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Verdict expected today in alleged meth distribution conspiracy

Posted: Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A jury is expected to return a verdict in United States District Court in Juneau today concerning a local man accused of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 200 grams of methamphetamine.

Juneau resident Ryan Budd Burnett, arrested on a federal warrant by the Juneau Police Department on Oct. 21, 2010, was on trial before Judge Timothy Burgess on Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt alleged Burnett was a member of a drug trafficking conspiracy that existed at least between Nov. 7 and Nov. 11, 2009 in Juneau and elsewhere.

Defense attorney Kirsten Swanson countered her client was just a pawn.

A witness agreed to testify in exchange for a promise by the government that a previous court ruling stemming from this incident in the witness’ favor would not be appealed and dismissing the charges against the witness.

According to court documents and testimony, Burnett and the witness traveled to Seattle in order to obtain methamphetamine for distribution in Juneau.

Burnett flew to Seattle on Nov. 7 to obtain approximately 11 ounces of meth. It was then arranged for the witness to fly to Seattle for the purpose of carrying the drugs back via Alaska Airlines.

Port of Seattle Police Officer Tyrone Haggin, working with a special unit conducting drug operations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, testified the last-minute purchase of the witness’ ticket with no bags checked and a quick turn-around were red flags.

Haggin observed the witness was nervous and shaking on arrival and questioned her about her travel plans. A surveillance team observed Burnett pick the witness up in a rental car.

Witness testimony and surveillance video showed the pair together at numerous locations. The witness said they were using the meth Burnett obtained. One video shows Burnett buying the clothing, tape, and baggies used to hide the meth on the witness’ body for transportation.

The return travel dates of the pair changed multiple times until the morning of Nov. 11, when Burnett drove the witness to Sea-Tac where they were both scheduled to fly out.

The witness was arrested at the Seattle airport with a substantial amount of meth. Burnett was contacted at the departing gate by Port of Seattle Police Officer Daniel Breed of the Jetway Interdiction Task Force, but denied knowing the witness and denied he was indeed Burnett.

Burnett was taken to the booking room at the airport.

Brittany Huntington, a forensic chemist at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s western laboratory in San Francisco conducted the analysis on the recovered drugs and testified to the overall weight and scientific forensic methods she used to make the determination.

As a background video showed Burnett and the witness purchasing the items used to hide the meth, Schmidt started his closing arguments.

Schmidt pointed out Burnett paid cash but had the witness use her state of Alaska ID so if anything happened he was clean.

Schmidt asked, “Why would he lie when contacted at the airport? Clearly they were together the whole time. Clearly he knew her. Clearly he lied.”

Swanson closed by saying to the jury that they don’t have to like Burnett, or the fact he did meth or who he associates with. However, the jury must find there was an act beyond who he associated with.

Swanson also said this was Southeast Alaska and not uncommon for someone to travel last minute and not everyone likes to drive in Seattle.

“You need more than speculation,” Swanson said. “He picked her up and dropped her off so he got sucked in.”

Schmidt countered Burnett denied everything the video evidence showed happened, and the only reason he would do that was because of guilt.

Burgess told the jury before deliberations that since the witness admitted to being an accomplice they should examine her testimony with greater care than other witnesses.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.



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