When Ri Dong "Gino" Kuang left the hotel room authorities were surveilling March 19, Juneau Police Sgt. Dave Campbell made the call to arrest him and end the drug sting.
Campbell said Thursday he had mixed feelings about how Kuang's case panned out.
Police had audio and video evidence of Kuang, 38, setting up a drug deal to buy hundreds of 80-milligram OxyContin pills from a police informant, but a plea deal last week between the state's attorney and Kuang turned his initial felony drug charge into a misdemeanor. He'll be in prison for no more than a year, though he could avoid up to a third of that sentence through good behavior.
Campbell said he thought it was a strong case, but didn't want to second guess the district attorney's office legal expertise.
"I don't have all the expertise, the experience. ... I thought it was a good case. I'm happy there was a conviction," he said. "They're they experts. I'm going to trust that they made the right decision."
Assistant District Attorney Jack Schmidt has said one factor that weakened the state's case was that the drug deal had not been consummated when Kuang left the hotel room.
Campbell explained his call to make the arrest when he did. Some conditions for ending the sting were preset, Campbell said, and Kuang tripped two of them when he left the Travelodge hotel room where the buy was supposed to happen. The situation couldn't "go mobile," and there were instructions from the district attorney's office to maintain absolute control of the drugs (a combination of real pills and props) and to not let them leave the hotel.
"It's vital they're not lost, they don't disappear some how," Campbell said.
The police informant's safety also played a role. Court records document a partial exchange between Kuang and the police informant, DB10, in the hotel lobby and elevator moments before getting to the hotel room where the deal was supposed to happen.
Kuang: "You here by yourself? ... I hear you are commin' up here to be a snitch. Is that true?"
DB10: "Yeah, right."
Kuang: "I'll kick your f---ing ass. You won't leave this f---in' town alive, man."
Then the elevator stopped and Kuang, an associate and the informant went to the hotel room that was under surveillance. In the room, Kuang ordered his associate to search the room for surveillance equipment and personally searched under the informant's hat and patted down his pants looking for a recording device, according to court documents.
Then Kuang asked the informant to "take a ride" with him before an actual exchange was made. They left the room, Campbell made his call, and they were arrested outside.
"When the incident played out in hotel room, Gino wanted to go for a ride and left. In sticking with the plan, those considerations, it was my call: Let's go in right now," Campbell said.
The sting was conducted by a law enforcement partnership made up of the Juneau Police Department, the Alaska State Troopers, the Port of Seattle Police Department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
"I know the initial reaction, people are not happy, but... knowing something and believing something and being able to prove it in court are often two different animals," Campbell said.
Though rumors abound in Juneau about Kuang's connections to the drug trade, he's been convicted of only one other drug charge. Kuang pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor possession charge in 1998. In the latest case, his defense was prepared to argue that Kuang sought the pills for his personal addiction, rather than to resell.
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