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Judge seeks information in plea bargain for man allegedly caught with 166 pounds of marijuana

Judge seeks information in plea bargain for man allegedly caught with 166 pounds of marijuana

January 23rd, 2019 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News

A Bowie County district judge wants more information before he considers a plea bargain for a New Mexico man arrested in September for allegedly possessing 166 pounds of marijuana.

Francisco Gutierrez, 30, appeared with Assistant Public Defender Clayton Haas before 202nd District Judge John Tidwell for a pretrial hearing Wednesday morning at the Bi-State Justice Building in downtown Texarkana. At the beginning of Gutierrez's hearing, Haas announced that he intended to plead his client guilty. Such announcements are typically made when the defense and state have agreed to a sentence in the case.

Francisco Gutierrez

Francisco Gutierrez

Tidwell told Gutierrez he is ordering a pre-sentence investigation by the Bowie County Probation Department before he considers the proposed plea agreement. Following the investigation the probation department will prepare a report which will include information intended to aid the court at sentencing such as Gutierrez criminal history, educational history, social history and more.

Gutierrez was arrested Sept. 27 by a member of the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department after an officer noticed he was driving aimlessly and appeared lost while traveling on Lake Drive near Nolthenius Street, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by TTPD Officer Austin Butts. The officer allegedly watched the driver of a white Ford pickup violate several minor traffic laws before pulling it over.

"I initiated a traffic stop for the traffic violations listed above and the reasonable suspicion as to why the vehicle was turning around and driving in circles in a known narcotics area of the city," the affidavit states.

The truck did not immediately stop. When asked where he was going, Gutierrez claimed he was in town from the Dallas area to look at an expensive piece of welding equipment.

Gutierrez allegedly claimed he did not have any identification, no money and no wallet on his person at the time. When questioned as to how he expected to pay for the welder, Gutierrez allegedly said his boss would come from Dallas with the money. When asked what he would do if the equipment proved unsuitable for purchase and he had no money for gas to get home, Gutierrez allegedly explained that his boss would wire him money but could not explain how he would collect the money with any identification. Gutierrez allegedly provided a false date of birth before admitting to his real one and informing officers he holds a valid New Mexico driver's license.

A police canine called to assist in the stop alerted to the presence of drugs in the truck. Officers were able to see vacuumed sealed bags inside of the fuel tank/toolbox. Gutierrez allegedly agreed to tell officers how to get the drugs out of the storage spot in exchange for allowing him to smoke a cigarette.

Approximately 166 pounds of marijuana were allegedly recovered from Gutierrez's truck. Possession of marijuana at that amount is punishable by two to 20 years in prison. In the absence of a prior felony record, Gutierrez could be eligible for a term of probation.

Tidwell scheduled Gutierrez to return to court Feb. 11 to address the findings of the pre-sentence investigation and possible plea bargain.

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llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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