Monday, March 17, 2008

Photo originally uploaded on Suffering the Benz

So, Popcorn Sutton has been arrested—again. This time it looks grim since the Feds have him.

When last we checked in with renegade moonshiner and folk legend, Popcorn Sutton, state authorities had arrested him after his stills exploded due to an electrical problem, setting fire to the surrounding buildings. He was convicted on state charges and put on probation. This was last April.

This past Thursday, the ATF paid a personal house call on Sutton and found him in full production with three 1000-gallon stills and 850 gallons of finished product on hand. He evidently also sold 300 gallons to an undercover agent and promised another 500 gallons. Oops.

So, Popcorn Sutton sits in a jail cell in Greene County. There will be a hearing on the 28th to determine if he should remain in jail pending the trial.

James Cavanaugh, ATF Special Agent in Charge, said, "The truth, though, is that moonshine is a dangerous health issue and breeds other crime."

Because we all know how safe the legally taxed liquor is—no one ever having contracted cirrhosis or other alcohol related diseases and no one certainly has ever beaten their spouse or combined firearms with legally taxed liquor. Right?

I have not formally met Popcorn. The last time I saw him was in Food City a few months ago. He was checking out of the express lane and I was trying to find the shortest non-express lane. There are always checkout lines at the Food City across from the library.

He is an itsy-bitsy little gnome of a man—not more than 110 pounds probably. His trademark beard gives him width, making him appear larger than he really is. He does not look well for a man of 61 years and he leaned heavily on his shopping cart the day I saw him.

It remains to be seen what exactly is going to happen. What I know is from the rumor mill and completely unsubstantiated. The local folk think he probably is going to serve time. When the bust back in April occurred, it was strange that only 40 or so gallons were found in the aftermath of the fire. Everyone knew it was a large-scale operation. There was also little doubt that he would be up and running again before the first court case was resolved. Each still costs around 10,000 dollars, so, they represent quite an investment.

Another interesting thing that is said is that Popcorn supplies product for the Tennessee State House and even inside the Beltway in DC. There is a “little black book” out there somewhere. Not that buying the stuff is a huge crime, though it is illegal to possess it. It just would be interesting to see exactly who Popcorn’s clients are—the ones who are buying in such large quantities.

Love him or hate him--here are some Popcorn Sutton links:

Newport Plain Talk
WBIR--Local moonshine icon busted again
Suffering the Benz
Appalachian Scribe
Hillbilly Savants
Sky Sutton's Blog
Knox News--The law gets notorious moonshiner Popcorn Sutton - again
Knox News--Moonshiner faces new charges in federal probe


  1. Daisy said...
    Breeds other crime, blah blah blah, and where have we all heard that before?

    What a character! Thanks for the links.
    leeuna said...
    Poor guy! I hated to hear that. It just goes to show you shouldn't publish non fiction. :)
    It's all about the taxes. I'll betcha the government would set up "joint" joints and meth halls if pot and meth were taxable, and they could collect the revenue from it. This makes me mad. If folks don't get it from him, they'll get it - or its watered-down equivilent at the local bar or from the corner "likker" store.
    That's how most of our ancestors in these mountains raised our great grandparents during the depression. It's hard for an old man to stop a tradition.
    By the way, I don't drink, but I'm just saying...

    Maridmitch said...
    Some of Popcorn's customers have probably appeared on the voting ballots of several states!
    Granny Sue said...
    So why is it okay to buy it at Rite Aid drugstores, but not from Popcorn? Taxes, as Leeuna says. Sad.

    Learning to make shine is on my bucket list.
    Jbeeky said...
    Speaking of taxes, is it not strange that hard liquor is taxed at 13.50 a gallon and beer just 35 cents? Government makes no damn sense.
    Jo said...
    Hey Rosie.... Great Post. My Grandfather was a sheriff in Johnson County KY before my father was born. For what ever reason he was run out of KY and bought up a lot of land in Southern Ohio where he set up his still, opened a little country store that hosted gambling on weekends and furnished the local politicians with free moonshine for buying votes. My bet is that popcorn probably ticked some politician off and it brought the ATF down on him for it.

    Tahnks for sharing....

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