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NEWS ARCHIVES



Hello and welcome to our News archives.

In this section you will find several newspaper clippings regarding the occurrence and use of visionary mushrooms in Massachusetts.
They are arranged alphabetically by newspapers and then Chronologically by dates.




Massachusetts
A page devoted to newspaper clippings from Massachusetts



 

http://media.www.thejusticeonline.com/media/storage/paper573/news/2004/02/10/Features/Mushroom.Cloud-602647.shtml

The Justice: The Independent Student Newspaper of Brandeis University.

Mass. February 24, 2004

Click on Image to Enlarge

Photo Credit:
Media Credit: Floris Leeuwenberg/Corbis

Mushroom Cloud
by Joshua Adland

Features Posted online at 7:08 AM EST on 2/10/04 / Last updated at 5:57 PM EST on 2/10/04

Lizzy received a call from her friends one Friday afternoon. They had bought some hallucinogenic mushrooms and they wanted to trip with her that night. She didn't really want to take them, as she was tired, and it had been a long day and a long week.

Lizzy's name has been changed to protect her privacy, as have the names of other mushroom users in this article.

In the end, Lizzy took the shrooms, but her stressful thoughts stayed with her. This was the genesis of a terrifying night.

"At first, I got really scared in my room because I thought the walls were closing in, and everything was too small," she said. "Then we went outside, but I wasn't any better off. It was fall, and all of the bare branches on the trees looked to me like sharp knives that I thought were going to fall and cut me."

 

Lizzy and her friends went back to her room, where they carefully watched her to make sure she was OK. Lizzy said that though she was acting funny, dancing around the room and singing, but she still did not feel happy inside. It wasn't long before her thoughts besieged her again, she said, and fear caused her to lock her friends out of her room.

"I didn't know what to do," Lizzy said. I just wanted my bad thoughts to go away, so I started taking pills. I took a whole box of NyQuil as well. I was convinced that anything I did wouldn't be a problem. I had told myself that the pills, NyQuil and vodka that I took would counteract the shrooms, and make them go away."

Lizzy said that she was embarrassed, so she went back down to an empty bathroom in her building and locked herself in. "The room was spinning, everything was orange and black. I started puking, and then everything turned pink. I passed out on the floor of the bathroom and woke up some time later," she said.

When Lizzy woke up, she still felt sick and took more of the same pills because she thought they would fight off the effects of the mushrooms. Her hallucinations continued through the rest of the night, until she cried for an hour and passed out.

"I could have easily never woken up from that night," Lizzy said. "My lack of fear and inhibition caused me to do things that were very harmful to my body."

When asked if she would take mushrooms again, she said, "I do a lot of lighter drugs like pot on a regular basis, but after that trip, I didn't touch anything for a week. I realized I should never take hallucinogens again, and I have not since."

"Looking back on what I did, that's a crazy person," Lizzy said. "That's a suicidal, maniacal demon that I saw inside of me for just one second. Now, in my sober reality, that is the scariest thing in the world."

Sacred to the ancient Aztecs, who called them "divine flesh," mushrooms are used by everyone from college students in Boston to high school students in Nebraska, who literally poison themselves into a new level of consciousness.



From Spore to Store

It doesn't take much to brew a batch of hallucinogenic mushrooms. At its simplest, the process requires a few mushroom spores purchased from the Internet, dirt, fertilizer and a warm, moist, dark environment-like a dorm room closet. Mix together the ingredients and the mushrooms grow and mature in one to two months.

Though the same mushrooms are present in nature-they commonly grow on cow feces-mushroom users say it's not advisable to "hunt for mushrooms" without proper training. Many wild mushrooms look similar to the drug, but can in fact be fatal if ingested.

Unlike drugs such as marijuana, which can only be grown in certain climates, mushrooms are easily cultivated anywhere. As a result, the distance between producer and consumer is small and mushrooms are readily available.

According to users, mushrooms are not as easy to purchase as marijuana, but they are generally available on campus. When mushrooms are available here, they usually sell at $30 for one-eighth of an ounce.

