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Tim Scully Describes Failed ALD-52 Legal Gambit
Email Correspondances to Earth Erowid in Feb-May 2017
by Timothy Scully, Earth Erowid
Feb-May 2017
Citation:   Scully T, Erowid E. "Tim Scully Describes Failed ALD-52 Legal Gambit". Feb-May 2017.
The following account was compiled from emails from Timothy Scully in response to a question asking him to describe in more detail why he and Nick Sand claimed in court that their famous "Orange Sunshine" LSD tablets were ALD-52. For context, see the Ask Erowid about whether Orange Sunshine was actually ALD-52.
Feb 8, Feb 14, and May 12, 2017

To understand the ALD-52 story, you need to also understand a little of the context of our 1973-74 trial. During pretrial proceedings Judge Conti said off the record that he wished he had access to the death penalty, which gave us a pretty fair clue to how he felt about sentencing in our case. There were months of pretrial proceedings during which we were able to see mounds of documentary evidence that the government planned to present against us and a long list of witnesses. Many of the feds who'd been following us for years testified at the trial. And of course some of our friends did, too. The situation looked really grim.

I had a young and relatively inexperienced lawyer, Dick Alexander. He was the best I could afford with the $10,000 that Billy [Hitchcock] loaned me. Dick Alexander did his best for me and put in far more hours than most lawyers would have for such a small fee. The pretrial work and the three-month trial took up a huge amount of his time and I think his law firm broke up over it. But neither Dick Alexander nor I was very sophisticated. Nick had a $50,000 lawyer, Michael Kennedy. And Lester Friedman had a more expensive lawyer too, Bill Osterhoudt.

Michael Kennedy encouraged me to spend as much time as I wanted hanging out at his office and he shared various documents from Brotherhood cases with me. In retrospect I realize that of course part of his job was to make sure that I didn't turn to the government side so he did everything possible to woo me. He also very much wanted me to present the defense. He managed to make me forget that he was really only Nick's lawyer and that he had Nick's interests at heart far more than mine. He did his job well and I got a longer sentence than Nick did.

Nick, Lester and I flailed around to try to come up with a defense strategy for dealing with the seemingly overwhelming prosecution evidence. We had to explain away years of surveillance and the testimony of many witnesses showing that we had acquired all the chemicals necessary for making large amounts of LSD, that we told people we were making acid, a lot of money got spent and eventually a lot of money came in. As the prosecution put it, the trial was about money and drugs.

We came up with a fairly simple explanation for all the money; we claimed that it all was Billy's. Since he was getting immunity, we couldn't get him in trouble by claiming that.

During the trial someone (I don't remember who) came up with the idea of a designer drug that wasn't illegal to make. Since we'd made STP the idea was familiar. Some sketchy library research turned up ALD-52. That's n-acetyl LSD, a close relative of LSD which, according to the literature, had similar effects but which was not yet illegal.

Billy Hitchcock and I were still in communication during pretrial proceedings and even during the trial. I told Billy that we were going to claim that we were making a legal variant of LSD and during Billy's testimony he tried very hard to support that story by saying that we were making "a form of lysergic acid" and something that we called "acid". But there came a point during the trial when the prosecutors must have taking him into a back room and told him that he was going to go to prison for the charges (income tax evasion and regulation T violations) in Pittsburgh, for which he had yet to be sentenced, unless he delivered. So Billy finally said that we made LSD.

Nick and Lester (and their lawyers) were both highly motivated to talk me into getting on the witness stand to present a defense case. Lester Friedman needed somebody to get up and say that they taught Nick how to make LSD and that it wasn't Lester Friedman. And of course Nick needed someone to get up in the stand and say that all the money wasn't ours, that it was Billy Hitchcock's, and that yes we had been making a drug but it wasn't an illegal drug. Guess who got elected to present the defense?

Nick was in jail during the pretrial proceedings and the trial while Lester and I were both free on bail. We were able to visit occasionally but didn't feel that we could talk very freely. I didn't have an opportunity to discuss the ALD-52 defense with Nick before I put my foot in my mouth on the witness stand.

Lester Friedman offered to whip up a batch of ALD-52 over the Christmas break and I was able to talk Tamara into tableting it. Unfortunately Lester was slow in delivering the ALD-52 and the trial marched relentlessly on. By the time the tablets were made there wasn't time to get them independently tested to verify that all was well before they were entered into evidence.

Another witness had bravely testified that he made a ketene generator for us to buttress the claim. But we were still worried that the government would argue that because no ALD-52 was ever detected on the street our claim was fictitious. So I foolishly put tablets into evidence which I believed were ALD-52, freshly tableted from alleged ALD-52 made by Lester.

Up until the point when I got on the witness stand and put those tablets into evidence, the government did not have any LSD that they could prove we had made. Their prosecution was based entirely on the testimony of various witnesses such as Billy Hitchcock who said that we had made LSD and based on extensive surveillance showing that we had bought chemicals commonly used for making LSD.

The government was delighted when I put those into evidence and immediately (overnight) had them tested in their own laboratory. To everyone's surprise the test results came back LSD-25. At that point I was unaware that ALD-52 is relatively unstable and can easily decompose into LSD-25, although that's what I was later told. As a result the defense team believed that the government must've made some sort of mistake in their analysis or if some of the ALD-52 had decomposed into LSD, perhaps some of the original ALD-52 would still be present and detectable.

While the trial was still proceeding we asked the court for a small sample of the tablets to be made available to a defense expert so that we could investigate those questions in the hope of proving that we had made ALD-52 rather than LSD.

Unfortunately our defense chemical expert's test results also came back LSD. He testified that ALD-52 was unstable and that we might have made ALD-52 but unfortunately it had all decomposed. Of course with 20/20 hindsight it's easy to see that it was a big mistake for me to get on the witness stand at all and an even bigger mistake to have put untested tablets into evidence.

At the time we were 99% sure we were going to be convicted and we were 99% sure that we were going to get astronomical sentences. So I agreed to go for a Hail Mary defense, a desperate attempt to explain away everything. Needless to say it was a bad decision. I should've remembered the cardinal rule, which is if you are guilty, stay off the witness stand.

I don't think we'll ever know whether Lester actually made ALD-52 or not. Nick later told me that Lester did not have good lab technique when it came to making LSD and ALD-52 is said to be even trickier to make; it was entirely possible that he did not successfully make ALD-52. As we learned, ALD-52 is very unstable in any case. He may have made ALD-52 and it may have decomposed during tableting.

It turned out that all our high-priced lawyers screwed up also. No one dug deeply enough into the law books to find out that in October 1968 possession or manufacturer of the lysergic acid starting material itself had become a felony. Since lysergic acid was an essential ingredient for making ALD-52, claiming that we made ALD-52 amounted to a confession on the record, in front of the judge. Had I known that, I certainly would not have admitted on the witness stand that I bought lysergic acid.

The legal factoid seems to have gotten a little distorted in some people's memory. Bear used to say that you had to make LSD first before making ALD-52. I don't think that's true but you did need to start from lysergic acid, and that was just as bad.


Revision History #
  • v1.0 - May 16, 2017 - Erowid - First public version, thanks to Tim Scully for detail-oriented corrections.