Cocaine trafficking suspect to be arraigned |

Cocaine trafficking suspect to be arraigned

Christina Proctor

The testimony of an alleged accomplice and a fingerprint were found to be sufficient evidence to bind a 34-year-old Tahoe Paradise man over for arraignment in Douglas County District Court on charges of cocaine trafficking and conspiracy.

Donald Evans Rose Jr., 34, of Tahoe Paradise, was arrested June 18 at his parents’ house in San Pablo, Calif., in connection with a suspected cocaine trafficking operation through a Zephyr Cove travel agency. Also arrested in the case was Phillip R. LeBerge, 49, owner of Tahoe Travelers, located in the Round Hill Shopping Center.

The arrests came about from an undercover investigation by the South Shore narcotics task force, SLEDNET.

In a preliminary hearing on Rose’s case Wednesday, LeBerge testified that he first met Rose through a mutual friend in October of 1995. LeBerge said from that first meeting to June of 1997, Rose supplied him with about 2 ounces of cocaine approximately once a month for the purpose of sales.

LeBerge said the cocaine was delivered by Federal Express and sometimes personally by Rose. LeBerge, who is also facing prosecution in this matter, admitted on cross examination that for his willingness to testify against Rose, Deputy District Attorney Alan Buttell had offered him a deal. The agreement was that for his testimony LeBerge would plea to an offense that could allow his sentence to be just probation. LeBerge’s preliminary hearing also was originally set for Wednesday, but was continued.

LeBerge said that in June of 1997 Rose called him from Honolulu and told him that he would be sending by FedEx about 8 ounces of cocaine.

A package addressed to LeBerge was intercepted by the task force on June 13 at the Carson City FedEx office. A K-9 officer with the Carson City Sheriff’s Office was called in and in a package lineup the narcotics dog alerted on the package. A search warrant was obtained and in a preliminary test SLEDNET agents identified cocaine in the package. It was then repackaged into a new FedEx envelope and delivered by an undercover agent to LeBerge at Tahoe Travelers on June 17. LeBerge was arrested later that day.

The package and its contents were taken to the Washoe County crime lab for chemical and fingerprint testing. Becky Hawkins, an evidence technician at the lab, testified that she was able to take one latent fingerprint from one the baggies inside the package. She said the print matched the right index finger of Rose’s fingerprint card. Rose’s prints were taken when he was booked into the Douglas County Jail.

A FedEx employee testified that approximately 15 tracking inquires were made about the package from June 13-17. The man calling was not Rose, but a SLEDNET agent testified that the inquires consistently came from Rose’s parents’ home in San Pablo.

Defense attorney Rick Freeman offered no evidence or witnesses in Rose’s defense at the preliminary hearing Wednesday. Freeman argued that, by law, LaBerge’s testimony as an accomplice should not be taken unless there is corroborating evidence. Freeman said Hawkins could only testify to one fingerprint on a baggy that did not contain cocaine at the time she examined it, and she could not say when it was placed there.

Judge James Mancuso disagreed, finding the fingerprint and the telephone number tie-in to the San Pablo house sufficient evidence to corroborate LaBerge’s testimony and ordered the case set for arraignment in the District Court in Minden.

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