Taking the Trip

"The best way to eat mushrooms is in a peanut butter sandwich, which masks the pungent, bitter taste better than most foods [do]," Chad said.

There are a variety of other ways to ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms. Popular alternatives include placing them on top of warm pizza, covering them with chocolate or even downing them plain. Making mushroom tea is common as well, though none of the users interviewed followed this practice.

Thirty to 60 minutes after ingestion, your world begins to change, shroom users say. Your pupils dilate, your senses are enhanced and a wave of confusion descends over your mind.

A user named Jerry says that the effects of shrooms often start as a "tingly, light feeling." He said, "Sometimes it just hits you though, and you suddenly can't think or speak."

This is the beginning of what hallucinogenic drug users call a trip.

"A mushroom trip is a journey because you go somewhere else," Jerry says. "When you come back down, your life is different."

Side effects when a trip begins are often limited to an upset stomach and nausea, the users interviewed say. Some people feel sick enough to vomit, but this is usually a one-time affair. Shroom users do not spend all night throwing up like one might after an evening of heavy drinking.

As the drug reaches full effect, a trip becomes very intense. The pupil dilation allows a significantly greater amount of light to enter the eyes. This light, combined with the heightened sensitivity of all five senses, often causes everything to appear, as Chad said, "like a world more beautiful than you could ever expect it to be."

"You might look at your watch and say, 'Wow! This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen,'" Raymond said. "Or, you might look at a picture on the wall and think it is the most beautiful painting in the world. Basically, the effects of shrooms bring us the closest we can get to experiencing the world as an infant again."

For Raymond, shrooms cause an amalgamation of light and color from which versions of the same scene emerge.

"They are changing every time you look somewhere, it makes it look like things are moving. So, what you end up seeing is patterns in everything. You will look at something, and see the pattern in it, and it will move. You will see the same pattern in other things such as the grain of wood or fabric of clothing."

Users say they do not typically see things that do not exist at all, but they do see existing things differently. A bush might seem to be breathing, for example.

Added together with a significant loss in short term memory, every few minutes in this alternate reality seems like hours of a convoluted journey.



A New Dimension

Those interviewed say tripping is always coupled with excitement. These users reported that mushrooms transported them to another dimension.

Raymond said he once visited the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado. He decided to camp out there and spend the night taking mushrooms and watching the full moon.

"There were these big clouds next to the full moon, and the clouds were not moving. I then watched the cloud form what seemed to be tendrils, which then framed the moon perfectly and grew together. It looked like the clouds just reached out, formed a mouth and swallowed the moon. What I saw was one of the craziest things I had ever seen because it actually happened. I was only amazed, however, because I was on mushrooms," he said.

Mary has also endured some very graphic trips. Her favorite took place with a group of around eight people.

"We were watching a Disney movie that was bright and happy and cheery. We were all so happy that we began dancing around. Then one of my friends started talking to the television, and it happily responded. Unfortunately, none of us remember what it said," she said.

In another instance, Mary got into bed after taking mushrooms a few hours earlier when it seemed to her that her air conditioner started to talk, warning her that the world was going to end soon. "The air conditioner said that the reason for this was that all our laws of physics were incorrect, and it was my task to save the world. I called a friend and she suggested I read a physics book, and when I did, the equations started attacking me. It was a scary night."

The first time Chad used mushrooms, which he dipped in peanut butter, he was talking to a large tree that spilled to him the secrets of life-secrets he no longer remembers. Afterward, he dressed up for Triskelion's Sinderella Ball.

"When I was getting dressed, I put on a pair of wings, and convinced myself that I was a fairy prince. I thought the other people I was with were invaders of my realm, so when they asked me if I was all right, I said, 'Don't talk to me human.'"

Chad continued, "as I walked down the path towards the Shapiro Campus Center from Usdan, it appeared as if all the trees were lit up with fairies and bending in for me -making a walkway for the fairy prince. So, I decided to fly through. While I was actually running, it felt like my wings were flapping and that I was in fact flying to the dance."



The Psilocybin Effect

According to Dr. Zack Spigelman of Parker Hill Oncology and Hematology in Waltham, there are two major types of hallucinogenic mushrooms: those containing psilocybin and those in the amantia muscaria classification.

