Tim Leary, as you might remember, did not rot in jail after his arrest for marijuana in the 1960s.
Leary was involved in no less than three drug arrests in the mid- to late-60s. In an apparent set up, Leary, his wife Rosemary, and his daughter were arrested in December 1965, at the Laredo, Texas border station for possession of marijuana. It resulted in a conviction which was appealed and later reversed by the US Supreme Court in 1969. The Supreme Court concurred with Leary in Leary v. United States, declared the “Marihuana Tax Act” unconstitutional, and overturned his 1965 conviction. (More on that later). The Millbrook arrest yielded no drug charges. The Laguna Beach arrest in 1968 for possession of marijuana eventually resulted in conviction in 1970 and a prison term.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on January 21, 1970, which was doubled to 20 years before long. How did he escape that one? The old-school solution was employed in this case: a frickin’ jailbreak! Leary’s revolutionary speeches (see my previous post on Tim Leary) had attracted the admiration of The Weather Underground.
The Weather Underground was a leftist revolutionary movement in the 1960s and 1970s that, fueled by LSD and Marxist ideology, broke Tim Leary out of jail, on September 3rd, 1970 while working as a gardener in a low-security prison in San Luis Obispo, California. A militant radical left-wing organization founded by students at the University of Michigan, they were originally called “The Weatherman.” Their goal was to create a clandestine revolutionary party to overthrow the U.S. Government. They were assisted by members of the ably-financed idealistic drug-dealing bikers, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (a post about The Brotherhood is forthcoming). It’s thought that it cost The Brotherhood $20,000.
Soon after The Weather jailbroke Leary, Tim and his wife Rosemary were smuggled to Algeria. After arriving in Algeria, Leary was interviewed and quoted as saying, “World war 3 has begun, join us…”
Leary’s escape from prison lead his down an increasingly nightmarish flight as a fugitive through north Africa, Europe, and Afghanistan, eventually leading to his recapture and imprisonment in January 1973, in Afghanistan. Facing a total of 95 years in prison, was sent to Folsom Prison in California, and put in solitary confinement. Leary was released from prison on April 21, 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown.
An issue still remains with many fans of Weather than Leary openly cooperated with the FBI and others on their investigation of the revolutionary group. The FBI even gave Leary the code name “Charlie Thrush”. Leary would later claim, and members of the Weathermen would later support his claim, that no one was ever prosecuted based on any information he gave to the FBI. Most former Weathermen have successfully re-integrated into mainstream society, without necessarily repudiating their original intent.
I knew one member of The Brotherhood who helped The Weathermen, before he passed, Bill G. Billy supposedly supplied the pickup truck the Weathermen used to smuggled Leary out of prison, which was driven by Clayton Van Lydegraf.