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Slippery road lands two in district court on drug charges

GREENFIELD — Two Greenfield men pleaded not guilty in Greenfield District Court on Monday during their arraignment on drug charges stemming from bad road conditions.

Sgt. Adam Hakkarainen of the Northampton State Police said Trooper Ali Rei responded to a report of a vehicle off the road on Interstate 91 northbound in Whately at 12:47 a.m. Monday and subsequently arrested the driver and a passenger.

Damien Johnson, 25, of 391 Federal St., is charged with possession of a Class E drug, possession of a Class B drug with intent to distribute, possession of a Class B drug as a subsequent offense, conspiracy to violate drug laws, resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police officer.

Hector R. Zapata, 34, of 167 South Shelburne Road, faces lesser charges, a single criminal charge of conspiracy to violate drug laws and a charge of driving without a license.

According to Rei’s report, she responded to the accident to find a sedan more than 100 feet off the icy roadway, into the wood line and fence, with the two men pacing nearby.

Both indicated they were not injured, and Zapata said he was driving when he hit a patch of ice and the car went off the road and became stuck, according to the report.

Johnson was slow to answer questions, avoided eye contact, and both provided conflicting answers to questions, Rei wrote, including where they were coming from. Johnson at one point said he was visiting family in Springfield, but was later unable to name the family member, according to the report.

Database queries found neither were licensed to drive, neither owned the car, and Johnson had a number of open drug charges and a history including assault and battery and assault and battery on a police officer, Rei wrote.

After neither was able to name the car’s owner and observing Johnson repeatedly pinching and patting his pants, Rei called another trooper. When the other trooper began to search Johnson, Johnson struck him in the chest with his arm and ran away, eventually stopping after jettisoning something in the woods, according to the report. A K9 search found a cigarette box containing a large corner bag — a knotted-off corner of a plastic bag — containing what Rei believed to be crack cocaine, a second, smaller corner containing what she believed to be powder cocaine, and five small pink pills marked as containing the prescription opiate painkiller oxycodone.

Police charged Johnson with possession to distribute rather than for personal use because he was not carrying a crack pipe.

“Crack users most often have a small glass pipe in their possession to smoke the narcotics,” Rei wrote.

The use of a car not connected to the driver or passengers is also common with drug dealers or users looking to buy drugs, Rei wrote, and Springfield is a known source city for narcotics.

This and his evasive responses led to the conspiracy charge against Zapata, according to Rei’s report.

Judge William Mazanec ordered Zapata released on personal recognizance and set bail for Johnson at $2,500 cash or $25,000 surety, later remanding Johnson to the Franklin County House of Correction in lieu of bail, pending his next February court date.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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