Two St. Thomas men who were charged Wednesday night with cocaine possession attempted to dump a five-pound bag of the illegal drug after they unknowingly drove into a police checkpoint in the Wintberg/Tutu bypass area, police say.
The two men were identified Thursday in Territorial Court as Kelvin Pickering and Devaughn "Butch" Todman. Appearing for an advice-of-rights hearing following their arrest, Judge Soraya Diase found probable cause to charge both men with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
At one point the hearing turned into a rancorous debate with defense attorneys Stephen Brusch and Federal Public Defender Brenda Scales arguing that the government did not provide enough information to detain Todman and Pickering.
In a brief appearance before the court, police officer James Marrishaw
said he and other police officers were conducting the random roadblock initiative when officers observed a white Toyota Runner stop about 50 yards from the checkpoint and suddenly reverse to leave the area.
Marrishaw said police officers pursued the vehicle driven by Todman and Pickering and observed Todman get out of the vehicle and dump the bag of cocaine in the bushes.
Both Todman and Pickering were detained, and when officers retrieved the bag and discovered the contraband, the two were arrested. The street value of the drugs was estimated at $25,000.
A probable cause fact sheet also said that officers found about $20,000 worth of checks from three V.I. banks. There was no mention of the checks in the Thursday court hearing.
Brusch argued that his client, Kelvin Pickering, was not involved in the possession of the drugs but was merely a passenger in a vehicle. Government prosecutor John Wilks argued that Pickering's presence in the car supports the charge of "constructive possession."
When Scales argued that the five pounds of cocaine was for personal use and not distribution, Wilks responded sarcastically, "Five pounds of cocaine is not for personal use."
Todman and Pickering were placed on $50,000 bail each. Family members were expected to post a property bond to secure Pickering's release from prison. Todman, who is unemployed, was allowed to post 10 percent of his bail or $5,000 to facilitate his release.
Also on Thursday, police officials confirmed that Pickering, a safety officer at the V.I. Port Authority, is the husband of a police officer. A large contingent of police officers was present during the hour-long court hearing.