The trial began Tuesday for an Ogden man charged in one of Utah's first big crack prosecutions.
Crack is a solid form of cocaine, which users smoke to get a swift feeling of euphoria. It is highly addictive. Drug experts say a crack epidemic seems to be moving inland from the coasts.Rodney Lynn Jackson was charged by a federal grand jury with two counts: possessing 860 grams of crack with the intention of distributing it, and possessing two ounces of marijuana for his own use.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Nelson told a jury in her opening arguments that the crack was sent from the Los Angeles area via Federal Express. But soon after it was sent, an expert with that company - a man specializing in making sure that dangerous and illegal materials aren't shipped - became suspicious of the package and opened it.
Fine print on the Federal Express air bill gives the company permission to open any package to check for contraband, Nelson said.
Inside, the expert found "a large clear baggy" with four smaller clear bags inside. "Each of those four appeared to him to contain separately wrapped chunks" of crack. The expert was a former officer, and he telephoned a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The detective made a field test.
"It did prove positive for cocaine," she said.
Nelson called it "a big bundle," saying it was more than would be used for "a really big party for a very lot of people . . . This had already been broken down into small, individually wrapped items, all ready for sale. All ready to go."
The detective contacted officers in Ogden, the city where the package was supposed to be delivered. An enforcement team decided to put the package back into the stream of Federal Express packages, "just as if it had never been opened."
It arrived in Ogden the next day, Sept. 14. It was again opened and a sample of the crack was taken. Then it was resealed. An officer was given a Federal Express van and uniform and sent off to deliver it.
Meanwhile, a search warrant was obtained.
Officers had acted so quickly that the cocaine was to be delivered on time. Nelson said that when the "delivery man" arrived at the address indicated, "a number of law enforcement officers stood by and were ready."
A man came from Apartment No. 3, the package's destination, and met the officer on the street before he could get the package from the van, she said. Nelson said that man was Jackson, and he said, "We've been expecting this package."
It was addressed to a woman. The officer asked where she was, and Jackson said she wasn't there but he was authorized to accept it, Nelson said. He signed the receipt.
"But he didn't use his true name," she said. "He signed `Roderick Scott.' "
Seconds after he went back into the apartment, officers from a drug strike force converged on the scene. Yelling that they were officers, they burst in.
Nelson said a bedroom door seemed to be jammed and a man turned out to be standing there. "As the door was being broken in he ended up being almost under the door."
Five people were inside, she said, including Jackson, who was caught holding the bag.
Jackson's lawyer, Sumner J. Hatch, reserved the right to make his statement later in the trial.