Max Moss, center, and Brett Jarrard, right, were indicted on charges of operating a still and other counts Friday in Gainesville. At far left is Jarrard's attorney, Jeffrey Earl, with Terry Singleton, who was charged with receiving untaxed spirits in the case.
It was just like yesteryear Friday in U.S. District Court in Gainesville, when four men from the North Georgia mountains were charged with making sour mash liquor.
In what was likely the first moonshining case to be prosecuted by Northern District officials in several years, three Rabun County men and one man from Westminster, S.C., made their first appearance before Federal Magistrate Susan Cole in what could be described as "country casual" attire.
Soft-spoken Kelly Standridge, a balding 65-year-old man with a full white beard, appeared in federal court wearing a tank top, shorts and sandals. Terry Singleton, 66, also sported a white beard and wore matching camouflage shirt and coveralls.
Brett Jarrard, at age 46 the junior of the defendants, seemed to take the court appearance in stride, answering Cole's questions in a loud but respectful North Georgia twang. Jarrard at one point grinned and patted a co-defendant on the back when his friend was asked by the judge to speak up.
Jarrard and 70-year-old Max Moss, both of Clayton, are charged with six counts of violating federal revenue laws by unlawfully manufacturing and transferring liquor and failing to pay taxes. They stand accused of running a still in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Rabun County in 2005 and 2006.
Singleton, of Clayton, and Standridge, of Westminster, S.C., are charged with unlawful receipt of untaxed liquor.
According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service officials found the still in December 2005. Investigators set up surveillance cameras in the woods that captured Jarrard and Moss tending to the still, officials said.
The surveillance continued for the next two months before agents with the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms conducted a search at Moss' home, where they seized 36 half-gallon bottles of suspected moonshine. Samples of the liquor showed it was about 48 percent alcohol by volume, or 96 proof.
In April 2006, federal prosecutors seized six trucks belonging to the defendants in a civil proceeding, court documents show. They were indicted in July.
On Friday, Cole allowed the men to go free on their own recognizance pending trial. Each defendant entered a plea of not guilty.
Gainesville attorney Dan Summer represents Standridge. None of the defendants commented after the brief hearing.
Marc Jackson, a spokesman for the ATF, acknowledged afterward that federal moonshining prosecutions were seldom seen in recent years.
"Undoubtedly, these types of investigations have declined," Jackson said. "But they're far from trivial. Moonshiners deny the government revenue and encroach on legitimate industry. They also pose a significant health risk to those who consume these products."
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Originally published Saturday, August 4, 2007