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Thread: Legendary And Strange Pot Plane Saga Went On For Years

  1. #1
    New Member SeamusFuller's Avatar
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    ODDBALL news events occur from time to time in West Virginia - and one of
    the wildest was the historic Pot Plane crash of 1979.

    The caper involved a bizarre cast, including some moviemakers who, believe
    it or not, eventually got out of jail and won an Academy Award.

    The tale began after midnight on a summer night. An old Douglas DC-6 cargo
    plane, four propellers whirring, approached Yeager (then Kanawha) Airport
    and radioed for permission to land. Tower operators didn't know that the
    darkness-shrouded craft contained 12 tons of marijuana.

    Inside the plane were three young men in their 20s: The pilot, David
    Seesing, a former Eagle Scout, was a Texas aircraft salesman who lived with
    the daughter of President Nixon's ambassador to Australia. The co-pilot,
    Dana Anderson, had previously served drug terms in Morocco and Colombia,
    and had vanished from New York after his name surfaced in the murder of a
    top model's lover.

    Waiting on the ground in yellow Ryder rental trucks, ready to unload the
    cargo, were five others, including Leon Jacques Gast and Shahbaz "Shane"
    Zarintash. Gast was a movie producer who called his company Gassed Films.
    Zarintash was an Iranian immigrant who had attended West Virginia Tech and
    worked as an engineer for the state Division of Highways.

    Also nearby, in an unmarked police car, was Kanawha County Sheriff's Deputy
    Mark Chadwick. His father, Sgt. Jim Chadwick, was at the county police

    Then the plan went haywire. The DC-6 touched down, but gunned its engines
    in a doomed attempt to climb. The craft plummeted down a hillside, ripping
    apart, spewing 400 or so 50-pound bales of pot, and catching fire. The crew
    jumped for their lives. One of the four engines reached Keystone Drive in
    the valley far below. Bales hung in treetops and ruptured down the slope.

    Police and emergency crews roared to the airport. Officers found Anderson
    staggering along a road, injured. Nearby were Seesing and the third
    crewman, muddy and bloody. At first, they told police they had been fighting.

    Radio alarms were flashed around the Kanawha Valley. Police soon caught the
    others in the fleeing Ryder trucks. Later, charges were filed against the
    father-and-son deputies, Jim and Mark Chadwick, accusing them of aiding the
    smuggling plot.

    Sightseers began looting the spilled pot, and 15 were arrested. Police
    doused the bales with fuel oil, trying to burn them, and sprayed the
    hillside with herbicide. National Guardsmen patrolled the site. Some bales
    were buried - then dug up again after looters tried digging. It was a mess.

    Trials finally began the following winter. Four suspects pleaded guilty,
    including director Gast. He said he and Zarintash were trying to make a
    documentary movie about a boxing match by Muhammad Ali in Africa.

    Other defendants sweated through months of courtroom delays. It was called
    the "snow-to-roses trial" because it stretched into summer.

    One defense attorney, Edwin Kagin of Kentucky, lived in a tent at Kanawha
    State Forest. Nearby, another defense lawyer, Richard Chosid, stayed in a
    camper. Also tenting was an investigator, disbarred lawyer Harry Shelor.
    They said they were saving defense costs for clients.

    When verdicts finally came down, four more smugglers were convicted, and
    all got five-year sentences. Sgt. Chadwick was found innocent, and his
    son's trial ended with a hung jury.

    More court struggles ensued. Bankrollers of the plot were indicted and
    convicted. Some verdicts were set aside, and the smugglers convicted again.

    Young Deputy Chadwick finally was acquitted - even though three of the
    smugglers testified that he had been their lookout. Then-Sheriff Danny
    Jones said Chadwick "walked into my office after the verdict, demanded to
    see me, and asked for six years back pay." The ex-deputy filed several
    appeals seeking more than $100,000 from taxpayers, but the Gazette and
    others protested, and his effort failed.

    Meanwhile, lawyers bit the dust. One bankroller who pleaded guilty was
    Florida lawyer Frederick Shapiro. Then defense lawyer Chosid was convicted
    in a Michigan pot-smuggling scheme. Worst of all, ex-lawyer Harry Shelor,
    who had served as an investigator, drew a death sentence for murdering a
    state trooper who discovered his Kentucky pot patch.

    Another weird twist happened a year after the crash, when lawyer Jon Duncan
    came to a Monroe County bank with a garbage bag containing $58,000 in small
    bills. The money was deposited in the attorney's escrow account. Later,
    $42,600 more was brought in a fishing tackle box. Four other deliveries
    raised the total to $157,000.

    Federal agents said the money came from the Pot Plane plot. They charged
    the bank with failing to obey a law requiring disclosure of cash deposits
    greater than $10,000. Then-federal Judge Elizabeth Hallanan remarked that
    "$58,000 in small bills in a garbage bag is not routine."

