A Howard County jury issued a not-guilty verdict Wednesday regarding the possession of 62 pounds of processed marijuana found during a traffic stop in January.
Joseph Sauls Jr., 58, of Kansas was found not guilty by the jury in the Howard County Circuit Court in Nashville, Ark.
Sauls' son, Joseph Sauls lll, 34, of Nashville, Ark., pleaded guilty Jan. 13, 2016, to possession of a controlled substance with the purpose to deliver marijuana. He was sentenced to 20 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction with four years suspended. A possession of drug paraphernalia charge was dismissed.
The son returned to Nashville from prison to testify in his father's trial.
After the jury issued the not-guilty verdict, the father, Joseph Sauls Jr. immediately left the building. He was represented by Little Rock attorneys Omavi Shukur and John W. Walker.
His son will return to prison.
Attorney Shukur issued the following statement:
"The people of Howard County should be proud that a jury of their peers stood up for justice Wednesday. Mr. Sauls courageously held his accusers accountable for their foolhardy decision to persecute an innocent man. This proud veteran and grandfather faced the possibility of decades in prison and came out stronger than ever."
Prosecutor Bryan Chesshir said, "Sauls, Jr. had a criminal history in Kansas with nine felony convictions for possession and selling illegal drugs. He served his time at Leavenworth prison. It's frustrating. The son claimed the marijuana and the scales and individually bagged marijuana in the car with an estimated street value of $56,040."
"He (Sauls, Jr.) lucked out," Chesshir said.
The father and son were arrested during a traffic stop Jan. 3, 2016, in Howard County. When the car windows were opened, the smell of marijuana caught the attention of deputies and their canine partner, Kilo.
The marijuana was compacted into bricks or small bales.
Deputy Travis Turner stopped the vehicle driven by Joseph Sauls III on state Highway 355 south of Mineral Springs, Ark., for a traffic violation. Joseph Sauls Jr. was a passenger in the vehicle, Sheriff Bryan McJunkins said during the initial statement.
Turner was assisted by Howard County jailer and reserve deputy Kevin Rodgers, who was riding with Turner.
Turner smelled the suspicious odor coming from the car and the driver. Turner also suspected the men had been drinking alcohol, according to the report.
The deputy searched the vehicle while the father and son stood outside the vehicle. Turner handcuffed the driver.
When Turner searched near the trunk, Sauls III ran away while still handcuffed.
"Turner caught Sauls III quickly and walked him back to Turner's patrol car," the report said. Turner found several trash bags along with duffel bags and backpacks in the truck of the car. The 62 pounds of marijuana were found in the bags. Turner also found $8,250 cash in the vehicle's console.