Pubdate: Tue, 07 Nov 2000
Source: Longview News-Journal (TX)
Copyright: 2000sCox Interactive Media
Contact:  P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75605
Fax: 903.757.3742
Author: Anntoinette Moore


TYLER -- Federal charges against a Chicago man caught with more than 2
kilograms of heroin while riding an Amtrak train through Gregg County
were dropped Monday.

On Oct. 24, U.S. District Judge William M. Steger ruled Gregg County
narcotics agents illegally detained and searched Jonathan Dockens, 53,
so he can't be prosecuted for the heroin found in his Amtrak sleeping

Two Gregg County Organized Drug Enforcement unit agents, Ron Buckner
and Rob Bowen, detained and questioned Dockens as he traveled through
the county March 2 on a train from Los Angeles to Chicago. They
arrested him after they found 2,300 grams of heroin in a duffel bag in
his sleeping compartment, according to testimony at a July 24 hearing
before Steger at the Tyler federal courthouse.

Steger's order says Dockens was confined in a small area while Buckner
questioned him and wouldn't have felt free to decline Buckner's
requests for consent to search the compartment.

The seizure was not supported by "a reasonable and articulable
suspicion" that Dockens was involved in criminal activity, the order
says. In addition, the government failed to prove Dockens voluntarily
gave consent to search and wasn't coerced into giving it, the order

Robert Harshaw, administrator for the Gregg CODE unit, said Monday he
respected Steger's decision.

"Of course, it's based on interpretation of the audiotape," Harshaw

A tape of Buckner's questioning of Dockens was played during the July
24 hearing. Though Buckner said Dockens gave him permission to search
the compartment, Steger, after listening to the recording, disagreed.

The judge's order says Buckner asked, "Would you object to a search of
your room?" to which Dockens replied, "Yeah!"

Buckner took this as consent, asked Dockens to step out of the
compartment and searched it, finding the heroin in a duffel bag under
Dockens' bed.

Harshaw said Steger's ruling is unlikely to change the procedure used
by CODE agents to question suspected drug traffickers on Amtrak,
though it may change the agents' "demeanor."

"I'm sure the questions will be more pointed and more specific," he
said. In questioning suspected drug traffickers, some mistakes will
occur, Harshaw said.

Still, "We took more than 41/2 pounds of black tar heroin off the
streets" by arresting Dockens, he said.

In the July 24 hearing, Buckner said he and Bowen ride Amtrak trains
six days a week and single out one to five passengers of the 200 or so
on each train for questioning.

The confiscated drugs are the only evidence against Dockens, according
to a March 13 federal indictment charging him with possession with
intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonda Curry said prosecutors filed a motion
Friday to dismiss the indictment against Dockens. The motion was in
response to Steger's ruling.

"The evidence is inadmissable here. There's no way that evidence could
be introduced against him here, in federal court in the Eastern
District of Texas," she said.

"We knew when we went into the suppression hearing that it would be a
close decision. We felt that it could have gone either way," Curry

"It's unfortunate that the officers were interfered with and
distracted to a degree that kept them from doing what they normally
do," she said.

Testimony at the July 24 suppression hearing showed an Amtrak employee
confronted the CODE agents shortly after they began questioning Dockens.

Most of the heroin seized from Dockens had been destroyed by the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration before Steger's ruling, Curry said. A
representative sample was kept as evidence for Dockens' trial. It now
will be kept for a certain amount of time and then destroyed, too, she

Dockens was released from the Smith County Jail Monday.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek