NEWBURYPORT — It started as a routine stop for a broken taillight, but the driver's nervousness and disjointed answers, along with the smell of marijuana, led state police to a big haul — 21 pounds of marijuana stored in the car's trunk.
Arraigned yesterday at Newburyport District Court, John W. Sullivan, 45, of 82 Eliot Road, Kittery, Maine, was charged with possession to distribute marijuana. According to court documents, police estimate the street value of the drugs is from $20,000 to $40,000. Judge Peter Doyle ordered Sullivan held on $200,000 bond or $20,000 cash bail.
He is also charged with a motor vehicle lights violation because the left rear taillight of his Buick was out, the original reason state Trooper Michael Crowley pulled Sullivan over about 7:20 Wednesday night on the northbound lane of Interstate 95 in Newbury, according to his report.
Finding Sullivan's speech to be "very lethargic," his eyes "glassy" and his shirt torn, Crowley requested Sullivan to step out of his car for a discussion, according to court documents. Explaining he'd been in Massachusetts to visit relatives, Sullivan first told Crowley he'd torn his shirt at his construction job, then later said he hadn't been at work because he was on disability due to a prior injury.
Crowley finally told Sullivan he was having a hard time believing his story, finding it inconsistent. He then advised Sullivan of his Miranda rights.
"I told Sullivan that we had problems on Route 95 with people transporting large amounts of narcotics, guns and currency from points south to points north in Maine and Canada and vice versa," Crowley wrote in his report. "Sullivan let out a deep breath. I asked Sullivan if he was familiar with this kind of stuff. Sullivan stated no and shook his head. I asked if he was involved in that kind of stuff. Sullivan said no."
Telling Sullivan he'd been pulled over for a motor vehicle infraction, Crowley noted Sullivan's answers and body language led him to believe Sullivan could have drugs, guns or money in the vehicle. Sullivan denied such material was in his car, but appeared nervous, Crowley wrote. When asked if he'd let the troopers search his vehicle, Sullivan "took a step back and with a stutter apprehensively declined," according to Crowley's report.
Crowley then spoke with Trooper Patrick Silva, who, with his drug-sniffing K-9 partner, Nero, was at the scene to assist. It was decided that Nero should do an exterior sniff search of the vehicle.
Crowley said Sullivan "nervously peeked" as the dog was let out of the cruiser.
According to court documents, Nero reacted strongly to the trunk and rear passenger area of the car.
"I opened the trunk ... and was struck with a stronger odor of raw marijuana," Crowley wrote. "I located a large black suitcase. I opened the suitcase and located a large bale of green vegetable matter that had the look and odor consistent with marijuana."
Sullivan denied owning the marijuana. Crowley placed him under arrest, bringing him to the state police barracks in Newbury for booking, and where the marijuana weighed in at about 21 pounds.
According to Crowley's report, police will pursue asset forfeiture of Sullivan's Buick.