Fisher: Charges appropriate

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
District Attorney Mike Fisher said a sufficient amount of the material carried by this transport truck tested positive as marijuana to sustain the drug-trafficking case his office has filed. Photo by Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

Osage County’s district attorney said Monday he thinks the charges his office has filed in what is shaping up to potentially be a major marijuana confiscation case are appropriate.

District Attorney Mike Fisher told the Journal-Capital that 11 samples taken by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from a transport truckload of material being shipped from Kentucky to Colorado had been tested by a laboratory in the Washington, D.C. area once the partial shutdown of the federal government ended.

Of the 11 samples, eight tested presumptive positive for marijuana, Fisher said. Of those eight, five samples met the federal standard for a determination that a substance is marijuana, even taking into account the margin of error on the tests, he said.

The question at issue is whether the material in the truck was marijuana or industrial hemp. Fisher said the test results he has received assure him that at least a portion of the material can legally be classified as marijuana. He said the test results had so far been shared with his office and other law enforcement but not, to his knowledge, with defense attorneys.

“We believe the charges we have pending are the appropriate charges,” Fisher said. His office on Jan. 15 formally charged four men with one count each of aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs. The suspects have been identified as Andrew Jason Ross, 29, of Aurora, Colo.; David Melvin Dirksen, 31, of Comstock Park, Mich.; Tadesse Degufu Deneke, 51, of Mobile, Ala.; and Farah Hassan Warsame, 33, of Cleveland, Ohio.

All four pleaded not guilty in a Jan. 15 arraignment hearing in Osage County District Court. Court records show Deneke and Warsame have a court date scheduled for March 7. Ross and Dirksen have a March 22 court date, according to court records. Ross and Dirksen, who were providing security for the load, also face one count each of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The case stems from a traffic stop by Pawhuska police about 3 a.m. Jan. 9.

Asked Monday if prosecutors know yet how much of the transport truck load of material they think is marijuana, Fisher said additional test results would be needed to make that determination.

Fisher also said Monday that, in cases unrelated to the aggravated trafficking matter, Osage County law officers have been encountering people lately who do not have state-issued medical marijuana licenses but who claim that marijuana they are found to possess is nonetheless “medical marijuana.” He said law officers recently discovered five marijuana plants at a location, only to be told by a suspect or suspects that the plants were “medical marijuana.” No state medical marijuana license was provided, the district attorney said.