A federal jury heard opening arguments on Jan. 13 in a case involving a 52-year-old tow truck driver who was arrested when Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers found significant quantities of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and approximately 46 pounds of methamphetamine in a salvage car he was hauling. The man faces four counts of narcotics possession with the intent to distribute, each of which carries a possible life sentence.
The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case told the jury that phone records and other documents will link the man with a notorious California drug dealer. He also said in his opening statement that the man was a highly experienced drug courier who had transported narcotics across the country on several occasions. The drugs were discovered during a roadside search. WHP troopers became suspicious when they noticed that the man’s tow truck did not have identification issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the salvage car he was hauling was not properly secured.
The man’s defense attorney gave the jury a different version of events. He said that his client runs a legitimate towing business and was completely unaware of the drugs. He also said U.S. attorneys have no evidence showing that money changed hands. The defense attorney also raised questions about the behavior of the WHP troopers involved and pointed out that their audio recording equipment was switched off during the encounter.
The penalties for committing federal drug crimes are severe, and there is no parole in the federal prison system. This means that defendants should think carefully before rejecting plea offers. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may help clients in this situation to make informed decisions by assessing the strength of the evidence against them. Attorneys could also remind defendants that they may be able to change their minds and accept a plea offer if the trial seems to be going against them.