Charges dropped in historic pot bust
One of the largest drug busts in Moffat County’s history may not have been legal.
Three Wisconsin men who sheriff’s deputies last month said were traveling with 30 pounds of marijuana won’t be charged with a crime, District Attorney Bonnie Roesink said Wednesday.
The men were arrested in early November after a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 40, west of Craig.
Moffat County Sheriff’s Dep–uties used a dog to search the vehicle and say they found 30 pounds of marijuana in eight vacuum-sealed bags.
But the canine search may not have been legal, Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch said.
In an interview shortly after the arrest, Deputy Courtland Folks said he used his dog, Czar, to search the outside of the vehicle because the driver, Jeff Skaife, 27, of Waunakee, Wis., gave deceptive answers to questions about where he was headed.
The dog reacted to something inside the vehicle, so deputies searched the interior, Folks said. Deputies reported finding marijuana inside and arrested Skaife and the two passengers, Dustin Dienberg, 21, of Edgerton, Wis., and Jason Swanson, 22, of Madison, Wis.
After reviewing case law and speaking with the Colorado attor–ney general, U.S. attorney and the Drug Enforcement Agency, officials at the District Attorney’s Office don’t think the search met the state’s requirements, Fitch said.
Although it’s difficult to discern what constitutes a valid reason to conduct a canine search, Fitch said nervousness by the driver isn’t one.
If a judge deemed the search illegal, the marijuana could be suppressed as evidence, Fitch said.
Without the marijuana as evidence, the district attorney could not build a case against the men, Fitch said.
The district attorney had until Friday to file charges against the three men.
If convicted of possession of 30 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute, all three men faced felonies and prison time.
Fitch and Roesink commended the deputies for their work and said they were disappointed by the case’s outcome.
Skaife and Swanson were released on bond shortly after their arrest last month and allowed to return to Wisconsin.
Dienberg was extradited back to Wisconsin on a probation violation.
It isn’t clear whether Dienberg will face a probation violation charge now that the district attorney dropped charges, Fitch said.
The marijuana deputies seized will be destroyed, Fitch said.
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Routt County is working with both Rio Blanco and Moffat counties and municipalities across northwestern Colorado to create an umbrella organization to better coordinate and pursue economic development in the region.