Karen Horning -- #00644-049

Life Sentence -- LSD Conspiracy

Karen Horning, prisoner of the drug war
A plea for help!

February 12, 2001

Dear Friends,

Thank you very much for your continued support. Without your assistance I never would have seen an outside specialist. It has been determined that I not only have Lyme Disease, but two other tick-borne diseases as well. All three are potentially fatal if left untreated. Although I have a positive diagnosis, I still have no care plan. Therefore, I am requesting your help again.

The new warden, Lucy Mallisham, has recently reported to my family I have been refusing treatment. This is entirely untrue. She is attempting to protect herself from liability, and obstruct my access to medical care. By doing so, she is jeopardizing my life.

The specialist did inform me that three persons died in the Fort Worth area last year after being misdiagnosed and mistreated with the very same medications I was given. However, he dodged all questions pertaining to my own situation. At this time I have no idea how to go about getting reparation. There is no way for me to gauge the amount of damage done. I need further help immediately.

As a last resort to avoid amputation, I have made a desperate plea for compassionate release to obtain the medical care I am being deprived of. I have located two doctors mere blocks from my home in San Francisco who claim they can help me. Letters in support are needed. Points to address along with my dire need for immediate care include the fact that I am a non-violent offender who has served 90 per cent of my sentence. Another thing to bear in mind is that even in the United States medical attention is a right, not a privilege. My punishment was a term of imprisonment, not death or amputation. As it is right now, I am permanently crippled, and must endure what I have for the rest of my life.

Letters seeking compassionate release must be sent right away to:

Director, Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20534

Thank you again for all your support.

Very truly yours,

Karen Horning 00644-049


LSD Conspiracy

On July 26, 1993, a 21-year-old girl was arrested without a warrant at her home in Ashland, Wisconsin, by a federal agent after she refused to answer his questions without first speaking with an attorney. Clearly, this was illegal, for we have the right to legal representation, and if the agent had enough probable cause to arrest her, he would have come with a warrant to take her in. On the way to the police station, the agent repeatedly threatened her with a twenty-year prison sentence. This was a blatant threat, as unbeknownst to the girl, and well known to he agent, the most amount of time she could have received was five years. By his own admission, the girl was in tears, as she not only confessed to everything he accused her of, but proceeded to tell all that she thought she knew. Upon arriving at the station, a United States Attorney had her sign an agreement to cooperate, along with this agreement went all her Constitutional rights, and still without the legal representation she initially requested. This agreement, along with statements from the girl, would be sent to Washington, D.C., where it became the basis of a national investigation of persons purported to be distributing LSD at Grateful Dead Concerts. This sort of coercion involved happens everyday in the United States. And this was how my case began.

My name is Karen Horning. I am a thirty year old Dead Head from San Francisco, California. On Aug. 16, 1993, I was arrested on federal LSD charges which carried multiple LIFE without parole sentences, for allegedly leading a conspiracy to distribute major quantities of LSD throughout the United States. My case is a part of the Drug Enforcement Administration's "Operation Looking Glass."

This operation is also known to Dead Heads as "Operation Dead End", as its focus is on us and the Grateful Dead's tours. The DEA has continuously and vehemently denied that this operation has anything to do with the Dead. Yet, my discovery proceedings revealed a DEA Case Initiation Report from Washington which officially placed my case under the "Looking Glass". The cross reference was G-FAN. The Washington guidelines stated their plans were to follow me across the country on' the Dead's '93 Fall Tour, with the object being to arrest as many other Heads as possible.

Being a faithful fan and follower of the Grateful Dead is in essence my religion, which at best can be described as a sect of Hinduism, a commitment to a way of life rather than a belief in creeds and dogmas. At the Grateful Dead Shows, we Dead Heads come together in celebration of Life, Spirit, and Being through song and dance. It is a celebration of the spirit that is in each and every one of us. God exists in many forms.

To myself, and many other Dead Heads, LSD is a sacrament. A good analogy would be the Catholic Church's practice of the rite of communion, which require wine and wafers. To us, LSD is a part of and awakens the living spirit that is in each and every one of us. LSD is a journey, something you do with others. Life is a trip.

Operation Looking Glass is a modern-day witch-hunt, not unlike the 17th Century, when professional witch hunters would roam the countryside in search of witches. Under it, state and federal agents go undercover exclusively to search for Dead Heads, create crime and make arrests. They dress like us and pose as us, which might be reasonably considered entrapment, as they get themselves invited into places where, if their identity be known, they never would have been welcome. Long ago, thousands were put to death for their religious beliefs. Today, there are at least 1,000 Dead Heads serving lengthy federal sentences for their religious belief in LSD use.

The government's anti-LSD efforts have been targeted at one particular group, the Dead Heads. The band's logo, "Steal-Your-Face", a symbol of unity amongst Dead Heads, has been announced by law enforcement officials as probable cause to stop and search persons and/or vehicles. As the African-American Community has been placed under attack for suspect of involvement in "crack" cocaine, the Grateful Dead Community has been under siege by the federal government. We are judged not by the color of our skin, but by the colors (tie-dyes) of the clothes we wear.

