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BREAKING NEWS: Case dismissed PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 October 2017 10:36

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WILLIAMS

By ROBERT PIERCE

• Leader & Times


The pilot of a plane that landed in May at the Liberal airport allegedly containing 144 pounds of cocaine has had his case dropped.

Monday, at a scheduled arraignment after sitting quietly in a silent courtroom for about 15 to 20 minutes reading the transcript of the preliminary hearing of Patrick Williams, District Judge Clint Peterson ruled the defendant, when preparing to take off, had no prior knowledge of what was in three locked bags possessed by Williams’ co-suspect, Ricardo Lopez.

Lopez is still awaiting a ruling on two motions to suppress and dismiss his case by his attorney, Derek Miller.

Monday, Williams’ attorney, Paul Kitzke,  argued that none of the evidence presented at his client’s preliminary hearing showed the defendant was in possession of what was in the bags on the plane. Kitzke added, though, there was no dispute by the defense that the locked bags were in Lopez’s possession. Those bags, however, were not able to be accessed by Williams.

Peterson agreed, saying Seward County Detective Jared Wagenseller, the lone witness at the preliminary hearing, had no probable cause to arrest Williams and that Williams had no knowledge of what was in the bags.

The first four charges against Williams were immediately dismissed by Peterson, including:

• Possession with intent to distribute cocaine;

• Conspiracy of possession with intent to distribute cocaine;

• Possession of drug paraphernalia; and

• No Kansas drug tax stamp.

A fifth charge, possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, remained as Peterson said the court had no jurisdiction in that case. He then asked prosecutor Russell Hasenbank what the state’s intent was with the charge. Hasenbank said the state would like to make a motion to dismiss the charge. With no dispute from Kitzke, Peterson ruled the charge dismissed.

Lopez is still sitting in the Seward County Jail while his attorney, Derek Miller, is awaiting a ruling on two motions, one to suppress and one to dismiss the case against his client.

Those motions will be ruled on at a hearing at  1:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in Seward County District Court. The motions came after Miller and Kitzke questioned the key witness in the case at a joint preliminary hearing.

Wagenseller was continually asked by Miller and Kitzke as to why he did not get a  warrant to  search the plane and luggage at the scene. Wagenseller claimed if he had left to get a search warrant, Williams and Lopez could have likely escaped. The detective, however, added he had probable cause to search the scene.

Judge Margaret Alford, the presiding judge at the preliminary hearing, agreed with Wagenseller, saying enough probable cause existed to search the plane and ordered the suspects bound over for trial, though she knew the motions would be filed.

Friday, Judge Clint Peterson, who will now preside  over both  cases, read the list of charges from  an  amended complaint against Lopez and the sentences they  could bring. Those charges and sentences are:

1. Possession with intent to distribute cocaine of more than one kilogram – 138 to 204 months

2. Conspiracy to distribute cocaine – 132 to 198 months

3. Possession of drug paraphernalia – 10 to 42 months

4. No drug tax stamp – five to 13 months

5. Possession of marijuana – six months

6 and 7. Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute –  138 to 204 months on each count

The last two charges were added from the original complaint. The sentences Lopez faces should he be  found guilty are dependant upon his criminal history.

William and Lopez had their first appearance in Seward County District Court May 12 following their arrest May 10 at the Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport.

The arrests came after officials with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Seward County Sheriff’s office seized a large quantity of cocaine, as well as a twin-engine aircraft at the airport, according to a release from the KBI.

“The Department of Homeland Security Investigations and the KBI developed information which led them to believe a suspicious aircraft would be landing at the Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport,” the release said. “The Seward County Sherif’s office was requested to conduct a ramp check, a review of the documentation and identification of the pilot and aircraft.”

The KBI release said just before 6 p.m. May 10, the aircraft landed and was detained by authorities.

“After contact was made with the plane’s occupants, over 65 kilograms (or 144 pounds) of cocaine were discovered,” the release said. “The cocaine is estimated to have street value of approximately $2 million.”

The release went on to say that the KBI and the sheriff’s office seized the Beechcraft Queen Air and the cocaine.

“The pilot and passenger of the aircraft were arrested soon after,” it said. “Arrested were a 51-year-old black male and a 26-year-old Hispanic male.”

Lopez is currently being detained in the Seward County Jail on bonds of $2 million each.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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