William Leonard Pickard
|William Leonard Pickard|
Image of William Leonard Pickard
October 21, 1945 |
Mill Valley, California
|Occupation||lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) manufacturing (Chemist)|
|Criminal status||Serving two life sentences|
William Leonard Pickard (born October 21, 1945), known as "Leonard", is one of two people convicted in the largest lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) manufacturing case in history. In 2000, while moving their LSD laboratory, Pickard and Clyde Apperson were pulled over while driving a Ryder rental truck and a follow car. The laboratory had been at a renovated Atlas-E missile silo near Wamego, Kansas but the two men had never actually produced LSD there. One of the men intricately involved in the case but not charged due to his cooperation, Gordon Todd Skinner, owned the property where the laboratory was located; he approached the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about working for them. According to court testimony, they would produce a kilogram of LSD approximately every five weeks. The U.S. government contends that following their arrest there was a 90% drop in the availability of LSD worldwide.
Prior to his arrest, Pickard was deputy director of University of California, Los Angeles' Drug Policy Research Program. He came from a well-to-do family; his father was a lawyer and his mother was a fungal disease expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In high school, he was an honors student, played basketball, and was named "most intellectual". He earned a scholarship to Princeton University, but dropped out after one term, instead preferring to hang out at Greenwich Village jazz clubs. Later,[when?] he earned a degree from Purdue University in Indiana. He held a job as a research manager at University of California, Berkeley, Department of Bacteriology and Immunology from 1971 to 1974. 
In December 1988, a neighbor reported a strange chemical odor coming from an architectural shop at a Mountain View, California industrial park. Federal agents arrived to find 200,000 doses of LSD and found William Pickard inside. Pickard was charged with manufacturing LSD and served five years in prison. 
By 1994, Pickard had enrolled at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Here he focused on drug abuse in the former Soviet Union, where he theorized the booming black market and many unemployed chemists could lead to a flood of the drug market.
It is not known where Pickard produced LSD for the very first time. His first arrest for manufacturing LSD came on December 28, 1988 in Mountain View, California. The laboratory was contained inside a trailer that had been moved into a warehouse. It contained state-of-the-art equipment, including a roto-evaporator, heating mantles and a pill press. He was producing kilogram quantities of LSD and putting them onto windowpane, microdot, and blotter forms. He spent time in prison for this and became a Buddhist while inside.
From then up until the Wamego, Kansas bust in 2000, the laboratory had a number of different locations. Pickard never liked to stay at one location more than two years, so as not to draw attention to himself. In early 1996 the lab was located in Oregon; it was subsequently moved to Aspen, Colorado in late 1996. From September 1997 to September 1999 the laboratory was located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He liked the Santa Fe location for a number of reasons; his overhead costs were lower and the precursor source was closer. Also he liked the fact there was virtually no humidity, which can affect the production of LSD. All of the laboratories are alleged to have produced a kilogram of LSD approximately every five weeks. Skinner became involved with Pickard and Apperson in February 1998.
One of his main customers was a man named "Petaluma Al" from Petaluma, California. Pickard would always arrange for the produced LSD to be transported to the Denver, Colorado or Boulder, Colorado area to be mailed or picked up so that Petaluma Al would never know where the laboratory was located. Most of Petaluma Al's customers were overseas customers in Europe, which meant that in addition to millions of dollars in United States currency, Pickard also handled millions in Dutch guilders and Canadian bank notes. He preferred to deal in ƒ1000 notes or Canadian $1000 notes (discontinued since 2000 in Canada) because it meant less bulk cash to have on hand. He required his distributors to convert all lower currencies into $50 or $100 notes at the least so as not to cause problems.
Although Clyde Apperson was convicted of the same charges as Pickard, he did not actually manufacture LSD. He was Pickard's partner and was a skilled chemist, but his role was mainly in the setup and take-down of the laboratory. If he was setting up the lab in a brand new location he was paid $100,000. For take-downs he was paid $50,000. Take-downs were needed sometimes when a landlord wished to come look at the property or other such reasons. Apperson did however manufacture synthetic mescaline, a very complex drug to produce. When authorities searched his Sunnyvale, California home they found five drums of precursor chemicals needed to manufacture synthetic mescaline.