Psilocybin mushrooms are more common among those interviewed and in general. Spigelman said that upon being digested, the psilocybin breaks down into psilocin, a chemical with similar composition.

As of now, scientists have not conducted substantial research on how psilocin affects the brain, but theories do exist. One idea is that psilocin is very similar to serotonin, a sort of natural anti-depressant in the brain. It is thought that psilocin temporarily replaces serotonin in the brain during a trip.

The effects of psilocybin can also be enhanced when consuming other drugs simultaneously. Mushrooms are hard to lace with additional substances, but some users do prefer to do so. Both LSD and PCP, other hallucinogenic drugs, are possible additives. Smoking marijuana as the mushroom high fades can sometimes increase the length of a trip.

Psilocybin is considered a controlled substance and is illegal in the United States. Each state has its own punishments for its use, possession or distribution. In Massachusetts, that punishment is a fine up to $1000and up to a year in prison.

Director of Public Safety Edward Callahan said that when students are caught with shrooms, a report is instantly filed and the student is referred to the Office of Student Development and Judicial Education for further action. Section 4.5 in the Right and Responsibilities handbook addresses drugs and warns against the "use of illicit drugs or the abuse of legally-obtained drugs."

"There is no place for drugs on this campus," Callahan said. "Students should face the consequences for possession of drugs, which are all treated the same here as far as procedures go."

Due to insufficient research, the medical community does not know if there are long term effects of using mushrooms.

Spigelman cautioned that eating the wrong mushroom could be fatal. "The most dangerous issue becomes when the patient misidentifies the ingested mushroom and poisons him or herself with a poisonous subtype of mushroom. The most common mushroom poison causes liver failure and, periodically, death," he said.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, mushrooms are not habit-forming. Though one may develop a short-term tolerance, a physical addiction does not emerge.

"One person's enlightenment can be another person's hell," Brandeis' Drug and Alcohol Counselor Dawn Skop said, when it comes to shrooms.

"Hallucinogens do not mimic psychosis or mental illness, but they can trigger a psychotic experience in a vulnerable person," Skop said. She added that people with a family history of predisposition to mental illness could potentially be harmed by mushroom use.

"Everyone reacts differently to these drugs," Skop said. "Let the buyer beware."



The Cycle of Fear

Users say it is important to keep one's mind happy, clear and relaxed in the days before using mushrooms. Negative thoughts can easily develop into what is a called a "bad trip." This is what happened to Lizzy, who, overwhelmed with anxiety over schoolwork, consumed a potentially deadly combination of NyQuil, pills and vodka while on mushrooms.

This may also be what happened to Eliezer Schwartz '04, who died on Nov. 16 after falling from the third-floor balcony of an apartment building in Gloucester, Mass.

To understand what is happening in the mind of someone during a bad trip, Raymond said that one must consider laughter. A bad trip occurs when one wants to laugh at everything when on mushrooms. The meaning of this laughter, however, is not always clear.

"Laughter is a very strange thing because it straddles the line between confusion, and funny ha-ha, and fear. I mean, think about the things that we are scared of that we just sort of laugh at," he said.

Raymond said emotions felt when using mushrooms can be very confusing. People might laugh about a happy thought one minute, and then the short term memory loss that occurs might cause them to forget the cause of their laughter. Then they get worried that there is something negative going on.

This negativity often produces a cycle.

"You are massively confused, you can't piece thoughts together, you can't remember why you are so upset, your stomach hurts and you get more and more frightened as time passes," Raymond said. "You begin to forget what normal is like, and you get scared that you are never going to go back to normal, whatever it is."

Users say it is really important to constantly remind yourself-or have someone else remind you-that you are on mushrooms.

Otherwise, trippers might think they are going crazy and might do what ever they think is necessary to fight off the things that frighten them.

When this fear of insanity is combined with the cycle of negative thoughts, it can produce a very dangerous experience that can only be remedied by a severe change in environment, or a significant distraction. Sometimes, both of these can break the cycle of fear, and bring the user again back to a stable trip.

