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Jury deadlocked in marijuana smuggling trial

| December 26, 2006 11:00 PM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Editor

A jury in Missoula failed to reach a verdict in the federal case against an Idaho man arrested in August in the largest marijuana bust in Lincoln County history.

David E. Newcomb, 55, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute along with a conspiracy charge. His co-defendant in the case, Donald J. Cramer, 61, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and testified against Newcomb at last week's trial. Cramer has not yet been sentenced.

Both from Kootenai County, Idaho, the two were arrested after a Forest Service fire lookout reported a suspicious float plane flying from the direction of Canada toward Lake Koocanusa. Officers from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and the Montana Highway Patrol stopped a pickup truck headed away from the area where the plane had last been seen. An alert by U.S. Border Patrol officer's drug-sniffing dog subsequently led to a search of the truck that revealed 414 pounds of marijuana, valued at $2 million.

The driver was arrested and the truck seized, along with a motor home, a camper and a boat at what was believed to have been a staging area for smuggling activities. Another truck observed leaving the scene was later stopped by authorities in Idaho, leading to the arrest of the second man. The truck and $4,000 were seized by Idaho authorities.

The jury in the Newcomb case deliberated for about nine hours last Tuesday and Wednesday before reporting it was deadlocked, said Josh Van de Wetering, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.

A new trial date remains to be set, Van de Wetering said. If convicted, Newcomb faces five to 40 years in prison on each count.