(12/12/2006)
John Manis Richards did not appear at his scheduled pre-trial hearing on drug charges yesterday before Judge David Nibert in Calhoun Circuit Court.

Richards' public defender Robbie Catlett returned to Kanawha County, before Richards arrived at the courthouse about noon, stating he had car problems.

Richards, who claims success with his war on meth, has been released from Central Regional Jail on bond.

Richards' current charges are related to the alleged operation of a clandestine meth lab in his house in south Grantsville, following the discovery of items described as meth ingredients. The items were found after search warrants were issued in July and August 2005.

Richards has produced video tapes warning the public about the dangers of meth, using the items found in his residence.

He has also presented video tapes of surveillance activities, showing what he claims are actual drug deals being made.

Following several delays and a succession of attorneys Richards has dismissed, the court has indicated they will not allow him to keep obtaining new attorneys.

Following his drug arrest, Richards started a web site defining his activist efforts against the production of meth in Calhoun and Gilmer Counties.

"The Lone Meth Ranger" published a newsletter which also claimed success in reducing meth production in the region, and included frequent attacks against former Grantsville Police Chief Ron Gordon for alleged illegal activities, additionally alleging misconduct by Calhoun prosecutor Matt Minney.

Gordon, a key player in Richards' arrest, is currently on home confinement for alleged sexual abuse of women under his jurisdiction. Gordon is yet to be indicted by a special prosecutor.

Richards claims his Lone Meth Ranger Staff "received numerous tips of meth lab locations from anonymous sources."

He claims the Ranger staff moved quickly to warn the producers before the authorities could catch up with them, giving them time to close their operations.

"In fear that this information was also being provided to the local State Police, we moved fast to warn the meth labs that we were watching them and to move out of our area now," Richards wrote.

Richards said "Many have credited the Meth Ranger Newsletter for the low number of meth lab arrests in Calhoun County. The truth is, there has not been one single legitimate meth lab bust in Calhoun County. That's right, NONE."

Richards' Pre-trial hearing has been rescheduled for next week, December 18. His case could go to trial in March.


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