Comments Off on Drug dealing pilot denied bail request by Montco judge

NORRISTOWN – Amid reports that an alleged drug dealing pilot made threats against a police informant, a judge has denied the Colorado man’s request for reduced bail.

In fighting James Michael Handzus’ request for a reduction in his $500,000 cash bail, Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele alleged to a judge on Wednesday that a police dispatcher overheard Handzus, after he was in custody, tell another defendant in the case that someone should “kill that (expletive),” referring to an informant who reportedly assisted police in the investigation.

“The risk he poses should he get out of prison is great,” Steele argued to Judge R. Stephen Barrett.

Barrett indicated he was concerned about Handzus’ alleged statement.

“That’s a pretty drastic statement attributed to your client,” Barrett addressed defense lawyer Douglas P. Earl. “If somebody threatens to hurt someone, if it did happen, isn’t that an appropriate amount of bail?”

“I’m concerned, if in fact it was true he made those threats, he needs to post a substantial amount of bail,” added Barrett, denying Handzus’ request for reduced bail.

Handzus, 51, denied making threats against an informant.

“I never made that statement. I’m not a violent person. I’m a hardworking person,” Handzus told the judge.

Earl argued that reduced bail was appropriate for Handzus because Handzus has “contacts in the area,” has lived at the same address in Colorado for 10 years and is not a risk to flee. Earl said the private plane Handzus was piloting when he was arrested near Wing’s Field in Whitpain in April has been seized by authorities.

“He has no resources to go anywhere,” Earl argued.

But Steele successfully argued that Handzus’ risk to flee, the likelihood of his conviction and the risk he poses to society are all reasons that the $500,000 cash bail should remain intact.

Handzus and Tamara Vincent, 41, both of Rifle, Colo., were arrested during a sting operation in April and charged with allegedly trafficking methamphetamine.

In March, the district attorney’s Drug Task Force and Narcotics Enforcement Team, which had been investigating the distribution of methamphetamine in the county, learned that Handzus allegedly had been smuggling large quantities of the drug into the county using his airplane, a 1959 Piper Comanche nicknamed “My Lady,” according to arrest documents.

On April 21, authorities learned Handzus was arriving at Wing’s Field in Whitpain, court papers indicate. Although Handzus did not file flight plans before piloting the aircraft on a 2,400 mile trip from Las Vegas, investigators had seen his Facebook page and learned of his travel plans, court records indicate. After the Colorado couple was in town, an undercover detective arranged to purchase the meth from Handzus the following day, according to arrest documents. The undercover detective arranged to meet Handzus and Vincent at Ruby Tuesday’s on Chemical Road in Plymouth, court papers indicate.

At the restaurant, Vincent allegedly explained that her boyfriend had family in the area, and when the couple visited they brought the drugs to sell to pay expenses and provide spending money, according to court papers. She allegedly agreed to sell the undercover detective the pound of meth for $27,000.

Vincent suggested the prospective buyer could divide the substance up into eighths of an ounce, called “eight balls,” that would sell on the street for between $500 to $600 each, according to prosecutors. Selling the meth in those quantities would result in a street value between $64,000 and $76,800, authorities alleged.

After inspecting the meth, the undercover detective gave Vincent a $2,000 payment. Detectives then moved in and arrested the couple, and the pound of “crystal meth” was seized from the couple’s luggage, according to court documents.

Prosecutors previously alleged the methamphetamine was manufactured in Mexico and sent to Las Vegas, which is “the hub of distribution” for the illicit narcotic in the United States. Prosecutors described the confiscated drugs as “very high grade.”

http://pottsmerc.com/articles/2011/07/04/news/srv0000012228485.txt?viewmode=fullstory

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