"Sometimes, you just have to ride it out," Jerry said.

Coming Down

In the ending hours of a trip, short term memory returns, and users are able to piece together longer trains of thought. At the same time, the effects of mushrooms allow one to connect thoughts they normally would not. The result of this is what can be called a period of enlightenment.

"When you are coming down from a trip, your mind goes places it has never gone before," Jerry said. "You learn things about yourself that you can apply to your life later on."

After contemplating serious, philosophical ideas for a couple of hours, the trip ends. While the world is no longer distorted, psilocin is still stimulating the mind, and users often cannot fall asleep right away.

Later on, after a long sleep, users often are exhausted both mentally and physically. Raymond said it is fun to get back together with your fellow trippers and share stories.

"It is fun to find out why so and so went missing at this time, and what someone else was doing when they were in such and such a room," Raymond said.

Unfortunately, some users do not have the opportunity to reflect on the trip they have taken. Instead, they become so absorbed in their hallucinations that before reclaiming reality, they make mistakes too grave to be corrected. No one ever expects to retain an alternate consciousness forever. Such deaths serve as a warning that the escape from reality is fraught with peril, and that when we choose to let go of our minds, we can't ever count on finding them again.



 
Published on Monday, March 22, 2004

Mather Student Arrested on Drug Charges

Officer reports 45 bags confiscated
by
Daniel J. Hemel
Crimson Staff Writer

A Harvard undergraduate was arraigned on felony drug charges in Cambridge District Court Thursday after police allegedly found 16 bags of psilocybin mushrooms in his Mather House dorm.

If convicted on all three charges, Robert C. Schaffer ’05 faces a minimum jail term of two years and a cumulative maximum prison sentence of 22 years.

Associate Justice George Sprague of the Cambridge District Court set bail at $350 in cash or a $3,500 surety bond. Schaffer was released on bail Thursday.

Schaffer was arraigned on charges of possession of psilocybin with the intent to distribute—which carries a maximum sentence of five years—and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, which carries a maximum sentence of two years.

Because Schaffer’s Mather Tower residence is less than 1,000 feet from the Martin Luther King Jr. School on Putnam Avenue, Schaffer was also charged with a drug violation in a school zone.

Under Massachusetts law, possession of a controlled substance in a school zone with the intent to distribute carries a mandatory minimum jail term of two years and a maximum sentence of 15 years.

“There is no evidence that Mr. Schaffer was distributing drugs to the King School at this time,” said Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) spokesperson Steven G. Catalano. However, suspects need not distribute to children—or even be aware that they are inside a school zone—to be convicted under the Massachusetts Controlled Substances Act.

Officers arrived at Schaffer’s room late Wednesday night after a Mather resident called to complain about the smell of marijuana in the 12th floor hallway, Catalano said. He would not say whether the resident was a student or a tutor.

HUPD Officer Thomas F. Karns Jr., in an incident report filed Thursday morning, said he found the hallway door open and spoke with 12th floor resident Joshua Z. Steinberger ’03-’04.

Steinberger said he invited Karns to search his room. But Karns declined Steinberger’s offer, according to the report, because “the odor of marijuana did not appear to be emanating from [Steinberger’s room].”

Karns said he and HUPD Officer Steven Fumicello then knocked on Schaffer’s door, “where the odor of marijuana was at its strongest.” Schaffer agreed to let both officers into his room, Karns said.

According to Karns’ report, Schaffer then opened a desk drawer and handed Karns what appeared to be a bag of marijuana. “I noticed there were several clear plastic baggies in the drawer that [Schaffer] had taken the marijuana out of,” Karns wrote.

In total, Karns reported that he confiscated 45 clear plastic bags containing leafy and herb-like substances, as well as a foil bag marked “Betel Nut Smart Chew.”

Karns also seized a blue purse holding “an off-white waxy substance that was in flakes and a solid yellow chunk of an unknown substance,” according to the report.

Officers additionally confiscated a pipe, a 200-gram weight and scale, a large black hunting knife, a small box of rolling papers, a bag of potting soil and a hydroponics grow kit, according to the Karns’ report.

