Crime History, Jan. 21, 1970: Psychedelic ’60s icon Timothy Leary sentenced to 10 years

On this day, Jan. 21, in 1970, psychedelic psychologist Dr. Timothy Leary received a 10-year prison sentence for possessing two partially smoked marijuana joints in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Leary, a former Harvard professor, had been a huge influence in the 1960’s era of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, encouraging people to use LSD.

Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

“Turn on, tune in, drop out,” he famously lectured to young students across college campuses.

President Richard Nixon labeled Leary the most dangerous man in America.

In prison, Leary was given a gardening detail that allowed him to easily escape. Leary climbed atop the roof and up a telephone pole, shimmied along a cable across the prison yard,over barbed wire, and dropped to freedom. Members of the Weatherman Underground smuggled him and his wife to Algeria, where they stayed with the Black Panthers.

Authorities finally captured him in Afghanistan in 1974.

Leary was placed in a cell with Charles Manson in Folsom Prison. California Gov. Jerry Brown later released Leary in April 1976.

Leary died at his house in Beverly Hills, in 1996, at age 75.

— Scott McCabe


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