Rather than denying any knowledge of the drugs and paraphernalia found inside his car, or offering to Nashville police that a hitchhiker left it behind, Robert Coley Jr. gave, in his mind, a perfectly plausible explanation for why what appeared to be a drug-selling operation was not as it seemed.
The two bags containing 11.5 grams of marijuana discovered by officer Miles Costa, he said, was for his personal use.
Now, if Sidebar were a police officer, he could buy that. (The story, not the weed.) Besides, there are cases establishing that without additional evidence, it would take a lot more than 11½ grams of bud to infer that one was distributing drugs.
But the rest of the evidence here is highly suggestive: $800 in cash, a digital scale, an opened box of sandwich bags, and 23 loose baggies scattered throughout the vehicle.
To many, including the officer (and later, the jury), the totality of the circumstances raised an inference that Coley was selling dope. But that wasn’t the case at all, Coley testified during trial.
The baggies? His drug dealer didn’t supply them.
The scales? He liked to weigh his grass after his dealer sprinkled it into the bag he provided. You know, he wanted to make sure he was getting what he paid for.
“It’s not like it’s a pre-packaged product where I’m going to know exactly what I’m getting is what they’re telling me,” Coley said.
Why did he have two bags of product? Well, basically, one of them wasn’t worth remembering.
“It just wasn’t good quality and I ended up buying something else and I guess I just forgot it
was in there,” he avered.
In the end, the Court of Appeals found that even if Coley spoke the gospel, there’s at least a chance that a rational jury might find his explanation to “lack credibility.”
As such, it affirmed his conviction for possession with intent to sell or deliver and the suspended sentence.
One thing is for sure, although Sidebar doesn’t know which thing it is. But either Coley fed the trial court a big ol’ fat fabrication, or his drug dealer needs to stop being so stingy.