A jury deliberating three hours Thursday found a Syracuse man guilty of marijuana possession but not guilty of possessing three pounds of cocaine, a charge that could have sent him to prison for life.
Lane C. Stromberg, 36, admitted on the stand Thursday he smoked marijuana and admitted to the small amount found in his bedroom in a May 20 search of his home at 1487 S. 1250 West.But Stromberg denied the cocaine, worth between $200,000 and $250,000, found in his garage was his. Law enforcement officers said it is the largest single amount of cocaine seized in the county.
Defense witness Greg W. Weiser, 28, also testified the cocaine did not belong to Stromberg. But when asked who owned it, Weiser, convicted earlier this year of a drug offense, declined to answer on the grounds it could incriminate him.
Several witnesses, including Stromberg, indicated they believe Weiser placed the three pounds of cocaine in a camping cooler in Stromberg's garage and scales and a cutting agent used to dilute cocaine in Stromberg's basement office.
Weiser had been working around Stromberg's house for several weeks, repairing a sprinkling system and constructing a hot tub, repaying a debt he owed Stromberg, Weiser testified.
Law enforcement officers led by Lon Bryan, an undercover agent for the Metro Narcotics Strike Force, raided Stromberg's home May 20 after receiving a tip that Stromberg had marijuana there. They found less than a pound of marijuana in baggies and jars, Bryan testified, but discovered the cocaine in the garage.
Bryan testified that in his three years of undercover work in Davis County he had not heard Stromberg's name come up as a possible dealer, but had pegged Weiser as a cocaine dealer.
Several skydiving friends of Stromberg testified they had seen him smoke marijuana but never saw him use cocaine or sell or distribute any drugs.
Stromberg's home is adjacent to Cook Elementary School in Syracuse and on the day of the search and Stromberg's arrest, the skydivers testified they dropped into the school grounds in a demonstration jump.
One purpose of the jump, a parachutist said from the stand, is to warn the schoolchildren against drugs and get them to sign cards pledging they will not use drugs.
It is the proximity of Stromberg's home to the school grounds that caused the Davis County attorney's office to charge him with a first-degree felony on the cocaine possession.
Possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, the charge filed against Stromberg, is normally a second-degree felony, carrying a prison term of 1 to 15 years. But Utah law stipulates that if drugs are within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school, the charge is enhanced by one degree.
Stromberg's charge was upped to a first-degree felony, which carries a prison term of five years to life. The marijuana charge Stromberg was found guilty off is a third-degree felony, which carries a prison term of zero to five years.
Stromberg also faces another charge, unlawful sexual intercourse involving a girl under 16. That charge was separated from the two drug counts in a pre-trial hearing and no court date has been set.