    The bank paid a fine. One of the marijuana smugglers and a Monroe County
    man he had met in Kanawha County jail - a psychotic who had shot his
    girlfriend to death in the Kanawha County welfare office - were convicted
    in 1986 for this money mess.

    The Pot Plane caper seemed over. Then an epilogue occurred. Director Gast
    finally finished his film about Muhammad Ali, titled "When We Were Kings" -
    and it won a 1997 Oscar for best documentary.

    The lawyer who lived in a tent, Kagin, son of a Presbyterian minister,
    today is a leader in national agnostic groups.

    In the news business, we watch a lot of strange stories unfold. This one
    was a classic.

    Haught is the Gazette's editor.

    Pubdate: Mon, 13 Oct 2003
    Source: Charleston Gazette (WV)
    Copyright: 2003 Charleston Gazette

    Dude, I can still remember the taste of that Pot Plane Diesel brown. There was some that was diesel-coated, a lot that wasn't, the latter buried deeper than the fuel ever reached. I grew up and lived within a 1/2 mile of Keystone Drive, the valley at the bottom of the airport mountain, and though I was living in California when the crash actually occurred, I had come home on leave from the Air Force right after the crash, and one of my friends and his older brother had done several 'night patrols' of the area. That shit was around for years in one form or another, with many attempts made to clean it somehow, with univerally miserable results.

    Thanks for the detailed description of the full event.

    Last edited by Keith Lake; 09-09-2009 at 05:45 AM.
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  2. #2
    Human Resources Keith Lake's Avatar
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    Re: Legendary And Strange Pot Plane Saga Went On For Years

    Received a message from someone who wished to correct the record on this event. Posted here for clarity and balance

    Actually you are mistaken on a few of your details.. i have saved all the news articles from this event and have followed related events closely for quite sometime. Please allow me to set the record straight.

    Harry Shelor Jr. was never a lawyer and thus could not have been disbarred. He was a convicted felon at 17 years of age for taking a stolen car across state lines on a joy ride. He was a paralegal in the employ of Edwin Kagan. He was involved in another 'Pot Case' which involved a plot of land owned by Edwin Kagan. He did not receive the dealth penalty verdict as you have reported.

    He was given a plea bargain based on circumstance of evidence which linked him to the crime site. The plea bargain was set for 15 years by a blind public defender who was assigned the case after the initial defense attorney failed to prevent a mistrial and hung jury due to a state representative passing legislation on such crimes having the ability to secure a seat on the jury as a 'farmer' who really had not opinion or connected with the case.

    The mistrial was overseen by judge Carmel Cook who accepted the plea bargain in lieu of retrying the case as a death penalty option... the 15 year sentence was interpreted by the parole board as a 50 year serve out.... with no consequence for Kagan or any of the other investors associated with the West Virginia and Cornbread Mafia Syndicate from whence the support came.

    Thats justice for you... the record stands corrected
    dr.h00k liked this post
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  3. #3
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    Re: Legendary And Strange Pot Plane Saga Went On For Years

    And all of it such a large waste of time and taxpayer's money. I bet it sold a few papers ( and a few rolling papers! ).

    Make Hemp History; End prohibition NOW!

  4. #4
    420 Member flank's Avatar
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    Re: Legendary And Strange Pot Plane Saga Went On For Years

    Man, what a waste.

    And, is it weird when the article says that the government sprayed the hill sides with herbicide, I just get really angry at the government for just screwing up the environment more for NO reason?. No matter what type, that stuff is not good for ANYTHING living. The government destroys our economy, our environment, and the damn people with this war on drugs.

    I can't wait for the day its legal. Watch crimes fall 70%, green house gas emissions fall 30% in the first year, and the economy make a full rebound.

    Or maybe everyone will get addicted to it and kill anyone else they see cuz the demon weed told them too...

  5. #5
    Human Resources Keith Lake's Avatar
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    Re: Legendary And Strange Pot Plane Saga Went On For Years

    Less Government = More Freedom

    Leave my leaves be

  6. #6
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    Re: Legendary And Strange Pot Plane Saga Went On For Years

    I happen to be very good friends with one of the principals of this strange episode, identified in the above thread as the "third crew member." Jerome Otto Lill was one of the investors in this caper, fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court, lost, and spent a number of years in the federal prison at the former Fort Eglin AFB in the Florida panhandle. His lawyer was the afore-mentioned Richard Chosid. He is currently authoring a book on the entire deal, from conception to failure, as well as his pre-crash and post-crash life. Filled with random thoughts, ruminations and declarations, as well as the true story of this adventure, it promises to be a great read. Should anyone wish to hear the real story from one of the actual participants, contact me and I can try to arrange a conversation with former drug smuggler Jerome Otto Lill.
    Karen Klucar, dr.h00k, c4ptch4os liked this post

  7. #7
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    Re: Legendary And Strange Pot Plane Saga Went On For Years

    nclyle323. I would love to learn more about this. Would it still be possible to arrange a conversation with Mr. Lill?