A man accused of manufacturing illegal hallucinogenic drugs was convicted of several lesser charges Thursday.
Joshua Bortnick, 43, was accused of possession of equipment or chemicals for the purpose of manufacturing dangerous drugs, attempted manufacture of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Jurors in Pima County Superior Court Judge Christopher Browning’s courtroom found Bortnick guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of manufacturing equipment charges but not guilty of attempting to produce a dangerous drug.
Bortnick was tried in absentia. A warrant for his arrest was issued in June.
Defense attorney Michael Areinoff argued the prosecution didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle put together to prove Bortnick intended to make illegal drugs.
“Having chemical equipment doesn’t equal a drug lab,” Areinoff said in closing arguments.
Tucson police arrested Bortnick in May 2013 at a motel on Oracle Road near Grant Road after guests complained to management of an overwhelming chemical odor coming from Bortnick’s room.
The motel manager asked to inspect the room. Bortnick initially refused but later agreed after the manager threatened to call police, according to court testimony.
The manager said inside the room bottles and chemistrylike equipment were scattered throughout, and a brown substance appeared spattered over the bathroom walls.
He said, and Deputy Pima County Attorney John Edgett reiterated in his closing statements, that Bortnick pleaded with him not to call police.
Areinoff disputed the claim, saying Bortnick remained silent once the motel manager asked to inspect the room.
Bortnick later fled the motel with some items but was arrested when he returned later.
In a search of the neighborhood, police found a towel Bortnick fled with and what appeared to be instructions on the manufacture of dimethyltryptamine, a psychedelic drug also known as DMT.
The motel room also contained chemicals associated with the manufacture of DMT. A specific chemical agent required to convert the other substances to a usable drug was not present.
Edgett told jurors the state did not have to prove Bortnick was capable of successfully making DMT, only that he was able to complete at least one step in the process, adding that the evidence showed the defendant intended to make the drug.
“You don’t leave your reason and common sense at the door when you go into deliberation,” Edgett told jurors.
Areinoff said Botnick easily could have obtained the missing chemical to complete the DMT manufacturing process if making the drug was his intention.
Bortnick has convictions in Texas for possession of marijuana, and another in California for cultivating hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Tucson police also arrested Bortnick in 2012 on charges he was growing hallucinogenic mushrooms.
The county attorney later dropped the charges and the case was dismissed.