Home confinement for Glen Ellyn woman who sold synthetic pot tied to Aurora man's 2011 death

A Glen Ellyn woman will spend six months in home confinement for selling synthetic marijuana that was tied to the 2011 car-crash death of an Aurora man, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Northern Illinois District Judge Robert Gettleman said that, and the 95 days Ruby Mohsin spent in prison this summer under a previous sentence, were sufficient.

Mohsin pleaded guilty in November 2017 to conspiracy to sell a misbranded controlled substance and was sentenced in January 2018 to 24 months in prison. But the 7th Circuit Appellate Court vacated that sentence in September.

Gettleman said he believed prosecution witness Janice Smith of Winfield, who said she met with Mohsin in February or March 2011 to tell her the "potpourri" she was selling contained synthetic marijuana and was dangerous to people's health. But her testimony wasn't enough to convince him that Mohsin knew the stuff could cause serious injury or death to users.

That meant one of the sentencing enhancements the government wanted could not be used.

He also said Mohsin took responsibility and showed remorse, after she gave a brief statement. The government had argued she did not take responsibility.

Mohsin pleaded guilty to selling synthetic marijuana, marketed as potpourri or incense for masking cigar ash smells, to Max Dobner of Aurora June 14, 2011, from her Cigar Box store at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora. He smoked the stuff in the parking lot. A few hours later, he became panicky, drove his car fast and erratically through western Aurora and North Aurora, left the road and catapulted into a house at Mooseheart Road and Route 31. He died in the crash.

The 7th Circuit said the previous judge on the case, Judge Charles Norgle, had erred in agreeing with prosecutors' contention Mohsin knew about the dangers of the synthetic cannabis.

He also erred when he did not let Mohsin's attorney cross-examine Smith during the first hearing.

Smith, of Winfield, testified again Thursday. Mohsin's lawyers pointed out that her testimony contradicted what she had said during a deposition in 2013 for a civil case Karen Dobner, Max' mother, had brought against Mohsin.

Gettleman said he believed Smith when she said she met with Mohsin, but was not confident about what the two said during the meeting.

Smith testified Thursday that she had told Mohsin about the effects of the potpourri-like products and urged Mohsin to stop selling them. She said one of her adult sons, 22 at the time, smoked the stuff, and Smith now believes it may have contributed to a mental breakdown he experienced that led to him being hospitalized. Her son also has obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, Tourette's syndrome and possibly Asperger's syndrome, she said.

But a defense attorney pointed out parts of her testimony contradicted what she said during a 2013 deposition in a lawsuit brought against Mohsin. When asked in 2013 about whether the synthetic marijuana was a cause, she said it was not.

Smith said she was confused during the deposition.

She also said during the deposition she tried to avoid saying things that could result in her son being called as a witness, because he was on probation at the time of the hospitalization. She also admitted she did not tell her son's doctors about his habit of smoking synthetic marijuana during the hospitalization.

Max Dobner's mother, Karen, told Gettleman she does not believe Mohsin has remorse.

"I'm talking about this horrendous death instead of remembering his beautiful life," she said.

She said Mohsin continued to sell the potpourri after Dobner's accident, even after visits by police investigating Dobner's death, the news coverage of his death, and a letter from mall management.

"Twenty-four months is not enough for what she did," Dobner said.

Mohsin spoke briefly, turning to face Karen Dobner.

"I truly wish I could turn the clock back to fix my bad conduct. I really deep down to my heart want to say I am sorry for your loss, and that you have such sorrow. I also pray that God gives you happiness in your life.

"I am deeply sorry for my misconduct and ignorance."

Gettleman also resentenced Mohammad Khan, a worker at the store, who pleaded guilty. He had served 192 days in jail.

Gettleman said that was sufficient.

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