January 15, 1997
MIAMI -- It is said the arm of the law is long,
but so is its memory, as Michael Cullison found out 18 years
after he fled the United States on a charge of helping import 70
tons of marijuana.
Cullison, 46, pleaded guilty Tuesday to
conspiracy to import marijuana when he was a member of the
so-called Zion Coptic Church. He and 18 others with the church
were indicted on marijuana charges in 1979, but Cullison fled to
Cullison's downfall came in Havana, Ill., in
1995 when he was caught doing 60 mph in a 50 mph zone. A routine
check showed he was wanted by U.S. marshals.
In a 1979 trial, members of the Zion Coptic
Church showed up in crimson robes and green-and-gold uniforms.
The trial resulted in several convictions, including that of
Thomas Francis Reilly, the head of the sect in Miami.
The members of the church and their families
lived in a mansion on one of the islands between Miami and Miami
Beach. During the trial, the church members said they smoked
marijuana as a form of religious communion. The local church sect
no longer exists.