I was arrested on Aug. 16, 1993, after two more Dead Head snitches flew out with federal agents from Memphis, Tennessee. Fortunately, this arrest thwarted the government's plane to follow me on the upcoming Dead Tour.

The United States government was still determined to make an example out of me. They refused to lower my case to a state level. They took what should have been one conspiracy and broke it into multiple federal districts to give me the greatest amount of time possible. Plea bargain without testimony would not have given me anything under 25 years, which was greater than the years thus lived at that point. So, off to trial we went. I was twenty-three years old.

Having been denied bail, I was housed at a facility where we were locked down 24 hours a day, although during different intervals, U.S. Marshals would bounce me around from place to place as punishment. Sometimes they would move me twice a week. However, I always wound up back on lock-down status.

The concept of locking an individual down for 23 hours a day is to break one's spirit and will. Being left alone for long periods of time, in a tomb-like space, can be alienating. I often felt as if I had died, and this was the afterlife. In a sense it was. Life seemingly passed before my eyes. Like a person at death's door, memories of days past would come back to me, people and places I'd been, things I'd done or wished I'd done. I was alive, yet as close to death as I'd ever come. I might as well have been dead. I was dead to the world outside. No contact with anyone I used to know. Newspapers, magazines, radios, and televisions were not available. Not that any news would mean anything to me, as far removed from society as I was. Things that occurred on the outside world did not matter, for that world was no longer my own.

Time could be measured by the intervals of the opening of the cell door. Food came at certain times, medication at others. Time was truly of no importance, neither was the date, or even the day of the week. There was no place for me to go. No one was waiting for me.

To sleep 18 to 20 hours a day was not a problem. It was a comfort. To sleep meant a chance to dream, and with the dreams came freedom. The wind in your face, the touch of a drop of rain on your skin. Memories of life as it once was. There was no possible way to dream of a future that could very well end existing like this. What was the use? Life without parole.

Operation Looking Glass is used to enforce statutes under the Controlled Substances Act. Under this act, the head of the DEA is empowered to legislate whether or not the religious use of substances is prohibited. He has the power to decide the legality of substances because the Attorney General has given him the right to do so: this power had been delegated to the Attorney General.

Years ago, such laws would have been considered an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers and Congress' duty not to delegate its powers of legislation to others. It would have also been considered an unconstitutional denial of the benefit of doubt, to expect defendants to prove that they possessed a drug for religious purposes. In effect, this established a preference for existing, long withstanding, and status-quo religions, as compared to new churches. No court will decide a challenge against the enforcement of puritanical morals under the First Amendment's establishment clause. I previously had two cases, one in the Ninth Circuit, and one in the Sixth Circuit, challenging these issues.

Throughout the course of all my proceedings, I attempted to fight for Religious Freedom, for laws governing the religious use of LSD are unconstitutional. Whether or not the government approves of or believes as I do is completely irrelevant. It has never been any business of the courts to say what is a religious practice or activity, or which groups are not a religion under the protection of the First Amendment. At the very heart of the First Amendment is the notion that an individual should be free to believe as he will, and that in a free society one's own beliefs should be shaped in his mind and his conscience, rather than coerced by the state. These claims were dismissed.

I also fought against selective prosecution. This claim was dismissed as well, even though another girl was arrested in San Francisco, approximately one month after me, and had her federal charges dropped. She was arrested after a Dead Head snitch flew out from New Orleans, and arranged for her to sell 12 grams of LSD directly to an undercover DEA agent, which she did. After they ascertained she was not associated with the Grateful Dead scene, federal prosecutors dropped her case. She was tried on a state level (regardless of the fact that she sold directly to an undercover federal agent), received less than three years, and went home long ago.

In 1997, the multiple life without parole sentences were dismissed out of the Sixth Circuit on other grounds. Yet, nothing can take away the trauma of having had those sentences hanging over my head. For 3 years, I spent each day not knowing if or even when I would ever set foot outside on institution again.

The most painful aspect of incarceration is the mental anguish we are forced to endure. This is difficult to describe in words. If they were to beat us with bats, we could point to the bruises and broken bones, and say, "Look, it hurts here". Instead it hurts inside, and the cuts don't show, and the wound is bound to leave a scar forever.

Prison officials at any given facility do not understand that it is not their job to punish us: our punishment is being there. Our punishment is being locked away from family and other loved ones, to be taken and kept away from society, only to watch as the world and life passes you by. The Bureau of Prisons is a world of its own. The Land of the Lost. We are no longer acknowledged as human beings. We are inmates, just another number and statistic.

While many in the public, as well as political arenas, completely acknowledge that what they are doing not only isn't working, but it is wrong, no one makes any efforts towards change. The public sits back while the politicians are throwing stones.

My case is currently being argued in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on other grounds. I work actively with the Committee On Unjust Sentencing, as well as AMNESTY, which is busy fighting for the reclassification of LSD.