Search yeilds drugs, paraphernalia, police say

| June 30, 2020 8:19 AM

A woman arrested after a traffic stop led to the discovery of an outstanding warrant pleaded not guilty to multiple drug-related charges in Lincoln County District Court on June 22.

Valerie Sue Dogtakinggun Grant faces a felony charge of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of dangerous drugs — for marijuana — and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.

Libby Police officer Cody DeWitt arrested Grant following the June 9 traffic stop near the intersection of 9th Street and California Avenue. In an affidavit, DeWitt said he pulled Grant’s vehicle over about 9:20 p.m. after noticing it lacked a visible front license plate.

DeWitt described almost immediately suspecting the presence of drugs in the vehicle. In the affidavit, he recalled smelling the odor of marijuana while speaking with the driver. He also noticed a bevy of air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror, “which I know from training and experience are often used to cover the smell of illegal drugs.”

The driver was identified as Joan Elaine Cobell-Brown using an expired Montana driver’s license and a tribal identification card. She admitted not having a valid license, allegedly telling DeWitt it expired in 2010. Cobell-Brown also allegedly told DeWitt the vehicle lacked insurance.

DeWitt recounted telling Cobell-Brown he planned to cite her for the infractions. While they spoke, Cobell-Brown allegedly told him that the passenger in the vehicle, Grant, owned the automobile. The pair was en route to Browning from Spokane, Wash., she said, according to court documents.

While DeWitt finished writing the citation, he learned from dispatchers that Grant had a felony warrant out of Glacier County for failure to appear for possession of drugs. He called for backup.

In the meantime, he asked Cobell-Brown about the possible presence of illegal contraband in the car. She denied, according to court documents. When he asked Grant, the other woman admitted to having a joint, according to the affidavit. She also gave him permission to search the car as well as their belongings.

But when DeWitt told the two they could stop the search at any point, they withdrew permission, court documents said.

DeWitt then told Grant she was under arrest for the warrant and that he planned to seize the car. Grant was taken to the Lincoln County Detention Center, where she offered a differing story than Cobell-Brown, telling authorities the pair had dropped off two women in Spokane, according to court documents.

“I know from speaking with Detective Brandon Holzer that drug users will often travel to Spokane because the cost of methamphetamine in our area is approximately $100 a gram and is approximately $40 a gram in the Spokane area,” DeWitt wrote in his affidavit.

During a subsequent search of Grant, authorities reported finding a methamphetamine pipe, snort tube and baggies, according to court documents. The pipe later tested presumptively positive for methamphetamine.

On June 12, DeWitt received a warrant to search the vehicle. Sgt. Chris Pape of the Libby Police Department and Detective Brandon Holzer of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office lent a hand in the search.

According to court documents, Pape and Holzer found drugs and drug paraphernalia. Holzer recorded finding four snort tubes, scales, a small digital sale, a baggie containing about .29 gram of methamphetamine and 7 grams of marijuana in two packages.

Pape found an additional 1.92 ounces of methamphetamine, four joints containing marijuana, a marijuana pipe with residue and a bag of methamphetamine weighing about 4 grams.

An omnibus hearing for Grant’s case is scheduled for Aug. 24 with a pretrial conference to follow on Oct. 5. A trial date is set for Nov. 17.