“It was clear from the way the drugs were packaged that it was possession with the intent to distribute,” Catalano said.

Police cannot make on-the-spot arrests on marijuana charges unless the quantity possessed by a suspect exceeds 50 lbs., Catalano said.

“Regardless of how much marijuana Mr. Schaffer had, nothing was going to prevent us from charging him with possession with intent to distribute,” Catalano said. But if Schaffer only possessed marijuana, police would have to obtain a summons before making an arrest.

The officers left the scene without taking Schaffer into custody.

When Karns returned to HUPD headquarters, he consulted a reference source to identify the unknown substances confiscated from Schaffer’s room. “In my opinion, the substance I confiscated from the drawer of Robert’s desk...was psilocybin,” Karns wrote.

Psilocybin is a Class C drug under Massachusetts’ Controlled Substances Act, allowing police to arrest Schaffer without a summons.

Karns said he and HUPD Sergeant Daniel Brown arrested Schaffer shortly before 5 a.m. on Thursday morning.

Mather House officials did not return requests for comment. Schaffer declined comment.

According to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Handbook for Students, “when court action is pending or in progress, the Administrative Board may delay or suspend its own review process, in recognition of the student’s criminal defense interests.”

Schaffer was recruited by Harvard in 2001 to play tailback on the football squad, but quit the varsity team in January 2003.

He withdrew from classes last March and moved to Paris to improve his sketch artwork. “I stopped playing because I found myself no longer able to suppress my creative capacities,” Schaffer wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson last year.

Schaffer was formerly internal vice president of the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, but has been “incommunicado” with the group for about a year, said Raymond E. Hill ’05, president of the fraternity.

“The news of the arrest came as a complete shock to me,” said Joelle Hobeika ’05, who identified herself as Schaffer’s ex-girlfriend. “In all the time I’ve known him, he’s been an incredibly upright and responsible person,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson.

“The only way I can rationalize the incident is as a brief, though major, lapse in judgement. I can only hope the consequences won’t be long-term,” Hobeika said.

“Rob is one of the most moral people I know. I feel as though what he is going through has been very undeserved,” said Sadie Robins-Murov ’05, who said she is a friend of Schaffer. “A lot of people are really upset and angry about this.”

—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at hemel@fas.harvard.edu.




 
Published on Wednesday, November 24, 2004.

Student to Face Pre-Trial for Drugs.

Senior was arrested for possesion and intent to distribute

By ROBIN M. PEGUERO

The next pre-trial hearing in the case of a Harvard undergraduate charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute was set yesterday in Cambridge District Court, with the defendant noticeably absent.

Robert C. Schaffer ’05—who police say they found in his dorm with 16 bags of psilocybin mushrooms—will elect whether to face trial by jury or judge in a compliance and election hearing slated for Jan. 5.

The defendant was indicted March 18 for possession of psilocybin and marijuana, with intent to distribute both. Because Schaffer’s room in the Mather House tower was less than 1,000 feet from the Martin Luther King Jr. School on Putnam Avenue, he also faces charges of drug violations within a school zone.

Although possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute within a school zone carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years, Middlesex District Attorney Spokeswoman Emily J. LaGrassa said sentences differ on a case-by-case basis.

“It varies—depends on prior record, whether he pleads guilty or not,” LaGrassa said. “If he were to plea out, that [minimum] can be broken down.”

If convicted on all three charges, Schaffer faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison. But LaGrassa said incarceration is not a given.

“If the defendant is an addict, treatment may be more appropriate,” said LaGrassa.

Schaffer, who withdrew from class in March 2003, was absent from yesterday’s proceedings. When asked why his client was not in court yesterday, Schaffer’s attorney, Robert K. Leroy, replied with a grin, “I’m not comfortable talking about that.”

Police arrived at Schaffer’s room on the evening of March 17 in response to complaints that the smell of marijuana permeated the 12th floor hallway, Harvard University Police Department Spokesman Steven G. Catalano told The Crimson last March.

