By Dominique Kato
SACRAMENTO – An alleged elaborate plot to smuggle drugs into a Sacramento County jail seemingly fell flat, and at a preliminary hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court, three defendants were set for trial as the court found sufficient evidence they smuggled methamphetamine into Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center.
Gina Harris, Dale Leaper and Anthony Wood are charged with a felony violation of bringing a controlled substance into a California jail.
Counts 1 and 2 allege the three defendants committed this felony twice, on November 25, 2019, and December 2, 2019. Count 3 alleges on December 12, 2019, Harris committed a misdemeanor for the possession of methamphetamine.
Deputy Jeremiah Kim, working at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center’s Investigative Services Unit, has made discovering cards laced with drugs headed to inmates—he claims he’s found at least 25 methamphetamine cards, working with drug K-9 dogs and narcotics units.
Prosecutor Brandon Jack asked Deputy Kim, “At 4 p.m. on November 25, 2019 were you searching through USPS mail?” to which Kim replied yes, and then testified that he had found a letter addressed to Anthony Wood and inside contained yellow construction paper with glued on letters. The letters read, “I miss you” and on the back it said “daddy.”
Kim noted the return address read Amy Wood, but when checking the name through the records system no name was found in the system.
When asked why he chose this letter, Kim said that it was his job to go through all incoming mail through USPS. He chose this particular letter because it had a white tint and his training taught him that it was indicative of possible methamphetamine. When tested, it came back positive.
Prosecutor Jack asked if the characteristics of other methamphetamine letters were similar to the one he found on November 25, to which Kim replied yes. Kim then discussed that the cards are often ingested by eating the paper or placing them in hot drinks to then ingest.
After running Amy Wood’s name through the records and finding nothing, Kim testified that he then went to the inmate calling solution system, the phone system for the jail, to track Anthony Wood’s calls.
Deputy Kim stated that he found a call to Gina Harris, where he heard Woods give her his mailing information for the jail. This led to Leaper, who gave Harris instruction on how to manufacture and send methamphetamine cards to Wood.
After reviewing the calls Deputy Kim stated that he gained knowledge that Leaper and Wood were expecting to receive the card. Kim and another Deputy obtained similar yellow paper and reconstructed a meth card that contained no narcotics. They used glue and water, as water gives the appearance it was warped at one point, which is normal for methamphetamine cards.
On the false methamphetamine card, the deputies put “Merry Christmas” instead of the original wording on purpose to elicit phone calls between Harris and Leaper.
Deputy Kim then explained they watched from the control point the distribution of mail. Once Wood received the letter Kim stated he looked up to the upper tier where Leaper was located and gave an unrecognized hand signal.
Kim then observed Wood give Leaper the card. Cory Williams, Dale Leaper and Anthony Wood observed the card together, passing it back and forth.
Shortly after Leaper made a phone call to Harris asking, “What part of the card was true?” Kim said it was clear that he was attempting to find out where the meth was on the card. Harris said lettering, and Kim noted this was correct as testing indicated.
Leaper then returned with the card and passed out pieces to inmates and ingested a piece himself, stated Deputy Kim.
Deputy Kim said they continued to review phone calls and found that Leaper instructed Harris to send another card because the current card, the one that was fake, was “bad.”
On November 27, 2019, Leaper called her and told her to go to CVS and get a green card and do the whole thing, which meant to soak the entire card, said Kim. “Following the call, on Tuesday December 2, 2019 at approx. 1600 hours we found a second card to Anthony Wood from Amy Wood,” Kim said.
Kim noted this card also tested positive for methamphetamine, showed characteristics of other methamphetamine cards, and contained a usable amount.
The second card was whiter card stock with colored lettering but you could still see a white substance said Kim. They then constructed another false methamphetamine card with glue and water, doing the same process as on November 25.
Kim said once Wood received the card he did another hand signal to Leaper. Leaper then called Harris telling her the card was not good and asking where the meth was on the card. Harris replied, lettering.
Prosecutor Jack asked Kim if he had ever spoken with Wood after discovering the two cards. Kim replied yes, Wood told him that Amy Wood is his cousin, also street cousin and sister. Wood said he was talking to Harris about getting to know her 29-year-old-daughter and she was supposed to be sending in pictures.
On December 12, 2019 Deputy Kim said that he reviewed a call from Leaper and Harris to which Harris said she was going to visit him in jail.
When Harris arrived, Kim said he and other deputies cuffed her. When questioned, she said she had no recollection of making a methamphetamine cards. But he compared her handwriting on the cards to the visitor registration card and noted, “In my observation I would say it was similar handwriting.”
Deputy Kim then testified that he discovered a crystal like substance between her phone and phone case in her card, as well as a clear baggy with a white substance inside that tested positive for methamphetamine, about 2.93 grams worth. Harris admitted it was hers.
Anthony Wood’s defense attorney Laurence Smith asked Kim if any part of the baggy from the vehicle was introduced to the facility or attempted to be introduced. Kim stated no.
Smith asked, “Did you overhear any telephone calls from Wood to Harris?” Kim said yes, but was unable to give a specific date. Smith asked to strike the answer due to speculation, Judge Arguelles overruled.
Smith then questioned Kim if Wood was ever drug tested or if any letter from Wood to Harris requested her to send drugs into RCCC. Kim replied no to both.
Defense attorney Byron Roope for Gina Harris then asked Kim if Harris ever indicated she didn’t know how to make meth and had a problem with her hands to which Kim said yes. Further, Roope asked if Kim ever fingerprinted the letters, to which he replied no.
Roope then asked Kim, “I’m assuming you’re not a handwriting expert nor a qualified handwriting expert? “Kim replied no.
Before the judge’s decision defense counsel Smith argued, “I heard a lot of evidence of a conspiracy between Leaper and Harris, but what I’ve heard concerning my client Mr. Wood has a lot of innuendo and suspicion.”
Smith stated that “Mr. Wood does not appear to be the person who came up with the plot to smuggle things into the jail. “Suspicion is not evidence, and that’s what we have here,” suggested Smith.
Judge James Arguelles ruled that he finds there is sufficient cause to believe that each defendant is guilty of the counts they are charged with and therefore are held to answer. All defendants waived formal arraignment and entered not guilty pleas.
A trial is set for September 8, 2020, in Department 9 at 8:45 a.m..
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