Hibler visitors tell of drug odor, guns in house

September 12, 1990|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Correspondent

FORT MEADE -- A stream of witnesses told U.S. Air Force investigators yesterday that visitors to the family home of convicted drug trafficker James Todd Hibler could smell drying marijuana and easily view automatic weapons, thousands of dollars in cash and evidence of other drugs.

But none of the witnesses who testified under oath at a legal proceeding to determine whether court-martial action should be initiated against Lt. Col. Russell J. Hibler directly linked the 44-year-old psychologist to his son's multimillion-dollar drug operation.

Todd Hibler, 23, ran the operation -- which police say was the largest of its kind in Anne Arundel County history -- from the family's Crofton home until county police shut it down Nov. 2.

An acquaintance of Todd Hibler, Rebecca Anne Wagner, a student at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., told Air Force investigators that she visited the Hibler home within 10 days of the police raid last fall and saw an Uzi machine gun, a copy of High Times magazine and an aluminum kitchen pot of hashish oil on a desk just inside the padlocked door of the drug dealer's bedroom.

Miss Wagner, whose boyfriend, Craig Shawn Pendrell, has known Todd Hibler since high school, said that on the day of the visit -- a Friday she believed was Oct. 26 -- two "huge" Hefty trash bags full of marijuana also were on the floor of the younger Hibler's bedroom, along with so much money that it "was annoying" her.

But asked by Colonel Hibler's defense lawyer, John D. Cline, if she ever talked with Todd's father about drugs, she laughed and said, "No, never."

The hearing yesterday was held to determine whether Colonel Hibler should face court-martial proceedings on charges stemming from county police finding 50 pounds of marijuana, seven pounds of cocaine and four pounds of hashish at his family home during the raid.

Other possible charges include whether he engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer by allowing his house to be used for the storage of drugs, weapons and drug money, Air Force officials have said.

At the time of the drug bust, Colonel Hibler, who is attached to a wing of the Air Force's Electronic Security Command, and his wife, Suzanne M. Hibler, were both psychologists at the top-secret National Security Agency at Fort Meade. Both were arrested that night, but charges against them were allowed to expire. An Anne Arundel County grand jury also declined to indict them on drug charges.

Col. Jay A. Rowland, the investigating officer presiding over the session, is expected to make his recommendation today on whether to proceed with the court-martial action, but that report will not be made available to the press or public, Air Force officials said.

The recommendation, which includes a summary of witnesses' statements, will be sent to the commanding general at the Air Force's Electronic Security Command in San Antonio for a final determination of whether to proceed with a court-martial, said Capt. Deah Tonya Williams. One of two lawyers assisting Colonel Rowland, Captain Williams also served in a prosecutorial role.

Throughout the proceeding, Colonel Hibler, in his Air Force uniform, sat quietly at the defense table, taking notes. Beside him was Mr. Cline and an Air Force defense lawyer, Maj. Stephen M. Valentine.

The witnesses -- police officers as well as Todd Hibler's friends and acquaintances -- each of whom was prohibited from hearing others' testimony -- were unanimous in telling investigators that drying marijuana could be smelled on the second floor of the house, as well as the stairs to the second floor.

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