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Published: 1/28/2011

Bowling Green man not guilty in paraphernalia case

BOWLING GREEN -- Mike Husain would like to think the "not guilty" verdict returned against him late Wednesday would mean police would leave his family's head shop alone, but he doubts it.

"I think they are going to keep on harassing us," he said. "They want us out of town, which is wrong."

Mr. Husain, manager of Mez-morize on South Main Street, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor, for a pipe and synthetic urine sold at the shop to a confidential informant working with police last April. After a two-day trial in Bowling Green Municipal Court, a jury found him not guilty. Judge Mark Reddin ordered the city to return within seven days all merchandise seized during a search of the shop in April. "We're very pleased," Mr. Husain said. "I just hope this sends a message to the city that you can't try to run people's lives. People are going to do what they want to do, and we are selling legal products for legal purposes. When people leave the store, we can't control what they do."

City Prosecutor Matt Reger said though individual items sold at Mezmorize may be legal to sell, he tried to convince the jury that taken as a whole, the items are tools and accessories used with illegal drugs. "The state's position was that these items taken together, even though there was no illegal substance on any of the items, … constitute drug paraphernalia," Mr. Reger said.

He speculated the jury wanted to see allegations of drugs being sold at the shop or that the owner was promoting buying drugs to use with the merchandise, but that was not the case.

Mr. Husain said it didn't take the jury long to return its verdict. "I think the jury looked at all the evidence they had and saw all these items are totally legal," he said. "I think they thought it was totally ridiculous."

In 1997, the owner of The Shed, which is no longer in business in Bowling Green, was convicted of selling drug paraphernalia after a trial before Judge Reddin, but his conviction was later reversed by the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals. The appeals court found no evidence that the shop's owner knew customers would use items they bought at the store as drug paraphernalia.

Mr. Reger said the Mezmorize case was similar but had different facts that he attempted to present "in a different way with a different argument." He said despite the not- guilty verdict, he would pursue charges against a head shop in the future if different facts were presented.

"We're not targeting anybody or anything," he said. "We're trying to enforce the law."

Mr. Husain begs to differ. In the year and a half his family has operated Mezmorize, the store has been raided twice by police.

No charges were filed after the second raid in December, although Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson said his office is considering whether to pursue charges related to the sale of synthetic marijuana seized at the store.

Bowling Green police Lt. Brad Biller said police would "continue to investigate what we believe are violations of the law in our community." He said some of the merchandise sold in shops such as Mezmorize, police believe, violate "not only the letter of the law, but also what we see to be community norms."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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