The re-trial of the third of four defendants in the Greenlee County 100-pound cocaine bust ended with a guilty verdict on all counts.
By Jon Jonson
CLIFTON – The new jury in the retrial of Rafael Teran, 47, of Sahuarita, took just six hours to find him guilty of all counts Friday, April 20, regarding an August 2017 bust involving 100 pounds of cocaine.
Teran is the third of four suspects who have been adjudicated. Jose Luis Herrera, 41, of Tucson, is the purported ringleader of the group and is the last to have his case resolved. He has gone through two defense attorneys and is now represented by Stephen Lundell. Herrera’s case is being heard by Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson.
Teran’s first trial ended in a deadlocked jury and was later declared a mistrial. Teran has been represented by attorney Ivan Abrams, of Tucson, while Greenlee Chief Deputy County Attorney Robert Gilliland has been the prosecutor for the state.
This time, Teran was found guilty on charges of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, conspiracy to commit transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug for sale, and misconduct involving weapons. He faces a possible prison term of between 4-16 years and will be sentenced in May. The case was presided over by Cochise County Superior Court Judge Tom Conlogue, who will also be the sentencing judge.
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, Herrera, 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.
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.
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.
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.