and no,” he says. “My favorite day of the year has always been St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m going to open up for one last day on St. Patrick’s Day. We’re not going to sell any potpourri, I just want to go out on a positive note and everything will be completely free. We’ll take donations and then give the money to Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Riggs’ bottom line on this entire adventure turned misadventure:
“I don’t flaunt the laws, I’m just against these substance laws that enable corruption. I think they enable people to to abuse their power. Like law enforcement and politicians that are so afraid of looking weak on crime instead of trying to be smart on crime. This is it. I can’t be open anymore – it’s not safe. The police came in in October brandishing drawn weapons. I can’t take a chance on putting my customers in danger of the use of excessive force. Because anything could happen. Thank God my customers reacted the way they did the last time, but anything could have happened.”