Man's 3rd drug trial begins Defense says wife owned the cocaine

January 19, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Noland Maurice Rheubottom doesn't deny that drug officer found cocaine, cash, hand-held scales and a police scanner radio in his apartment during a raid last June.

But, his attorney told a Carroll County jury yesterday, the drugs weren't his client's: They belonged to his client's wife.

"Mr. Rheubottom was not the only one arrested in this case," said Assistant Public Defender Edward T. Barry. "Kristie Rheubottom is his wife. . . . In short summary, the cocaine was for personal use, but it was possessed, owned by and the property of Mr. Rheubottom's wife."

Mr. Barry, in his opening statement to the jury, didn't dispute that the white substance found June 19 by the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force was powdered cocaine.

"We're not disputing what the substance is," he said. "How can we dispute it, when we didn't even know it was there?"

Mr. Rheubottom, 26, of Westminster, has a lot on the line as he goes on trial on his third set of cocaine distribution and possession charges. Should he be convicted, he faces the state's so-called "three-time loser" statute, requiring a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years without possibility of parole.

A conviction of distribution and possession, not just possession, is necessary to trigger the minimum mandatory sentence.

Police arrested Mrs. Rheubottom when she visited her husband at the Carroll County Detention Center several days after the raid. Possession and distribution charges are pending against her.

Prosecutors don't disagree that Mrs. Rheubottom may have been in possession of cocaine. But they don't buy Mr. Rheubottom's argument.

"What we found shows that Mr. Rheubottom was ready, willing and able to sell cocaine," Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker said yesterday. "The defendant had cocaine in his possession, wrapped in packages ready for sale."

After a morning of jury selection and a half-hour of opening statements, prosecutors were able to present only one witness before Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. adjourned for the day.

State police Tfc. Robert Heuisler testified about the task force's raid on the Rheubottoms' Main Street apartment.

His testimony -- frequently interrupted by objections from Mr. Barry -- focused on Mr. Rheubottom's comments during the raid.

"He told me that he wouldn't be doing this, selling dope, if he had lots of money," the trooper testified.

While at the apartment, the trooper and two other task force officers logged more than a dozen calls to Mr. Rheubottom's telephone pager. They found a hand-held scale that, according to Mr. Rheubottom, was not really that useful in weighing cocaine.

"You can't weigh coke with that," Trooper Heuisler recalled Mr. Rheubottom saying. "You need a triple beam scale, a digital scale for that."

Troopers seized about a half-ounce of cocaine wrapped in individual packets, the hand-held scales, a police scanner tuned to an undercover channel, a telephone pager and $4,400.

Mr. Rheubottom's trial continues today and is expected to last until Friday.

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