(08/10/2006)
A meth trial scheduled this month for John Manis Richards, 40, of Grantsville, has been postponed, according to Calhoun prosecutor Matt Minney, although a status conference is still scheduled for August 29th.

Richards, who has a long criminal record, has hired and fired a number of lawyers, most of them court-appointed. He has now been appointed a new attorney from the Kanawha County public defender's office, with the court reportedly telling Richards he will no longer be entitled to another attorney.

His trial will likely be re-scheduled in late fall.

Richards is currently incarcerated in Central Regional Jail on larceny charges.

A Calhoun grand jury indicted John Manis Richards in January for attempting to operate a clandestine meth lab, one count; possession of pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture meth, two counts; conspiracy to operate a clandestine drug lab, one count.

Authorities arrested Richards last August after Sgt. Tom Yanero, Trooper First Class Jeff Hunt and then Grantsville Police Chief Ron Gordon obtained a search warrant for his south Grantsville residence.

At the time of the arrest, Sgt. Darrin Campbell of the WV State Police said a field test was positive for the presence of meth, while officers did a search of the property.

A search led by Trooper Hunt "observed a quantity of pseudoephedrine, along with plastic tubing, three bottles of Heet, three bottles of iodine, acetone and Coleman camp fuel."

Officer Hunt reported "the presence of a minor child, who is the natural child of the defendant's domestic partner, in the same vehicle that was used to transport the meth lab."

Since his arrest, Richards has distributed several video tapes which contain "educational information" regarding the manufacture and hazards of meth.

The tapes also appear to show drug deals being completed in Calhoun and Gilmer County, supposedly filmed with a hidden camera.

After Richards was charged, his claim-to-fame has been to establish a web-blog "The Lone Meth Ranger," saying he has been involved in a war against meth for several years, and has provided a chemical mix to some of the producers that "flops their batches," or neutralizes the meth.

Richards says he has been involved with several other undercover individuals who have been active in a Meth Eradication Team (MET). Richards could face 2-10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000-$25,000 over his attempt to operate a drug lab.

On the possession of a substance as a precursor to manufacture meth, Richards faces penalties of 2-10 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.

While neighboring counties have hundreds of meth-related arrests on the books, Calhoun has had only a handful, and some of those are cases which originated elsewhere.

Richards claims his crusading has eradicated the meth scourge from the community, frightening producers into moving to other counties.


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