Defendants in drug felony cases span gamut | TheUnion.com

Defendants in drug felony cases span gamut

On Friday, defendants in a number of felony drug cases were in court, in a battle over whether their cases are tainted by a credibility issue with a narcotics detective (see main story on legal battle). A separate case is pending in another courtroom on a different motion, but with the same underlying basis, that of questioning that deputy's veracity.

Attorney Stephen Munkelt, who represents one of the defendants, pointed to a number of cases pending in Yuba County involving disgraced Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Mark Heath, who has been accused of trafficking marijuana to the East Coast. Many of those felonies are being pleaded down to misdemeanors, he said.

Any allegations involving these local cases, which were handled by a Nevada County Sheriff's deputy on the Narcotics Task Force, could be even more egregious if they involve misconduct while in the course of his professional duties, Munkelt said. Perjury, for instance, would affect every case that deputy has touched, he said.

If the credibility of the officer who authored and signed the search warrant affidavits is impugned — and that information is not noted in the warrant — a judge could suppress evidence on those grounds, said attorney Heather Burke. In one of her cases, involving two co-defendants, the officer in question wrote the warrant and the only police report on the arrest.

"His credibility is absolutely what's at stake," Burke said.

The eight defendants' alleged crimes include cultivating marijuana for profit and possessing controlled substances for sale — as well as possession of weapons and even child porn:

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— Corey Conners and Mark Gonsman — The pair were arrested in September 2015 and charged with marijuana cultivation.

— Scott Andrew Denty — Denty was arrested in early June 2015 after narcotics detectives served a search warrant on his property, reportedly seizing nearly 1,600 marijuana plants and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

The marijuana reportedly was being grown in three different indoor grow areas in a detached garage, as well as four different outdoor locations that included several hoop houses. Detectives also reportedly located approximately 4,000 rounds of ammunition, and vials of suspected steroids and syringes.

Denty, the owner of Grass Valley's Hometown Hydroponics, has been charged with cultivating marijuana and possessing a controlled substance.

— Joel Taylor Franks — Franks, 56, has three pending cases. He was arrested in April 2015 and charged with possessing a controlled substance and possession for sale. He was arrested again in September 2015 and charged with possessing a controlled substance, possession for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force members had a search warrant for Franks, his vehicle and his home when they stopped his Jeep in March. Deputies reportedly found more than 5 ounces of methamphetamine, worth an estimated $14,500, in the Jeep's front bumper. They also allegedly found digital weighing scales, as well as packaging material and paraphernalia at his residence.

In that case, Franks is accused of possession of a controlled substance for sale and transporting a controlled substance.

— Michael David Habig — In October 2015, members of the Nevada County Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force served a search warrant for drug sales at Habig's residence. They reportedly found a digital scale, a jar of suspected LSD, blotter paper in a bottle that appeared to have been soaked in LSD, as well as multiple baggies stashed in a variety of locations that also contained suspected LSD in crystal and powder form.

Deputies also uncovered five bags of marijuana cola, suspected hallucinogenic mushrooms, and $820 in cash.

Habig, 38, has been charged with possessing cocaine, LSD, and mushrooms and possessing those controlled substances for sale, as well as possession of ketamine.

— Roland Kitchens — Deputies with the Nevada County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Task Force and the Major Crimes Unit executed a search warrant in September 2014 at Kitchens' residence. Detectives reportedly located and seized 54 mature outdoor marijuana plants, 4 to 8 feet in height, approximately 5 pounds of processed marijuana cola, 40 grams of honey oil, several pounds of marijuana shake, a baggie of suspected hallucinogenic mushrooms, and honey oil manufacturing equipment. They allegedly also located 34 grams of methamphetamine and $6,848 in cash. During the search, they reportedly also found a .45-caliber handgun and child pornography located on media devices.

Kitchens is charged with possession of a controlled substance with a firearm, possession of a controlled substance for sale, marijuana cultivation, child endangerment, and possessing child pornography.

— Daniel Potter — Potter has two open cases. He was arrested in April 2015 and charged with possessing a controlled substance and possession for sale; he was arrested again in September, with Spooner, and charged with possessing heroin and possessing a controlled substance for sale.

— Mark Spooner — Spooner has two open misdemeanor drug possession cases, as well as two felonies. He was arrested in April and charged with possessing a controlled substance and cultivating marijuana. He was arrested in September, with Potter, and charged with possessing heroin, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, as well as cultivating marijuana and manufacturing honey oil.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.