Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Years for Synthetic Marijuana; Smoke Shop Operator Pleads Guilty in 'Crazy Clown' Case

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Years for Synthetic Marijuana; Smoke Shop Operator Pleads Guilty in 'Crazy Clown' Case

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

BRUNSWICK | The owner of a smoke shop that sold a synthetic marijuana that sent customers to the emergency room was sentenced to three years in prison and 12 years' probation Friday after pleading guilty to three counts of possession of the illegal substance with intent to distribute.

In August 2013, eight people were hospitalized after smoking a substance called "Crazy Clown" that they had bought from Mary Jane's Emporium, a business that owner Jason P. LaRoche characterized Friday during his sentencing hearing as a smoke shop. More got sick later from smoking that and other substances typically called spice.

Superior Court Judge Roger B. Lane sentenced LaRoche, 42, under the first offender act to five years to be served consecutively on each count, three years of which are to be served in prison.

The balance is to be served on probation with a number of conditions, including that he serve 100 hours of community service and not have contact with similar businesses, including any that sell rolling papers, pipes, water pipes and other drug paraphernalia.

Should he violate any of those conditions, Lane warned, he would be subject to re-sentencing to the maximum allowed under the law at the time of the offenses. Although the penalties have been weakened since 2013, the penalty at the time was five to 30 years in prison. Assistant District Attorney Liberty Stewart said should LaRoche violate his probation, the state would want him sentenced under those harsher penalties, and Lane agreed.

"You don't want to come back before this judge,'' Lane told LaRoche.

But if LaRoche completes all the conditions of his sentencing, the felony would be removed from his record under Georgia's first offender statute.

On one hand, LaRoche had helped investigators in other cases, which helped him get first offender treatment, Lane said. …

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