Three more states relaxed their draconian marijuana laws in the midterm elections and that makes it less of a gauntlet the mules have to run to get the weed out of the Emerald Triangle and into the states where good prices can be had, places like Utah, Missouri and Michigan.
Utah, with its main routes of Interstates I-15 and I-70 heavily patrolled for dope couriers was notorious for profiling dope cargoes – in fact, the cops in central Utah where I-15 and I-70 intersect is where pot mule profiling was first invented. The Mormon State intercepted a lot of local weed from getting to the lucrative markets to many points east.
One of those lucrative markets is Missouri. And Scott Daellenbach, a native son of the “Show Me” state, is currently a resident at the Mendocino County jail is perhaps glad to hear the news that Missouri was among the three states to lighten up on lighting up.
When Mr. D gets out of jail here in about three months, he’ll be able to get a medical marijuana prescription from one of his home state’s healing professionals who are, no doubt, eager to prescribe the wonder drug.
That is, if he doesn’t get sent to a California state prison.
Mr. Daellenbach had a seven-year prison sentence hanging over his head in Missouri where he was on probation, so getting busted here will be a violation of that probation. But then again, he had a five-year sentence suspended here where Judge Ann Moorman gave our visitor a mere 180 days after he hired local attorney Angelina Potter to petition the court for Prop. 64 relief, granted October 30th of this year.
On the surface this all seems quite innocuous, and the typical response is, “Let the hippies smoke their pot — big deal.” But when we consider the number of law enforcement personnel involved, the focus on catching the mules transporting the valuable weed, the profiling which still goes on in online websites like Black Asphalt (accessible to Law enforcement only), the money and trouble involved adds up to an incredibly huge industry, and the officers who have staked their careers on it are not happy about being put out of work due to the new changes of heart in the voting public, much of it stoned. And that’s not counting the lawyers who will have to adapt to new means of making a livelihood – something that has already happened to NorCal defense lawyers like Omar Figueroa, among a great many others.
We don’t know how often local officers exchange data on local pot entrepreneurs with officers in other states, but it seems likely that a guy like Scott Daellenbach, when he comes out to Willits and gets pulled over for a clear plastic cover on his license plate, and consequently gets busted for 10 pounds of weed back in 2015, then goes back to Missouri and gets pulled over for not signaling a lane change and is found to be carrying a pound of pot… It just seems that something more than an infraction was going on with the guy. Could Mr. D, gasp! be in the marijuana business full-time?
Er, he seems to have side pursuits. Daellenbach was on probation for burglary and trying to intimidate a witness, so he wasn’t exactly a generic peace and love hippy, even though he dresses the part. And his pursuit by the Willits PD was perhaps more aggressive than a see-through plastic cover over his license plate called for. So it is entirely logical to conclude that Daellenbach was “known to law enforcement” and that his modus operandi (his work as a mule between Willits growers and Missouri buyers) was well known, and that they (the cops in Willits and in Missouri) were out to get him.
Here’s what Daellenbach told the officer who pulled him over in Webster County Missouri: “He said he was driving from Bakersfield (Mo) to Springfield, approximately a two-hour trip one way, to run a diagnostics on the Dodge Ram he was driving, and that the passenger with him was his mechanic.” The four-hour round trip drive was more likely a business trip to sell the pound of weed. But police aren’t allowed to “speculate” on such things, so they instead say, “He failed to signal a lane change.” Or: “He had a clear plastic cover over his license plate which caused a glare and I couldn’t read it.” Anything barely plausible will do for a probable cause reason to pull a suspect trafficker over and commence an investigation of him or her.
Here’s an excerpt from Daellenbach’s trip to the witness stand in Ukiah:
At issue were conflicting versions of events. Daellenbach said Officer Nguyen of the Willits PD was riding his bumper, tailgating him around town and had nearly clipped Mr. D when he turned the Yukon [a common dopemobile known to be profiled by local cops] into a driveway to drop off a friend. Nguyen said he was never closer than five to seven car-lengths behind the Yukon and had had to race to keep up with it, that midnight, March 15th. The officer’s headlights were indeed probably bouncing off the Yukon's plastic license plate cover, making it hard for the young cop to read.
Officer Nguyen: “I was attempting to catch up.”
Defense Attorney Christopher Brooke: “Did he stop at the stop sign?”
Nguyen: “I don’t know. I hadn’t caught up yet.”
Brooke: “Then he turned down Mill Street?”
Brooke: “Did you see him pull into a driveway?”
Nguyen: “No, I did not.”
Brooke: “How far away were you?”
Nguyen: “By the time I reached Raymond and Coast, he was all the way down to Highway 20.”
Brooke: “How far away is that?”
Nguyen: “500 yards, maybe.”
Brooke: “How far was he away when he stopped at Highway 20?”
Nguyen: “Maybe 10 car lengths.”
Brooke: “At any point did you tailgate him?”
Brooke: “This was at night?”
Brooke: “And you saw his tire cross the white limit line at the stop sign?”
Nguyen: “I could see it, yes.”
Brooke: “Let me just make sure I’m hearing you clearly, officer. You’re ten car-lengths behind him, at night, and you can see his front tire go over the limit line?”
Nguyen: “Correct. The roadway drops down to Highway 20, so I was above him.”
Brooke: “You made the stop after the vehicle turned onto Highway 20 — why not before?”
