A Petersburg jury this month returned one guilty verdict and one not guilty verdict for two local residents. The two were charged with sending methamphetamine in the mail with the intent of selling it in the community. Now the attorney for the woman found guilty in the case is asking for a new trial.
54-year-old Carlos Sandoval and 50-year-old Helen Olson were charged with misconduct involving a controlled substance in the second degree, a class B felony.
Police say they were tipped off that Sandoval had been traveling to Mexico and was bringing drugs to Petersburg. He was searched by police at the Juneau airport after returning from a trip to San Diego but had no drugs on him. Meanwhile, a U.S. Postal Inspector intercepted a box mailed to Olson in Petersburg containing 51 grams of meth. Authorities removed most of that shipment, left some of the drugs in the box and sent it back to Petersburg along with a tracking and alarm device to notify them when it had been retrieved. Police say Olson picked up the box at the Post Office with Sandoval in the car and the couple brought it back to their home but did not open it. The package had been mailed from southern California though a UPS office to Olson’s post office box. It had a fake return address.
Early the next morning on March 21, 2018 police served a search warrant at the home at 31 Towne Trailer Court. There they seized methamphetamine, a scale and other evidence.
During the trial, prosecuting attorney Kat Runnels argued both defendants were guilty of importing meth to Petersburg with the intent of selling it. She told the jury that the amount sent here was well beyond what the couple would be using on their own and was intended for sale in the community. Police officers testified the meth had a street value of $10,000 here.
Sandoval’s attorney Nicholas Polasky brought up the possibility that his client didn’t know anything about the drug shipment. He pointed out that Olson got the package from the Post Office in Petersburg, and did not open it with Sandoval.
Olson’s attorney Jay Hochberg admitted that his client was guilty of a lesser charge of drug possession. He told the jury that OIson did use drugs but said the shipment was for her own use, not for sale in town.
The jury did not hear about Sandoval’s statement to police following the search and arrest. Local police say he told them he purchased the drugs for $600 and planned to sell them to finance a new start for the couple. The attorneys and judge agreed before the trial that that admission would not be included in the trial unless Sandoval testified. Neither defendant took the stand. The defense only called one witness. The state called six witnesses, the U.S. Postal inspector, an employee from the state crime lab who tested the meth, along with current and former police officers from Petersburg and Juneau.
Jurors started deliberations Thursday afternoon and reached a verdict by the following morning, May 24th. They found Olson guilty of the charge and Sandoval not guilty.
Following the verdict, Olson’s attorney assistant public defender Jay Hochberg requested a new trial. Hochberg asserts that there’s new evidence that Sandoval has mailed drugs to Petersburg in a separate incident. Meanwhile her sentencing is scheduled for August 27th. The case against Sandoval was dismissed.
This was the first trial in Petersburg since February of last year.