'Last Place' to Stay Closed for at Least Another Month
Posted at: 08/20/2013 3:34 PM
| Updated at: 08/21/2013 8:10 AM
By: Alan Hoglund
A controversial downtown Duluth business will stay closed for at least a month as attorneys submit written closing statements and the judge makes a ruling following the end of testimony in a nuisance trial Tuesday morning.
The second day of testimony in the trial against the Last Place on Earth ended around 11:30. The city of Duluth called five more witnesses to testify. In all, 14 witnesses testified for the city, but no one was called to the stand for the defense.
With St. Louis County Judge Shaun Floerke presiding, doctors, a crime analyst and an employee of CHUM, an organization that helps the homeless, testified Tuesday.
Two St. Luke's Hospital emergency physicians took the stand and described symptoms associated with synthetic drug use. Dr. Jonathan Shultz described patients being agitated, confused and sometimes in a state of psychosis.
Shultz said on March 5, eight police officers brought in a 37-year-old male that had been running down the street naked. He said he recovered a small tinfoil package from the patient's rectum labeled "Tide." A police officer testified previously that a product he believed to be a synthetic drug called "RipTide" was being sold at the Last Place on Earth the same day as the incident.
Shultz said the patient survived with an extended stay in intensive care.
Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen, the medical director for the emergency department at St. Luke's, echoed Shultz's description of synthetic drug use symptoms during his testimony, saying "often times these people [patients] are more than agitated. They are seeing things that are not there."
Van Deelen said one of his patients was not able to converse, had high blood pressure and heart rate. He said the young man was "very agitated and had to be restrained."
The patient was placed "on a ventilator and was admitted for several days," according to Van Deelen.
Since the Last Place closed on July 19, Shultz and Van Deelen testified that they haven't treated anyone with synthetic drug use symptoms. Prior to that they said they treated at least one person per shift.
Outside the courtroom, Owner Jim Carlson argued that some patients are lying about what they've used, but he couldn't give us a specific number.
"I've heard from quite a few people that they're going in there on other stuff and they're blaming it on my product just because they think it's legal and they're not going to get in trouble," Carlson said.
Carlson also took issue with numbers presented in court showing how police calls for service in the area of the Last Place have dropped since his business closed.
In more testimony, Duluth Crime Analyst Maya Carroll compared the 23 days before and after the Last Place closed. As Eyewitness News reported Monday, calls for service in the area surrounding the business dropped from 390 to 271.
Carroll also said "in July of 2013 calls for service dropped while in previous years they were peaking."
Randall Tigue, Carlson's attorney, asked Carroll, "an auto accident would be included? A dog left in the car would be included?"
Carlson explained that the numbers are misleading because many calls have nothing to do with his shop. "Like Randy mentioned, if a dog is in a car in the heat, I get blamed for it. If a guy is beating up his woman because of alcohol, I get blamed for it," he said.
Whether the shop is the reason for the calls or not, city leaders said they've seen the atmosphere downtown change. City Councilor Linda Krug sat in on the trial and said "we're not seeing the agitated people. We're not seeing the people milling around with little to do."
And the judge could rule that the business remain closed for a year. If that happens, Krug said "I would support that. I think it is something the community needs."
Duluth Community Relations Officer Daniel Fanning said "since the Last Place on Earth has been closed crime has gone down, downtown business has gone up and the city of Duluth is better off."
As the attorneys are submitting their written closing statements and we wait on Judge Floerke to issue a ruling, Carlson will be preparing for a bigger case. He faces more than 50 federal charges and possible prison time.
That trial starts in Minneapolis in on September 16.