Although they were arrested moving the laboratory from the Atlas-E silo location, they never actually produced LSD at this site. The laboratory had been situated there without Pickard or Apperson's knowledge by government informant Gordon Todd Skinner. He had begun cooperating with the DEA when various law enforcement agencies threatened to expand investigations into Skinner's past kidnapping, conspiracy and drug charges. Skinner had previously escaped full prosecution of those charges after earlier episodes of cooperation with state and local authorities. So after moving the lab to the silo site, Skinner then allowed DEA agents in to investigate.The DEA were later granted an actual search warrant based on their secret visit.
When Pickard arrived in the area and learned Skinner had moved the lab to the silo property, he immediately began preparations to re-move it. Eventually Apperson drove a Ryder rental truck with the laboratory in it while Pickard followed in a Buick LeSabre; they used walkie-talkies to maintain communication. In order not to raise suspicions, the DEA arranged for a Kansas Highway Patrol vehicle to pull the caravan over. Recognizing something was wrong, marathon-runner Pickard took off into the woods on foot, He was not captured until the next day. A farmer who saw him resting during the daytime turned him in.
Authorities found less than six ounces of ergotamine tartrate during the arrest. Yet according to Pickard's defense, this estimation of weight was actually the weight of a detectable "mixture" of the chemical. "Mixture" here is a term of legal convenience, and according to critics, it is also a widely misleading term. According to the defense, in this case the DEA's "six ounces of ergotamine" includes the weight of a 5-ounce-plus glassware container. The convenience factor in their weight estimates helped support the DEA's unproven claim that Pickard produced a kilogram of LSD every five weeks. Such an amount represented an unprecedented charge in the USA, a stunning charge repeated in numerous headlines. The DEA went further to estimate this figure would yield enough LSD for about 10 million doses of 100 µg each, and they used that figure to calculate their retail dollar value of $40 million in sales 'on the street'.
But Pickard was not ever known by the DEA or anyone to sell at street level. Government informant Skinner testified that this LSD sold "at the wholesale level to the largest customers in the world, (at) approximately 29.75 cents per [100 µg] dosage"; while each dose might sell on the street for "as high as $10 per dose". Per the DEA's informant, Skinner and Pickard sold LSD to Petaluma Al at a 70% lower wholesale rate- $2,975,000 per kilogram.  This still results in an income of almost $36 million yearly. Unlike actual drug-millionaire king-pins, the actual evidence supporting any such tale of fabulous wealth has yet to surface.
Both Apperson and Pickard were eventually found guilty of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and dispense ten grams or more of a "mixture" or a substance containing a detectable amount of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); Pickard received two life sentences, while Apperson received 30 years imprisonment.
Pickard, currently 68 years old, is serving out his sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary at Tucson, Arizona.
- "In-Depth : Kansas Missile Silos". CJOnline.com. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
- "http://www.scribd.com/doc/22076036/LSD-Lab-Indictment-Pickard-Apperson". Scribd.com. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
- "Printable version: William Pickard's long, strange trip / Suspected LSD trail leads from the Bay Area's psychedelics era to a missile silo in Kansas". Sfgate.com. 2001-06-10. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
- "Wilkinson - The Acid King (Pickard LSD Bust, Rolling Stone Mag, 2001)". Scribd.com. 2001-07-05. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
- pg7-8, Second trial testimony transcript
- Getting High on Krystle, Video about the LSD laboratory
- Transcripts of Gordon Skinner's 6 days of testimony
- Washington Times article on arrest
- Slate article on the LSD arrest
- An interview with Krystle Cole regarding her involvement in the bust
- Follow-up Slate article on inaccurate seizure amounts
- San Francisco Chronicle article
- Day-by-day reporting of the trial
- Appeals court upholds LSD sentence (3/31/2006)
- Topeka Kansas Capital-Journal coverage
- Questions about Pickard LSD Case