Part 2: Carlson Writing Book, Hopes Trump Will Pardon Him
After more than four years in prison, former Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson speaks to FOX 21 in his first television interview.
DULUTH, Minn. – In part two of a special report, former Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson speaks out from prison for the first time since being sentenced for selling synthetic drugs in his heads shop in downtown Duluth.
As FOX 21’s Dan Hanger reporter, Carlson claims his innocence, points the finger at the government and says he’s got hope there’s one high-profile man who can get him out of his 17.5 year sentence.
“Just to let you know, I’ve got 4,175 days left,” Carlson said to Hanger.
“So you are counting every single one?” Hanger replied.
“Oh, yeah, I got it on my calendar. It drives my neighbors crazy,” Carlson responded.
60-year-old Jim Carlson — once a man who had his hands in millions of dollars of synthetic drug sales out of Last Place on Earth – now has his hands in less risky projects behind bars in Milan, Michigan.
“I’ve taken up painting. I’ve taken up drawing. I use colored pencils. I’d go nuts in here if I wasn’t keeping busy every minute,” Carlson said.
Three years since his sentencing for selling the fake pot, Carlson says he still maintains his innocence and believes the government was fiercely money-hungry.
“Just a greedy. They can’t figure out how to fix the budget, so they just want to steel everybody’s money. And I got tied up in the steel the money. But they [are] also trying to steal my life,” Carlson said.
“There’s no question the case revealed he knew what he was doing. He thought he could get around the law and he was very greedy,” said Mark Rubin, St. Louis county attorney.
Rubin was a key piece of the puzzle in helping get loopholes closed and federal legislation passed against synthetic drugs, which would eventually take down Carlson.
“In this case, any little change on the chemical compound would take it out of the previously written definition out of a particular controlled substance. So that’s why there had to be some legislative fixes throughout this process,” Rubin explained.
But Carlson kept on the fight. He says it was not all about making people feel better from illnesses.
“Ya know, all these people were relying on me to give them a healthier life,” Carlson said.
He also said it was about sticking up for what he believed was the invasion of people’s freedoms.
“Where does the U.S. stop”? Clarson asked. “Ya know what is life, liberty and pursuit of happiness mean”?
And he points to past successful battles with the government as a big boost to stick to what he believed in.
“Who is Jim Carlson?” Hanger asked.
“He was a guy that, ya know, way back into the old days they went after stores for selling adult stuff, and people wanted to buy vibrators and porno, and I was there for them when they wanted to buy it even though they were locking people up. Then it shifted porno was ok and they went after the pipes. They came and they seized all my pipes and threatened me with seven years in jail for selling pipes. But I was there for the pipe people when they wanted me. I was selling pipes and I said this isn’t right. A person should be able to buy a pipe,” Carlson explained.
But his last battle – the synthetic drugs as an alternative to selling marijuana — ultimately failed in a big way with the lengthy sentence.
“He was given the opportunity. Do the right thing. Stop doing this. He was never promised he would be charged after a while, but that was the plea. And no, he was just defiant and just refused to stop,” Carlson said.
And as you might imagine even behind bars, Carlson is still refusing to stop.
“I’m not 100 percent given up hope. I mean, ya know, what would be the sense of even being alive if I knew I was going to spend the rest of my time in this s**t hole,” Carlson said.
Carlson says he is writing a book about his battle with the government in hopes of getting some publicity.
And he’s even looking to President Donald Trump for help.
“I’m hoping that, ya know, maybe Trump will pardon me. Trump being a business man, will someday sit down, somebody will say look what they did to this guy,” Carlson said.
Meanwhile, as Hanger wrapped up this nearly hour- and-a-half long interview with Carlson, he had two requests: send him copies of the web articles for this story and let him know how popular the stories become online.
“I know you track it on the computer. You track what’s the number one story. They told me one day they had one story of mine that stayed number one 10 days,” Carlson reflected on a past news article about him.
“Look at you. Does that make you happy?” Hanger asked.
“Well, it lets me know everybody hasn’t forgotten about me, whether they hate me, or love me or don’t have any feeling at all, they have an interest,” Carlson said.
Carlson’s ex-girlfriend, Lava Haugen, is current serving a five-year sentence in Texas for her role at Last Place.
Carlson’s son, Joe Gellerman, has finished his sentence of three years of probation.
Meanwhile, Duluth city attorney Gunnar Johnson says he is reminded often of the Last Place on Earth “nightmare,” as he calls it.
Johnson keeps a large picture in his office of a father smoking synthetics in Lake Place Park in downtown Duluth while the mother watches on and the child runs the other way.
And while that image saddens Johnson, he reminds of the other problems he says we quickly forget.
“Duluth felt like we were under siege almost by these zombie people that would be wondering around downtown Duluth. And they left a trail of vomit, feces and broken lives. It was horrible,” Jonson said.
Johnson believes the case against Carlson and Last Place on Earth was a unique episode in Duluth’s history. It’s one he clearly wished never happened, but feels very content with the outcome.
“Took a lot of work by a lot of people on many different levels both in government, in business, community leaders — and that is a story we should be proud of,” Johnson said.
For part one of this report: FOX 21 Exclusive: Jim Carlson Breaks Silence From Prison