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Cocaine case continued PDF Print E-mail


• Leader & Times

Preliminary hearings set for Wednesday for the two suspects accused of landing a plane containing 144 pounds of cocaine at Liberal’s airport earlier this year have been continued.

Russell Hasenbank, the prosecutor in the cases for Ricardo Lopez and Patrick Williams, made the motion Wednesday in Seward County District Court to have the hearing for Lopez continued due to some missing witnesses.

Derek Miller, Lopez’s attorney, said Hasenbank only had one witness, Det. Jared Wagenseller of the Seward County Sheriff’s office, who was present Wednesday at the courthouse. Miller therefore objected to Hasenbank’s motion.

Despite the objection, Hasenbank still requested the motion, in part due to the fact that Lopez has no ties to the Liberal community. Miller also asked for a reduction in Lopez’s bond, which was set at $2 million prior to Wednesday. The defense attorney has asked that the amount be reduced to $100,000, but Judge Margaret Alford only agreed to reduce the bond to $1 million.

Alford said she believed the reason the bond was set at such a high rate was due to Lopez’s flight risk and the level of charges in the case.

As for when the case will be heard again, Hasenbank said he would likely need about four weeks to gather witnesses. Paul Kitzke, Williams’ attorney, suggested combining the two cases into one. 

Though he did object to having Lopez wait another month in jail, Miller did agree that combining both cases would be the best for all parties.

The new date for preliminary hearings for both Williams and Lopez is Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in Seward County District Court.

Both suspects face one charge each of the following counts:

1. Distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance

2. Conspiracy to commit distribution or possession of with the intent to distribute a controlled substance

3. Possession of drug paraphernalia

4. No drug tax stamp

5. Possession of marijuana

William and Lopez had their first appearance in Seward County District Court May 12 following their arrest May 10 at the Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport.

The arrests came after officials with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Seward County Sheriff’s office seized a large quantity of cocaine, as well as a twin-engine aircraft at the airport, according to a release from the KBI.

“The Department of Homeland Security Investigations and the KBI developed information which led them to believe a suspicious aircraft would be landing at the Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport,” the release said. “The Seward County Sheriff’s office was requested to conduct a ramp check, a review of the documentation and identification of the pilot and aircraft.”

The KBI release said just before 6 p.m. May 10, the aircraft landed and was detained by authorities.

“After contact was made with the plane’s occupants, over 65 kilograms (or 144 pounds) of cocaine were discovered,” the release said. “The cocaine is estimated to have street value of approximately $2 million.”

The release went on to say that the KBI and the sheriff’s office seized the Beechcraft Queen Air and the cocaine.

“The pilot and passenger of the aircraft were arrested soon after,” it said. “Arrested were a 51-year-old black male and a 26-year-old Hispanic male.”




About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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