Nguyen: “Correct. I would not have stopped him just for the license plate cover.”
Brooke: “You made no effort prior to his crossing the limit line?”
Nguyen: “I was trying to catch up to him.”
Brooke: “Now, when you first called him in, dispatch said there was no record of him being on probation?”
Brooke: “In fact, three times they told you his probation status was negative, isn’t that true?”
Brooke: “And it wasn’t until Deputy Croskey got there that you found out he was on probation, correct?”
Nguyen: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Brooke: “And in the meantime, you detained him?”
Dallenbach should have been cited for crossing the line and sent on his way, to defense attorney Brooke’s thinking, the first time the probation status inquiry came back negative. But Daellenbach had no California driver’s license, and his Missouri license had been suspended or revoked. The officer explained that the system had a lag-time and that Daellenbach had admitted he was on probation, felony probation, which meant he was not supposed to have more than eight ounces of marijuana for his medical needs. (Uh, dude. You’re on probation, you’ve got ten pounds in your vehicle, you have no valid driver’s license, and that old doper dodge of plastic over your plates, I’m thinking you need to brush up on your professionalism.)
Brooke and his client conferred in audible whispers. DA Eyster politely advised them that he could overhear what they were saying, suggesting they talk in the hall. This they did and after another lengthy intermission, it was decided that Daellenbach would take the stand.
Brooke: “On or about midnight on March 15th, did you see Officer Nguyen in a patrol car in Willits?”
Daellenbach: “Yes. He was parked at Village Market and I passed him on Main Street.”
“Then what happened?”
“He pulled in behind me, and got a few feet off my bumper.”
“No more than five feet.”
“What did you do?”
“I turned left on Mill Street.”
“What did he do?”
“He stayed right up on me. I turned into a driveway to let a friend off and the patrol car went around me.”
“When I turned right on Coast, he was right there on the next side street and he pulled out behind me again. And again, he came right up on me.”
“Did you stop at the stop sign?”
“Did you stay behind the white limit line?”
“Yes, I’m pretty sure I did.”
“He was right on you the whole time?”
“Yes, and he almost hit me once.”
“When was that?”
“When I turned into a driveway on Mill Street to let my friend off.”
“How close did he come to hitting you?”
“Within a couple of feet.”
“Was he ever five to seven car-lengths behind you?”
“When did the patrol car first turn on his emergency lights?”
“When I was going down Highway 20.”
“Is it possible you went over the white line when you stopped at Highway 20?”
“I really don’t think so, especially with a police car that close behind me.”
Eyster: “Sir, isn’t it true you’ve been convicted of two crimes of moral turpitude?”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“You’ve been convicted of burglary, haven’t you?”
“And attempting to dissuade a witness?”
“So you were pretty nervous because you were on felony probation, weren’t you?”
“Who was the friend you dropped off?”
Brooke: “Objection. Relevance.”
Moorman: “How is that relevant?”
Eyster: “We’re going to find out if he’s involved in this, too.”
After a reluctant pause on the part of the witness, the judge explained, "Overruled means you have to answer.”
Daellenbach: “His name’s Tyler Elza.”
Eyster: “Where does he live?”
Daellenbach: “On Mill Street, with his mother.”
Eyster: “What’s the address?”
Daellenbach: “I don’t know.”
Eyster: “Describe the house.”
Brooke: “Objection, your honor. This is an outrage — is he going to drag the mother into this too?”
Eyster: “Nothing further.”
Mr. Daellenbach left the stand looking like he wasn’t very happy with his performance. It’s always easy to sit back and watch a police officer dodge exculpating answers on the stand — implying things you know just ain’t right, but it’s a lot harder than it looks, and it’s likely you’ll find yourself in over your head when a skilled prosecutor like Eyster gnaws away at you.
Judge Moorman: “I’m going to deny the motion to dismiss the charges as per the Compassionate Use Act. The defendant’s terms of probation limited his possession of medical marijuana to under eight ounces, and there’s been no proof that the nearly 10 pounds were not his. As to the motion to suppress, the officer’s attention was drawn to the vehicle due to the plastic cover over the license plate; he said he wouldn’t have pulled him over for that reason alone, but then he went over the white limit line at the stop sign, so I’m going to deny that.
”The defendant was on searchable probation, and the search turned up the marijuana. As to the reason he was not given a ticket and sent on his way, he told the officer he had no California driver’s license and that his Missouri license was revoked or suspended. That alone, being a misdemeanor, was sufficient cause to detain him. Then it comes down to whether the officer could see if the front tire went over the line, and he testified credibly that the roadway put him at a height advantage above the defendant’s vehicle and that he could see it clearly. So I’ll find sufficient evidence to hold him over on the charges. Let’s set this out two weeks for arraignment on the information.”
When Daellenbach gets back to Missouri, if he gets back to ol’Missou any time soon, he’ll have to go through a lot more legal expense, but he told Judge Moorman he has a job lined up as a real estate developer; and, again, it would be “speculation” to suppose this is just a cover for a marijuana running operation – which seems far more likely to be Daellenbach’s career path – and the officers in Missouri, having occupied themselves for many years busting Mr. D and his colleagues, will no doubt have early warning of his return through Black Asphalt, and they’ll be ready and waiting, not wanting to change their ways just because the voters have had a change of heart.