A state Supreme Court hearing to determine whether Tebbs Headshops should be barred permanently from selling allegedly mislabeled products was adjourned a second time Thursday after the businesss owner, John E. Tebbetts III, again arrived at court without an attorney.
The state attorney general has filed action against Tebbs, which among its eight shops statewide operates one at 144 Eastern Blvd., claiming that the mislabeled products are synthetic drugs. The attorney general filed similar actions against shops in 12 counties, seeking to have the products removed from shelves.
Judge James P. McClusky issued a temporary restraining order Aug. 2 against Tebbs, forbidding it from selling the disputed products until Mr. Tebbetts could appear and argue why his stores should be allowed to carry them. At an Aug. 23 show cause hearing, Mr. Tebbetts, appearing without an attorney, told Judge McClusky that he had pulled the questionable products from his shelves and had no intention of selling them again. However, the attorney general still is seeking fines that could total more than $100,000, prompting the judge to advise Mr. Tebbetts to get an attorney and adjourn the hearing.
Mr. Tebbetts, Rome, told Judge McClusky that he attempted to hire New Hartford attorney Leslie R. Lewis, but I was not able to pay him. Mr. Tebbetts said he learned Wednesday night that Mr. Lewis was not going to represent him and he now is seeking a local attorney.
Deanna R. Nelson, assistant attorney general in charge of the Watertown regional office, who also is prosecuting the attorney generals other cases statewide, told Judge McClusky that it was disingenuous for Mr. Tebbetts to appear without an attorney, as Mr. Lewis had indicated before the Aug. 23 appearance that he would not represent Mr. Tebbetts. Judge McClusky said he still wanted to hear testimony in the matter before deciding whether to issue a permanent injunction. He asked how long it would take for Mr. Tebbetts to obtain counsel.
Im not sure, to be honest, Mr. Tebbetts said. I can make some phone calls. Two weeks, I believe, would be enough time.
Judge McClusky adjourned the hearing until Oct. 16, telling Mr. Tebbetts to have his attorney contact the court once one has been retained.
Outside the courtroom, Ms. Nelson said the adjournment will slow down the resolution of this particular case, but the more important component is that the temporary restraining order remains in place.
In the meantime, were still where we need to be: theres no product on the shelf, she said.
She said one of the things the attorney general was requesting is that Judge McClusky order Mr. Tebbetts to provide an inventory of all of the products he carried. However, she said, she since has obtained a list of items seized by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents during raids in July of Tebbs shops and affiliated warehouses. The raids allegedly yielded several million dollars worth of bath salts, synthetic marijuana products and contraband.
She said the attorney general also is experiencing success in several other pending cases.
Our other cases across the state are moving ahead, Ms. Nelson said. We now have permanent injunctions in more than half of the ones we have pending.