November 25, 2010

Alleged Pot Producer In Trouble Again 25 Years After Big Bust in Memphis

Twenty-five years after capturing the headlines in Memphis with a $1 million marijuana bust, an Iowa man is back in trouble with the law for his alleged pot growing pastime.

Richard Lee Cone, 59, of Keosauqua, IA, was charged on November 6th in Van Buren County, IA, with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.

While the bust, made by the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department, netted more than 800 pounds of the illegal drug, it was dwarfed in size by the 1985 seizure in Scotland County.

Court records document more than 6,300 pounds of marijuana were confiscated in 1985 from a Scotland County farm being leased by Cone from the late Charles Bechtel. The Scotland County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol supervised as six dump truck loads of the super-sized plants were cut down by chain saw from the farm just south of the Iowa State line off Highway 15.

"We had to have the county boys come in, in order to have enough equipment to haul all of it out to the airport to be destroyed," said former Missouri State Highway Patrolman Roger Gosney, who worked on the investigation. "They used Weedeaters with circular saw blades on the ends to cut down a lot of it, as there were plenty of plants with two or two and a half inch bases."

More than 700 marijuana plants were destroyed by law enforcement officers after surveillance on the site led to the arrest of Richard L. Cone, then of Douds, IA, and Richard A. Sterms of Kahoka. According to a September 26, 1985 article in the Memphis Democrat, both men were taken into custody by officers the following day after fleeing from investigators that had the field under surveillance on September 18, 1985.

Cone ultimately was found guilty by a Linn County jury on August 28, 1986 and was sentenced on December 9, 1986 to a term of three years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. The case had been moved to Brookfield on a change of venue.

The case was appealed as the defendant claimed insufficient evidence to support the verdict and that evidence of certain items, including $16,270 in cash, should have been inadmissible.

The original court finding was affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District on February 2, 1988.

The ruling found the evidence was sufficient to support conviction and probable cause existed for the seizure of the pickup and thus warrantless routine inventory search.

According to the appeal finding, the officers acted legally when they impounded a pickup left at the marijuana field, with the door open and keys in the ignition, based on the belief the two suspects who fled the area would return and use the truck to continue their flight from the law.

When the truck was inventoried, prior to being subjected to finger printing, investigators uncovered a Rice Krispies cereal box behind the driver's seat stuffed with $16,270 in cash as well as two tobacco containers filled with marijuana.

Those smallish items, as well as dried marijuana leafs found in the back of the truck, were parked amidst an enormous marijuana crop that officers from the Drug Enforcement Agency later estimated had a street value in 1985 of nearly $1.2 million.

Cone's latest run-in with the law stems from an October 25, 2010 raid at his residence in Keosauqua, IA. The Van Buren County Sheriff's Department aided by officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, the Fairfield Police K9 unit and the Iowa DNR, executed a search warrant at Cone's residence, uncovering more than 50 different containers filled with a green-leafy substance believed to be marijuana. More than 800 pounds of processed marijuana was recovered during the search.

Cone was arraigned on November 10 in Van Buren County Court and entered a plea of not guilty on charges of conspiracy to manufacture, deliver and or possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

The case has been set for trial in March of next year.

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