Jury acquits man in cocaine case

URBANA — A Champaign County jury Wednesday acquitted a man of possessing cocaine intended for sale.

A jury deliberated about six hours before finding Stephen Wells, 33, who listed addresses on North Lincoln Avenue in Urbana and West Bradley Avenue in Champaign, of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

The charge stemmed from his April 13, 2011, arrest after a traffic stop on Interstate 57 just south of Rantoul.

Testimony before Judge Tom Difanis was that Wells was a passenger in a car stopped for speeding about 11 a.m. Because the trooper smelled burned cannabis and the odor of cannabis coming from Wells' mouth, he asked Wells and the driver to get out.

During a patdown search of Wells, the trooper felt something the size of a baseball near his buttocks. When the trooper tried to handcuff Wells, he ran, fleeing across four lanes of interstate traffic and jumping over a barbed wire retaining fence. He stopped when the trooper's canine partner reached him.

In the path of Wells' flight, troopers found a bag containing about 2.3 ounces of cocaine.

A state crime lab analyst testified she could find no fingerprints suitable for comparison on the bag, which was identified as cocaine.

Wells testified he ran because he was scared by the trooper's search and the dog.

His attorney, Scott Lerner, argued no one saw Wells with the cocaine, there were no fingerprints identified on the package, no DNA analysis done to suggest who had held it, and nothing to prove it was intended for sale.

The package was a single clump of cocaine as opposed to several smaller packages.

Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar argued there was enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that the cocaine came from Wells when he fled from the trooper.

Wells, who has several prior drug-related convictions, is also facing trial on a Class X charge of possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine stemming from his arrest in Urbana March 30. He is scheduled to be back in court on that June 26.

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

scollins4443 wrote on May 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm
Profile Picture

That's what makes Judge Difanis and the jury so great, they used the Constitution instead of circumstancial evidence to convict this person. I hope they get him on his other court matters. I hope the circumstances in that case are different to convict. The prosecutor and the police are probably furious, I'd be. They can't win them all. lol 

CJ Williams wrote on May 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

So they just happen to find the cocaine where the suspect was running.. imagine the odds of 2.3 oz of cocaine in the ditch area of I57 which is about 300+ miles long, right where you are running. 

oops wrote on May 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm

UNBELIEVABLE!  the Judge AND Jurors should be ashamed! this drug dealer runs across a dangerous interstate, jumps a fence, and runs through a field where the officers find over 2 ounces of cocaine in his path and he is found NOT GUILTY! I bet that was a circus. Congrats Judge, Jury, Champaign County S/A, Police. Hopefully at least the K9 got him. YOU dropped the ball and a drug dealer (with yet another pending drug case) is on the loose!  I'd be interested in how many times this person has skated on other charges


OOOPS.. I hear circus music in the background... nice work!