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Oklahoma prosecutor still pursing case against pipe shop

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The Republican district attorney in a left-leaning Oklahoma college town said he will pursue remaining charges in a controversial drug paraphernalia case despite three acquittals and one hung jury so far.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn is pursuing criminal charges stemming from two 2015 raids of The Friendly Market in Norman, home to the University of Oklahoma. The now-shuttered store sold glass water pipes that Mashburn says are clearly defined under state law as drug paraphernalia. The shop owner says the pipes can be used for tobacco.

A jury on Monday acquitted store owner Robert Cox and manager Stephen Holman on several charges, including a felony charge of acquiring proceeds from drug activity. The trials of two other clerks ended in a hung jury and an acquittal.

Cox and another former clerk are still facing charges. Their defense attorney says they’re not open to a plea deal.

“If they want a jury trial, we will take them to a jury trial — the ball is in their court,” Mashburn said. “We’ve always been amenable to working this out and they haven’t been willing to do that.”

Mashburn’s determination in pursuing the case has left some residents scratching their heads, including Holman, a popular Norman city councilman. He estimates Mashburn’s office is spending $7,800 a day during trial.

“So far, 24 jurors have heard this case at three trials, and only one juror has said ‘guilty’ out of 24,” Holman said after his acquittal. “I think it’s absolutely crystal clear that the residents of Cleveland County don’t support (Mashburn) in this venture. I don’t know why he would continue.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has made an open-records request to see how much public money has been spent on prosecuting the cases.

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