In 1966, John Griggs robbed a man of LSD at gunpoint, according to a former friend's testimony before a grand jury. The act dramatically changed Griggs' life.
A week later, Glen Lynd testified in 1973 before the Orange County Grand Jury, Griggs experimented with the LSD, "threw away his gun and was running around hollering, 'This is it.' That's how it all began."
Lynd in 1973 was describing the origins of the Laguna Beach-based Brotherhood of Eternal Love, which by then was alleged to be an international drug ring.
The Brotherhood grew from humble beginnings to become a multimillion-dollar underground organization, according to court records.
When Griggs stole the LSD in 1966, he and Lynd were members of the Street Sweepers, an Anaheim car gang that was rumored to be into petty crime. Griggs was never arrested for the LSD robbery.
Although he did not know much about lysergic acid diethylamide, Griggs did like the results of his experimentation, according to Lynd's testimony.
WITH THE DRUG CULTURE on the rise in the United States, Griggs and the Street Sweepers were turned on to a new scene.
In October, 1966, they moved from their Anaheim haunts to Modjeska Canyon, where they became "psychedelic evangelists," says Dion Wright, who befriended Griggs in Laguna Beach 20 years ago.
They rejected their material ways, and the old Street Sweepers incorporated as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. They were granted tax-exempt status as a religious organization by the state Franchise Tax Board.
There in the Orange County foothills, they began practicing under a Zen yogi and joined the spiritual search that was sweeping America's youth. They also cultivated their knowledge of narcotics. Thus, by the time they arrived in Laguna Beach in early 1967, they were experienced drug users.
"When their house (in Modjeska Canyon) burned down, they all got jobs as gardeners for the city of Laguna (Beach) and moved to the beach," Wright, an artist now living in San Diego, says.
They grew their hair long, went barefoot, planted vegetable gardens and surfed. In effect, the foundation of Laguna Beach's hippie population was laid.
"There was a moment of incredible innocence and romantic idealism," Timothy Leary said recently. The one-time Harvard psychology lecturer wrote about his involvement with the Brotherhood in his book, "Flashbacks, an Autobiography of Timothy Leary."
The Brotherhood, whose members lived in a two-block neighborhood in Laguna Canyon called Dodge City, opened Mystic Arts World in the Sleepy Hollow section of town. Mystic Arts was a Bohemian boutique that became the unofficial headquarters of Laguna's hippies.
In his book, Leary calls Mystic Arts "the ultimate head shop, a veritable L. L. Bean supermarket of hippie gear."
Neil Purcell, who was a Laguna Beach police officer in the hippie days and is now the city's police chief, claims that Mystic Arts World was a front for a sophisticated drug-dealing operation.
In 1972, local and federal authorities received grand jury indictments against 46 members of the Brotherhood in an effort to shatter what law enforcement officials considered to be one of the largest drug-dealing operations in the United States. Police estimated that about 200 people were involved with the group at its peak.
From those indictments came Lynd's revealing testimony and eventual convictions on conspiracy and drug charges for 50% to 60% of those indicted, according to Ed Freeman, an Orange County assistant district attorney and the prosecutor in the Brotherhood case. Lynd was indicted but given immunity to testify before the grand jury.
"At first, there was an apathy from the community (in) that these were harmless people," Purcell said. "I think a certain number of people were embarrassed by it. I think a lot of people in this town were hoping that they would wake up some day and it would go away."
According to court records, the Brotherhood smuggled hashish from Afghanistan, which members would process and then can and label as peaches or tomatoes for export internationally. They had counterfeit passports, driver's licenses and other phony IDs and disguises to help them move freely between borders, according to records.
Also, according to testimony before the grand jury, Brotherhood members made extensive trips to Mexico where they smuggled marijuana across the border by putting the weed in the hubcaps of their automobiles and paying off Mexican police.
Lynd testified that he ran nearly 1,000 kilos of marijuana to New York in two trips in 1967 and returned with a partner who carried two suitcases stuffed with $98,000 in cash.
"You would see them out here in the canyon with rags on their bodies, planting corn with their girlfriends and fellow dopers," says Purcell, one of four special investigators whose work resulted in the indictments. "Then you would see the same person in a three-piece suit under a different name paying cash to a Porsche car dealer."
WHILE POLICE RECALL THE Brotherhood for its criminal activity, those who associated with members remember it as an idealistic group who wanted to change the world through drugs.
The members thought that mind-expanding drugs were the answer to the country's ills, says Jimmy Otto, a record-store owner in Laguna who was a friend of Brotherhood members and who once participated in the group's ritualized method of taking LSD.
They would huddle in remote areas in groups of four and take a dose at sunrise, Otto recalls. The group would then read from a psychedelic prayer book that Otto called a guidebook for drug experimentation.
"They didn't take it to party," Otto says. "They took it to find themselves."
The path, however, often was muddled.
When Griggs became disillusioned with Laguna's growing reputation as a hub of hippiedom and wanted to start anew in open spaces, the Brotherhood purchased property below Mount San Jacinto near Idyllwild in the summer of 1968.
Leary and his wife, who were on a national lecture tour, accepted an invitation to live at the ranch. Most of the residents lived in tepees in the peaceful valley among chaparral and sagebrush. Wright, however, says he sensed a lost paradise the few times he visited the ranch.
The deterioration of the group began in earnest in the summer of 1969 when Griggs died of an overdose of psilocin, a synthetic drug he was taking for the first time. He was 26. According to Leary's book, Griggs took the drug in the presence of his wife and three children.
A laboratory report later revealed the concoction contained strychnine, Leary wrote. The Riverside County coroner's office listed the death as accidental.
Griggs' death left a vacuum within the Brotherhood, whose members continued dealing drugs for the next several years. Some of the group stayed at the desert ranch, while others continued to operate Mystic Arts World in Laguna Beach; still others sought refuge in Hawaii.
The Brotherhood remained in operation through 1973, when the convictions on conspiracy and drug charges were handed down.