Elusive Johnny Boone, a
67 year-old white-bearded Kentucky fugitive who resembles Santa Claus, has been
on the run ever since 2008 as police closed in on his 2,400 plant pot farm.
Dubbed the "King of
Pot" and the "Godfather of Grass," Boone, the marijuana-growing
outlaw, has become a folk hero complete with a Facebook page sporting over
1,700 fans all cheering “Run Johnny Run”.
"He was just a good ol' country boy - a
farmer," Joe Pendleton, whose Kentucky shop sells "Run, Johnny, Run" T-shirts, told
the Associated Press. "He's not robbing banks or nothing." But under stiff
Federal sentencing guidelines, Boone a twice convicted drug offender, is facing
a mandatory life sentence in federal prison if caught and convicted of growing
pot for a third time.
Boone's latest trouble
came in 2008 when Kentucky State Police spotted marijuana plants on his farm during aerial
Boone, who was convicted
in the 1980s and served a decade in prison, was the leader of what prosecutors have
called the "largest domestic marijuana syndicate in American
history." Labeled the "Cornbread Mafia, the group was accused of
growing 182 tons of marijuana
authorities aren't calling him violent, Boone’s record dates back to the 1960s
for charges of wanton endangerment and illegal firearms possession.
"He was the player.
There might have been one or two close to him," said Jack Smith, a former
federal prosecutor who represented Boone in the 1980s case. "I never heard
of anybody who was bigger."
Boone himself is a bit
of a contradiction.
During a 1988 court
hearing for his second drug conviction where he was given a 20 year sentence Boone
stated, "With the poverty at home, marijuana is sometimes one of the
things that puts bread on the table
While authorities have
been canvassing tight-lipped residents among the small towns in a rural area of
Kentucky where many down on their luck farmers have plant marijuana, people
acknowledged knowing of Boone, but either said they didn't know him well or
wouldn't talk about him.
Boone's friends want him
to remain free, and some complain that his crimes aren't worthy of a life