dr marten biker boots Jury to continue deliberations in drug smuggling conspiracy trial
A Waco federal court jury will resume deliberating Wednesday morning whether Phillip Larry Koss was an active participant in a widespread marijuana smuggling ring with his wife and two sons. Attorney Mary Kucera and defense attorney Jonathan Sibley. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. Wednesday.
Koss, 59, whose nickname is “Butch,” is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 50 kilograms of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute in excess of 50 kilograms of marijuana and maintaining a drug related premises.
Koss pleaded guilty in March to a reduced charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, but he was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in October.
He explained at the time that he didn’t understand the charges to which he pleaded guilty and said he had nothing to do with the marijuana distribution conspiracy.
While Koss’ wife and two of his three sons have pleaded guilty in the conspiracy and have been sentenced, Koss spent about two hours on the witness stand Tuesday distancing himself from his wife, his sons and his former Waco home at 5200 Chaparral Drive, where agents found more than 16 pounds of marijuana and $26,300 in cash during a raid there in November 2013.
Koss admitted he knew his older sons, Chad and Conner, were in the marijuana growing business in Yuba County, California, about an hour north of Sacramento. But he said they told him that their operations, called collectives, were legal and that they were selling the dope to dispensaries after California made marijuana legal for medical purposes with proper recommendations from doctors.
Koss, who cried frequently throughout his testimony, said he believed his sons.
Sibley did his best to rein in the effusive Koss and keep him focused, but Koss eventually drew four admonishments from the judge for launching into long narratives and not waiting for specific questions.
“I have never taken a drug, smoked a cigarette or drank a beer in my life,” Koss told the jury. “I have a real problem with drugs. My sons support themselves. They are 24, 26 and 28. I have no control over them.”
Koss also said that he and his wife of 30 years, Le’Ann Koss, 60, have had an on again, off again relationship for years and that they frequently separated. He said she smoked marijuana and that was a major source of their problems.
He said he also was estranged from Conner after they fought and he restrained his son with a chokehold. Later, he said Conner pointed a pistol at him and he told him to leave and not come back.
“If you are close enough to me to shoot me, I can take the gun away from you before you can pull the trigger,” Koss said. “After that, I told him we were done.”
At the time of his arrest, Koss said, he had been living with a female friend in Hewitt for about a year, although he said he went to the Chaparral home a few times a week to mow the grass or to work on an old car outside. He said he had no idea his wife and sons kept that much cash and pot in their home.
Koss said he has done martial arts for 50 years and is a former third generation wrecking yard owner. He said he started a new business in 2008 called Stretch for Life and said he worked an average of 70 hours a week with clients all across Texas and in several states.
He said he helps victims of strokes, Parkinson’s disease patients, autistic clients and others using a combination of stretching techniques he learned in martial arts, reflexology and other rehabilitative techniques. A Dallas lawyer, Dan Martens, testified how much Koss helped him after he had a stroke in 2009.
Before the government rested its case, Christopher Heath, a California narcotics task force member, said he started his investigation of the Koss brothers in October 2010 after a chance encounter with Chad Koss, who was parked in a business parking lot after hours.
He said he noted that Chad Koss had bought a $100,000 property in the foothills of Yuba County for cash and watched as his marijuana “grow” increased each year. He said he also noted a number of cars with Texas license plates coming and going from the home, which was about five miles from where Conner Koss was leasing land and growing pot also, he said.
Heath said the medical marijuana laws in California are gray and vague, adding that most police officers don’t understand them, let alone the growers.
Many growers soon formed nonprofit collectives, combining patients who had recommendations from doctors so they could grow more pot, he said.
In July 2011, he saw Le’Ann Koss in California with her sons and she showed them medical recommendations for medical marijuana for herself, Phillip Koss, Chad Koss and Conner Koss. All four swore under oath that they were residents of California before obtaining doctors’ recommendations for medical marijuana, he said.
Heath said he checked the recommendations at Conner Koss’ grow site and he showed him the identical family recommendations, which the agent said were bogus.
Records also showed that Phillip Koss’ credit card was used to pay electric bills at both sons’ properties and that Koss paid for his sons’ auto insurance and cellphones. The card was used to buy more than $4,000 worth of supplies used to construct the grow pots and a marijuana drying facility, Heath told jurors.
Koss explained that he got the recommendation from a doctor because Chad said he had to have one on file if he wanted to visit him at his property.
“Chad told me to say that I had 160 stitches in my leg and that is why I needed the medical marijuana,” Koss said. “He said I had to have a card to visit him, and I believed him because he told me.”
He said he was unaware that Chad and Conner were selling large amounts of marijuana in Texas, including Waco and Austin.
Koss explained that his wife has handled books for his businesses and has paid the bills in his family for 30 years, adding he doesn’t pay attention to those matters. He said they have a joint credit card account and she used that card to make those purchases without his knowledge.
In summations, Sibley said Koss’ wife and two sons acted on their own and he had no knowledge of their drug trafficking ring.