(Gillette, Wyo.) The morning of Tuesday, May 31st, when Gillette police officers arrested Bo Yi Chen, Zhi Wei Liang, and Wu Bo Huang -- all Chinese nationals -- they had some trouble securing an interpreter that could speak Cantonese.
Wednesday morning, nearly three months later, Campbell County Circuit Court still had the same problem. A miscommunication meant that the interpreter asked to aid Bo Yi Chen and Wu Bo Huang in court was not present, and had to repeat everything over a speakerphone. Also not aware that this was a preliminary hearing, and therefore would take more than an hour, the interpreter had to leave, as she had a flight to catch. She continued the rest of the hearing on her cell phone on the way to the airport.
The DEA agent that trained Jefferson Bus Lines employees in Montana to spot drug trafficking is who originally called in the three men in May. While his tips to local law enforcement helped stop 93 pounds of drugs in Gillette, they also caught 200 pounds in two other busts out of Montana, on the same bus line, in the same week. Bus line employees had been taught to be suspicious of people with brand new luggage travelling on one-way tickets they hadn't purchased themselves, which was exactly the circumstances the three men arrested were traveling under.
That agent did not give local law enforcement the name of the fourth suspect in the case, a man who allegedly took Chen, Huang, and Liang out to dinner in Seattle, gave them three brand new suitcases and bus tickets to New Jersey, and told them not to peek in their luggage. Unfortunately that suspect still has not been caught, and defense for Huang points out that this "bad guy" easily "took advantage of three men."
The prosecution brought up how Huang was the only one of the three who seemed to know he was in any trouble, as he was the only one of the three who fled the original arrest scene at Shell Food Mart and was found at Gillette Airport trying to buy a ticket back to Seattle.
Chen's defense pointed out that Chen -- who spoke the least English -- had the least chance of knowing what was going on. There was no proof he was aware of what was in the bag, which bag was supposedly his, whether or not he handled the bag or the ticket buying to Jersey, or whether or not he'd handled the drugs in the luggage at all. Each man's suitcase was filled with at least 30 pounds of marijuana that was vacuum-sealed and covered in ground black pepper, allegedly to mask the scent of the drugs from K9 units.
Both Chen and Huang's council asked that their cases not be bound over to District Court, which Judge Terrill Tharp denied. Judge Tharp pointed out that while there may have been issues with translation in the original interview process, it's not in doubt that the three men were on their way from Seattle to New Jersey with luggage in their name containing in total 93 pounds of marijuana, the street value of which is nearly $600,000.
All three men are being charged with possession of a controlled substance with attempt to deliver, a possible 10 year prison sentence if convicted.