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August 1, 2013

Kokomo business owner acquitted on drug charges

Judge declares a mistrial after Gary Elvers jury deadlocks on other counts.

KOKOMO — A Howard County jury deliberated for about three hours before finding Kokomo business owner Gary Elvers not guilty of two counts of dealing synthetic marijuana and one count of corrupt business influence. A conviction on the latter charge would have enabled prosecutors to seize much of Elvers’ property in a forfeiture action.

The jury deadlocked on two charges Tuesday, setting up a possible retrial for Kokomo head shop proprietor Elvers.

Elvers was arrested after a March 19, 2012, raid on his now-closed West Mulberry Street shop and charged with dealing synthetic marijuana, maintaining a common nuisance, and corrupt business influence.

Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann said Wednesday he will retry Elvers on two counts of maintaining a common nuisance, after the jurors in Howard Superior Court 1 could not reach a decision.

Elvers also still faces seven other related charges in a separate case prosecutors filed in July 2012, shortly after Indiana State Police drug lab reports came back on multiple items seized in the March raid.

Prosecutors said the items tested positive for substances banned by the state in a law that went into effect four days prior to the March raid. The new law outlawed synthetic drugs commonly known as “bath salts” and “spice,” under the rationale that they are harmful substances which mirror the effects of drugs already controlled or banned by the state.

The case has a somewhat confusing history. Kokomo Police purchased items in September and October of 2011 in an undercover sting operation, in an attempt to show Elvers was selling substances which were illegal according to the law as it stood in 2011.

But the Indiana Legislature strengthened the law by encompassing a wider array of substances in a measure that took effect in March 2012.

According to Kokomo Police Department affidavits, an undercover officer went back to the store after the new law passed and tried, but failed, to purchase illegal items.

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