Once the officers traced the smell to Schaffer’s room, the undergraduate allowed police to enter and opened his desk drawer to hand them what appeared to be a bag of marijuana, according to the incident report filed by HUPD Officer Thomas F. Karns Jr.

Upon searching the room, HUPD confiscated 45 clear plastic bags containing herb-like substances which the report described as marijuana and psilocybin; a blue purse holding “an off-white waxy substance that was in flakes and a solid yellow chunk of an unknown substance”; a pipe; a 200-gram weight and scale; a large black hunting knife and a small box of rolling papers.

“It was clear from the way the drugs were packaged that it was possession with the intent to distribute,” Catalano said at the time.

—Staff writer Robin M. Peguero can be reached at peguero@fas.harvard.edu.




 

Sawin faces new drug bust
June 23, 2006 - berkshireeagle.com



PITTSFIELD — Kyle W. Sawin, whom the commonwealth twice failed to convict of selling marijuana to an undercover police officer in a controversial Great Barrington drug sweep of two years ago, was arrested by the Berkshire County Drug Task Force on Wednesday and charged with numerous drug distribution offenses.

Sawin, 19, of Lebanon Mountain Road, Hancock, was also found in possession of a bag containing just under one pound of psilocybin mushrooms worth approximately $4,000, according to law enforcement authorities.

It is the biggest single seizure of the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin in the task force's 23-year history.

He was also found with a quantity of marijuana when he was arrested in Sheffield, authorities said.

Sawin has been charged with three counts of distribution of marijuana, one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, one count of distribution of psilocybin mushrooms, one count of possession of psilocybin with intent to distribute, and one count of being a minor transporting alcoholic beverages.

Sawin was released on $500 bail, pending arraignment in Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington on Monday.

It is alleged that Sawin sold marijuana in Great Barrington on June 18; marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms in Stockbridge on June 20, and marijuana in Sheffield on June 21.

Further criminal complaints against Sawin for distribution and possession of both marijuana and other drugs will be filed in Central Berkshire District Court in Pittsfield. Those complaints are in connection to a drug transaction that occurred at Sawin's residence in Hancock on June 16, and a search of that same residence on Wednesday.

Sawin's arrest followed a six-day investigation by the county's drug task force, but it came on the same day that his former attorney, Judith C. Knight, officially announced her candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination for Berkshire County District Attorney. In the Democratic Party primary on Sept. 19, Knight will oppose incumbent District Attorney David F. Capeless, whose first-time drug offender prosecutions she has criticized.

Knight, who no longer represents Sawin, termed the timing of Sawin's arrest a "remarkable coincidence."

"I don't know what to make of it," she said yesterday.

Sawin was one of seven first-time drug offenders among the 17 Berkshire County residents who were arrested in the Great Barrington drug bust of 2004. The investigation generated a tremendous amount of controversy after Capeless announced his intention to prosecute the first-time offenders for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or park, a charge that carries a minimum mandatory two-year jail sentence.

Capeless' decision spawned the formation of Concerned Citizens for Appropriate Justice, a citizen's group based in Great Barrington that opposes the district attorney's policy of pursuing the school-zone charge. CCAJ member John Whalan is Knight's campaign manager.

Reached in Worcester yesterday, where he was attending a court hearing, Capeless declined to comment on Sawin's arrest.

Sawin, the first of the Great Barrington defendants to go to trial, was charged with three counts of distribution of marijuana and three school-zone charges. His first trial in July 2005 ended in a mistrial. The commonwealth elected to retry Sawin on the same charges two months later, but that time he was acquitted.

CCAJ member Peter Greer called the arrest a "real tragedy for the Sawin family." Greer said he believed that if the district attorney's office had given Sawin the option of undergoing treatment or performing community service — instead of pursuing an "all-or- nothing approach" at trial, where acquittal or a two-year jail sentence were the only options — that "this sad day may not have come to pass."

The CCAJ has always advocated for "appropriate justice," Greer said, saying that those arrested should be "held responsible," but given "appropriate punishments."

"It didn't happen here," Greer said. "If it did we wouldn't be in the position that we are in today."

