By Isabelle Brady and Noe Herrera
MODESTO, CA – Ryan Travis Smith, charged with selling fentanyl and being in the possession of the drug for purposes of sale, had a preliminary hearing Tuesday in the Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Judge Dawna Reeves, reading the charges, alleged Smith was found with large quantities of fentanyl in March of last year after the vehicle he was in was stopped for having unlawfully tinted tail lights.
During the stop, Smith, in the passenger seat, attempted to exit the vehicle, according to Officer Katherine Blum, who said this was suspicious behavior.
Upon learning that both Smith and the driver were on searchable probation, the officer searched them both. Between them she testified she found five large quantities of fentanyl, including a batch of fentanyl wrapped in aluminum foil and hidden in the driver’s bra.
Altogether, the amount of fentanyl totaled more than 14 grams. Officer Blum said that, in her experience with drug dealers and drug users, “I learned that with fentanyl, they used around a twentieth of a gram a day.”
Officer Blum also found approximately $900 in cash and a scale, which, she said, “people that possess drugs for sales will often possess.”
According to Officer Blum, the driver said that she had fentanyl in her undergarments because Smith was “nervous because he had a warrant for his arrest” and had taken it off his person and put it in the center console when they were pulled over.
“She became nervous,” Officer Blum said, “because she knew how dangerous fentanyl was, so she concealed it from law enforcement” in her clothes.
When Officer Blum searched Smith’s phone, she found “several text messages between him and other subjects setting up drug sales transactions.” The driver “did not have any text messages on her phone indicative of drug sales.”
Officer Blum “formed the opinion that Smith was selling those drugs [that she found] because he had such a large amount of cash on his person.” She also said that “the drugs that were possessed by [the driver] were a much larger quantity than somebody would possess for just personal use.”
Smith’s attorney argued that there was no real evidence that Smith had sold fentanyl on March 16 or that he was intending to do so. He noted that both Smith and the driver were receiving unemployment benefits and that they had just come from a casino that day in March.
Officer Blum conceded that it’s common for defendants to claim that the drugs found on them are not theirs.
Judge Reeves decided that there was insufficient evidence to support the first charge that he sold fentanyl, but that “it does appear to the court that sufficient evidence has been produced at preliminary hearing to support” the count that he possessed fentanyl for sale.
Additionally, Judge Reeves said “[the driver’s] case is gone so it won’t help him negotiate his case. I am not sure what Mr. Smith wants, but there is no magic bullet.”
Smith has a separate case involving a burglary charge, which Deputy District Attorney Vita Palazuelos offered to dismiss if he resolved his fentanyl case.
Smith’s attorney said he had this conversation with Smith, but Smith refused. His attorney said that “he won’t admit to selling because he says he is not a drug dealer.”
Judge Reeves responded to Smith’s comment, saying “you should listen to your lawyers” and that she was hoping “something could be done with Smith’s three cases before it got out of hand.”