Mistrial declared in Lafayette case after defendant shoots self

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote declared a mistrial Wednesday in the Curious Goods synthetic marijuana case, hours after one of the defendants shot himself in the head.

Barry Domingue, a lawyer from Carencro, was in critical condition late Wednesday afternoon at Lafayette General Medical Center, the hospital’s community services division said.

A close friend said Domingue was on life support and not expected to survive.

Domingue and Lafayette lawyer Daniel Stanford were standing trial on various conspiracy charges. A jury was selected Monday, and opening statements and testimony started Tuesday in what was supposed to be a two-week trial.

After Wednesday’s turn of events, Stanford requested a mistrial, which Foote granted.

“This is a very sad end to a very sad matter,” Foote said.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley, in Foote’s courtroom, said Domingue left a suicide note that could contain information germane to the case.

It’s unclear whether the contents of the note will ever be part of open court records.

Stanford, who appeared shaken during the afternoon hearing, told Foote, “I agree the letter is a private matter for the family.”

William Goode, a lawyer who said he was a friend of Domingue, sat on the courtroom sidelines during the trial’s first day Tuesday.

Goode said he was in court to support Domingue and Stanford, who rents an office from Goode.

Goode said he was able to visit Domingue in the hospital Wednesday morning and say goodbye. He said Domingue was to be removed from life-support machines sometime Wednesday.

“I’ve been told he shot himself with a 9 mm pistol,” Goode said.

Domingue and Stanford are on trial for their alleged roles in running a string of Curious Goods stores, which prosecutors have said sold illegal synthetic marijuana branded as Mr. Miyagi.

Prosecutors allege Domingue and Stanford profited from a criminal enterprise that illegally sold synthetic marijuana branded as potpourri. The product was sold in six Curious Goods stores in Acadiana.

The Curious Goods stores, defined as smoke shops, or head shops that also sell rolling paper and pipes, continue to operate. But they no longer sell the Mr. Miyagi brand of synthetic marijuana.

Domingue and Stanford were indicted with seven other alleged co-conspirators in 2012 in a multistate federal investigation. The Curious Goods business itself also was named as a defendant.

Both Domingue and Stanford faced numerous conspiracy charges and were representing themselves in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Collin Sims told a jury in the trial’s opening statements Tuesday that Stanford and Domingue were integral parts of a criminal enterprise that sought to continue selling a brand of synthetic marijuana that used man-made substances banned by state and federal governments.

The synthetic pot contained in a packet of Mr. Miyagi gave users a marijuanalike high but is very dangerous, Sims said.

Stanford countered Sims’ accusations, saying he was an attorney doing his job for a client who was associated with the Curious Goods stores.

The client, Richard Buswell, pleaded guilty last year to charges brought against him in the Curious Goods case and also to federal investor fraud charges in a separate case. Stanford was Buswell’s attorney during some of the investor fraud proceedings.

Goode said Domingue and Stanford were innocent.

He said prosecutors’ accusations that Domingue took on the role of a manager for an illegal synthetic pot operation, one who hired and fired employees and rented warehouse space, could be viewed differently.

“He was doing his job as a lawyer,” Goode said.

“Was he hands-on? Yes. Did he have any idea that the product that was being sold illegal? Hell no,” Goode said.