Knight said that she was "heartbroken" when she heard that Sawin had been arrested again because she cares deeply for his family.

"It does not change my resolve to work towards a better way to address people with substance abuse problems and give them the tools that they need to get back into society and stay clean," she added.

Sawin admits he sold drugs
State seeks maximum of 5 years
November 30, 2006 - berkshireeagle.com



PITTSFIELD — Kyle W. Sawin finally faced drug charges that he couldn't fight.

The 19-year-old Hancock resident, whom the commonwealth twice failed to convict of selling marijuana to an undercover police officer following a controversial Great Barrington drug sweep two years ago, pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday to 11 charges stemming from a separate drug investigation in June.

Sentencing is scheduled to take place Thursday, Dec. 28, at 2 in Superior Court. Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini released Sawin on $500 bail pending sentencing.

Sawin's attorney, Dennis M. Buckley of Great Barrington, said the evidence compiled against Sawin in June by the Berkshire County drug task force, which includes both audio and video recordings of drug transactions, ruled out going to trial again.

"We studied the evidence," Buckley said. "I think the police did a very thorough job. They have controlled buys — audio on one and audio and video on another."

First Assistant District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello said that the commonwealth is seeking a two- to three-year state prison sentence for Sawin on the two most serious indictments:

Distribution of psilocybin (mushrooms) and possession of psilocybin with the intent to distribute. The maximum penalty for both charges is five years in state prison, he said.

The commonwealth is seeking concurrent jail sentences on eight other charges, Caccaviello added. The final charge, a minor transporting alcoholic beverages, is punishable by a $50 fine.

Agostini said he will not exceed the commonwealth's sentencing recommendation without giving Sawin the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial.

Buckley asked the court to allow the probation department to evaluate Sawin for a report that the judge can use as a reference guide for sentencing. The probation department will evaluate Sawin's background, then suggest programs to which he could be referred if sentenced to jail, Buckley said.

Sawin pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of marijuana in connection with the sale of the drug in Hancock on June 16 and to one count of distribution of marijuana for a sale that occurred in Great Barrington two days later.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of psilocybin and to one count of distribution of marijuana in connection with a sale of those drugs in Stockbridge on June 20.

He pleaded guilty to three additional charges: distribution of marijuana, possession of psilocybin with intent to distribute, and being a minor transporting alcohol, in connection with an incident in Sheffield on June 21.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of LSD, possession of psilocybin and possession of marijuana, which police filed after executing a search warrant at his apartment on Lebanon Mountain Road on June 21.

When Sawin was arrested on June 21, he was found to be in possession of a bag containing just under 1 pound of psilocybin mushrooms, worth approximately $4,000, according to law enforcement authorities. It is the biggest single seizure of the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin in the task force's 23-year history.

He was arrested on the same day that his former attorney, Judith C. Knight, officially announced her candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination for Berkshire district attorney. Current District Attorney David F. Capeless defeated Knight in the primary in September.

'Needed a little money'

Caccaviello said the drug task force used an informant to set up the drug transactions with Sawin, an admitted drug user with a criminal record.

Shortly before he was arrested, Caccaviello said Sawin told an undercover police officer who accompanied the informant to a drug transaction that he could get more marijuana to sell but that he had to keep the transaction "low-key because he got in trouble the last time."

Following his arrest, Sawin told officers that he didn't know why he decided to resume selling drugs after his first two trials except that he "needed a little money."

"He said it was harder to stop selling drugs than it was to stop doing drugs," Caccaviello said.

Sawin was one of seven first-time drug offenders among the 17 Berkshire County residents who were arrested following an investigation into drug activity in Great Barrington's Taconic parking lot during the summer of 2004. The investigation generated a tremendous amount of controversy after Capeless announced his intention to prosecute the offenders for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or park, a charge that carries a minimum mandatory two-year jail sentence.

Sawin, the first of the Great Barrington defendants to go to trial, was charged with three counts of distribution of marijuana and three school-zone charges. Represented by Knight, his first trial, in July 2005, ended in a mistrial. The commonwealth elected to retry Sawin on the same charges two months later, but that time he was acquitted.







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