Hung jury in Greenlee 100-pound cocaine bust

The trial of the third of four defendants in the Greenlee County 100-pound cocaine bust ended with a hung jury and will be retried.

Jury unable to come to a decision on the third defendant/will have a retrial

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

CLIFTON – The jury in the trial of Rafael Teran, 47, of Sahuarita, the third of four defendants in Greenlee County’s 100 pounds of cocaine bust from August 2017, failed to reach an agreement Friday, March 9, and ended up being a hung jury.

Contributed Photo: The trial against Rafael Teran ended with a hung jury.

If a hung or deadlocked jury, cannot agree on a verdict after an extended period of deliberation a judge may request they deliberate further. In this case, the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict and Greenlee County Superior Court Judge Monica L. Stauffer declared a mistrial.

That doesn’t mean Teran is off the hook, however, as Greenlee County Attorney Jeremy Ford told the Gila Herald that the county was “definitely” going to have another trial. A scheduling hearing was held Monday, which set the new trial to start again with a completely new jury April 17. Teran is represented by attorney Ivan Abrams of Tucson. 

“We weren’t far off (from a conviction),” Ford said.

Teran is the owner of the “heat” vehicle SUV that was traveling along with a semi truck that held 100 pounds of cocaine. Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner and Greenlee County Chief Deputy Eric Ellison pulled over the semi and SUV, respectively, while they traveled along a lonely stretch of State Route 78 in the wee hours of Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Teran was charged with two counts of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale and possession of a weapon during a drug offense. The driver of the semi truck, Jose Luis Herrera, 41, of Tucson, is charged with transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a weapon during a drug offense, possession of a weapon by a prohibited possessor, conspiracy, and participating in a criminal syndicate. Herrera has yet to be adjudicated.   

Contributed Photo: Ruben Cisneros was found not guilty of all charges.

While Teran is the owner of the SUV, he was located as a passenger in the semi-truck. Ruben Cisneros, 47, of Tucson, was driving the SUV. He was found not guilty by a Greenlee County Jury on Dec. 8, 2017, on charges of conspiracy to commit transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug for sale, and misconduct involving a firearm. He was represented by Safford attorney Rebecca Johnson.

“I am happy to report that justice prevailed in this matter,” Johnson said. “Our local officers do an excellent job and clearly took a huge quantity of drugs off the streets. However, officers must make quick judgment calls with only limited information when investigating matters during a traffic stop. I think that is what happened here.”

Contributed Photo: Adrian Cardenas pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Cisneros was driving the SUV with Adrian Cardenas, 30, of Tucson. The vehicle was stopped for speeding on State Route 78 by Greenlee County Chief Deputy Eric Ellison. A firearm and a small amount of marijuana were discovered in the SUV by Ellison. While searching the SUV, Ellison also found an identification card belonging to one of the men in the semi, which had been stopped by Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner for a license plate infraction. The marijuana was found on Cardenas, but the firearm, allegedly belonging to one of the two men in the semi who owns the SUV, was found in the center console. 

Cisneros and Cardenas initially denied being involved with the semi. That did not wash as Ellison had found the ID belonging to one of the men in the semi. Sumner found that the semi-truck driver had a suspended driver’s license and was a prohibited possessor of a firearm. A subsequent search of the semi-truck yielded roughly 100 pounds of cocaine, which the men were allegedly transporting to Texas.  

Contributed Photo: Jose Herrera has yet to be adjudicated.

On Nov. 6, 2017, Cardenas, who was represented by Safford attorney David Griffith, pleaded guilty to possession of a narcotic drug for sale in a plea agreement that dismissed four other charges, including possession of a weapon during a drug offense, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and conspiracy. While the plea was eligible for a probation term, Judge Stauffer sentenced Cardenas to seven years to be served in an Arizona State Prison facility.

Walt Mares contributed to this report. 

   

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