Bay man charged in massive drug bust
A San Francisco man accused of possessing huge quantities of illicit drugs was Wednesday ordered to stand trial in Tuolumne County Superior Court.
Tuolumne Narcotics Team Detective Neil Lillie testified Wednesday at a preliminary hearing in Tuolumne County Superior Court that he believed Benjamin Smith Pearsall, 28, of San Francisco, had approximately 7,000 doses of dimethyltryptamine, more commonly known as DMT, that he intended to sell.
When smoked, a standard dose for DMT is between 15 to 60 mg. There was slightly over a pound of DMT, Lillie said.
Pearsall also had one bag containing 1.1 grams of ketamine, also known as Special K, Lillie said.
“I believe he possessed it to sell it,” Lillie said.
After the hearing, judge Douglas Boyack found that there was probable cause that Pearsall was guilty of four felony charges, including second degree burglary, transportation of DMT, possession for sale of DMT and possession for sale of ketamine, along with a misdemeanor charge of possession of clonazepam.
Pearsall’s attorney, Kenyette Jones had argued that Lillie was sufficiently unfamiliar with either ketamine or DMT to deliver his opinion on whether Pearsall intended to sell the drugs or not.
Both drugs are uncommon to the Tuolumne County area, Lillie said. His experience with DMT, in particular, is limited to two 30-minute classes conducted by the Narcotics Officers Association.
According to Lillie’s testimony, however, the pictures he brought of the confiscated drugs to show the course instructor stunned the class.
According to sheriff’s Cpl. Bobby Nikiforuk, who also testified at the preliminary hearing, deputies arrested Pearsall shortly after midnight Sept. 23, a few days after the Symbiosis Gathering at Camp Mather.
Festival organizers billed the gathering as an art, music and conscious lifestyle event.
According to Nikiforuk, he and Deputy John Swisegood responded to a call that a man had stolen two cameras from a rental cabin at the nearby Evergreen Lodge. When they arrived on the scene, Nikiforuk said, the lodge’s maintenance man had apprehended a person with two cameras hanging around his neck.
Lodge manager Joseph Juszkiewicz reportedly saw the man he later identified as Pearsall walking away from the lodge wearing a backpack with a white poster sticking out. According to Nikiforuk, Juszkiewicz said he saw that man put something white into a hollowed out stump.
Juszkiewicz gave Pearsall a ride back to the main lodge, retrieved the cameras and sent him on his way after Pearsall wrote an apology note to the owner of the cameras, Nikiforuk said. Pearsall reportedly said he thought that his friend rented the cabin and was retrieving the cameras for him.
Nikiforuk said he, Swisegood and the manager went to investigate the hollowed out tree and found two boxes in it and six plastic bags filled with a white, crystallized substance buried near it.
Nikiforuk said he suspected that the substance was a drug, and went looking for Pearsall.
“The baggies were really small with a white, powdery crystallized substance,” he said. “I’ve seen it over 100 times.”
Nikiforuk and Swisegood apprehended Pearsall about 90 minutes later at Camp Mather, where the crowd from the Symbiosis festival was still cleaning up. They stopped him and checked his backpack.
In the backpack, Nikiforuk said, there was a gallon bag of an orange-brown sugary substance and more of the same broken into smaller bags. There was also another small bag of white powdery substance and $3,542 in cash, he said.
After booking Pearsall into the Tuolumne County Jail, officers recovered a small white pill from his pocket and a partial blue pill from the seat of the patrol car, Nikiforuk said.
The orange-brown substance and the white substance were given to Lillie. After tests for methamphetamine and cocaine came back negative, Lillie gave the substances to the Department of Justice for testing.
According to Lillie’s report, the chemist confirmed that the substances were ketamine and DMT. One of the small pills tested as clonazepam, a prescription muscle relaxer.
Pearsall had no scales on him or packaging for the large quantity of DMT he allegedly possessed, Nikiforuk said.
Pearsall’s next hearing is Jan. 4 at 1:30 p.m. in Tuolumne County Superior Court.
Written by Ashley Archibald,
The Union Democrat
December 10, 2009 01:03 pm