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3 Sisters Found Guilty in Iodine Crystal Case

Courts: The 'Lancaster Grannies,' operators of a feed store, are first to be convicted under law designed to hinder methamphetamine production.

April 14, 2001|MARTHA L. WILLMAN and CAROL CHAMBERS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

LANCASTER — After a 12-day criminal trial and four days of deliberations, a jury on Friday found the "Lancaster Grannies" guilty of failing to properly record sales of iodine crystals at their 40-year-old feed store in the Antelope Valley.

Sisters Armitta Mae Granicy, 60, Dorothy Jean Manning, 67, and Ramona Ann Beck, 62, are the first to be tried under a 1998 state law requiring merchants to keep detailed records on buyers of iodine crystals, used to treat hoof disease in horses--and to make methamphetamine.

The jury also found Manning guilty on one count of selling more than 8 ounces of iodine crystals to an individual in a 30-day period.

The sisters, who last month refused a deal that would have kept them out of jail, are scheduled to be sentenced May 31 by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Mintz. They face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each misdemeanor offense.

Jurors acquitted the fourth defendant, Robert Roy Granicy, 63, Armitta's husband. The couple own and operate Granicy's Valley Wide Feed in the Antelope Valley.

Speaking for her family, Armitta Granicy on Friday credited jurors, calling them "more than fair" but said the judge left them "nowhere to go but guilty."

"He did away with all our defenses," she said. "We could not defend ourselves."

Granicy said she and her family do not regret passing on the prosecution's deal, which would have required them to stop selling the iodine crystals.

"We would not change it now," she said. "Never. We're not sorry.

"From the beginning, we put ourselves in the Lord's hands and we have no intention of taking it out of His hands," Granicy said. "We will appeal. And we will win."

Prosecutor Robert Sherwood said the state law is intended to make it more difficult for people to manufacture methamphetamines by requiring iodine sales be recorded.

"If we can get store owners to comply with the law, we can make a difference," he said.

"We are not targeting little old ladies," Sherwood said. "This is serious business. Methamphetamine is a real problem out here."

He said the women were warned by police before they were charged with the crimes.

"They flat-out refused to follow the law," he said, "and left us no choice.

But defense lawyers said they plan to challenge the verdicts.

"These are good people who have been treated unfairly by the judicial system," said Alison Bloom, the Granicys' attorney.

She said she will challenge the law's constitutionality as well as key rulings by the judge that she said limited her clients' defenses.

"We will not rest until this travesty of justice is overturned," said Robert Sheahen, who represented Beck and Manning. "They felt they had been denied a fair trial."

Bloom said they were not allowed to argue that her clients broke the law out of necessity.

"They thought they were asked to be police informants and it was dangerous" to ask customers to provide the required information, she said. "She had a good-faith belief that taking down the information put herself and her family in danger."

Iodine crystals, sold by the ounce, have been used for decades to treat hoof disease in horses and to purify stored water. More recently, they have been used to manufacture methamphetamine, a powerful and illegal stimulant.

A task force in 1999 shut down 68 suspected meth labs in the north county area, triple the number of the previous year, according to the state attorney general's office.

Distributors for feed dealers and saddleries say many in California have stopped selling the crystals because they do not want to be bothered with the required record-keeping.

Investigators said they cracked down on Granicy's after the veteran shopkeepers repeatedly refused to produce records.

Granicy's sold about 16,000 ounces of iodine crystals in a 15-month period--or triple the amount typically sold by similar outlets, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Holeman.

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