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Moonshine still smashed, man arrested

By Staff
WHITE LIGHTNIN' / Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Agent Bryan Alexander, left, and ABC Agent in Charge/District Four Mark Hicks pour out gallon jugs of moonshine found at James W. Koonce's home at 4868 S.L. Wilson Road. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
August 17, 2002
Two things of value stood Friday behind James W. Koonce's single-story brick home off Highway 19 South: a satellite dish and a 16-barrel moonshine distillery.
About 11 a.m., Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control rookie enforcement officer Bryan Alexander took an ax to the distillery and destroyed it.
Leaving Koonce with a satellite dish.
Koonce, 60, of 4868 S.L. Wilson Road, was charged with possession of an illicit distiller and possession of non-tax paid whiskey, known as moonshine.
As officers took inventory, Koonce, gray-haired, shirtless, wearing a faded pair of Levi's and scuffed black loafers, sat slumped in a lawn chair between a blue 1983 Toyota truck with 100 gallons of moonshine in the back and a shed holding 1,488 empty, gallon jugs.
Officers seized:
a 250-gallon stainless steel cooker and condenser.
two vehicles.
the empty jugs.
Most everything except for 10 gallons of whiskey to be used as evidence was destroyed after officers photo-documented the scene.
He said the Mississippi ABC busts some 30 distilleries statewide a year, but the number was almost twice that just a decade ago.
But Hanna said there are probably three or four more distilleries operating in Lauderdale County.
If convicted, Koonce faces three years in jail and a $500 fine. Possession of a distiller is a felony and possession of moonshine is a misdemeanor.
Koonce, whom officers said has no prior convictions, posted an $11,000 bond Friday afternoon.
Hanna said one of the most common side effects of drinking moonshine is lead poisoning and that Koonce used an old radiator as a condenser.
Mississippi Department of Agriculture investigator Sonny Vincent said the mash is left in a barrel to ferment and then pumped into the cooker using a sump pump.
Vincent said the alcohol probably drips out at 200 proof before the maker cuts it with water. The strength of the moonshine found at Koonce's home remains to be tested.