Sanders takes the stand

L’ANSE – The man accused of trying to transport drugs from Flint to Calumet before he was stopped in L’Anse testified Wednesday his passenger put them in the trunk without his knowledge.

Harvey Sanders Jr., 54, was in the second day of his trial in Baraga County Circuit Court. He faces eight felony drug counts stemming from the May 2013 traffic stop.

Sanders traded recollections of the trip and its preparation with his passenger, and now prosecution witness, Justin Jinks, who made the trip with Sanders.

In May, police stopped a car driven by Sanders in L’Anse after he was spotted driving in a manner they said was erratic. Michigan State Police troopers found an envelope filled with pills and cocaine in the trunk of Sanders’ car.

Jinks said it contained drugs they both planned to sell in the Calumet area; Sanders denies his involvement.

Before returning to Calumet in May, Sanders said, he went over to Jinks’ house, where Jinks had him back the car up to his house so he could load things in the trunk.

“The only thing I helped Jinks do is come up here,” he said. “That’s it. Now he played me like that because I guess he thinks I’m old and silly – which, I must say, he got me. He got me.”

On the stand Wednesday, Jinks said most, but not all, of the drugs had been his. And Sanders had known about them.

“I was in a cast up to my thigh,” he said. “There’s no way that I’m putting all that stuff in a car myself.”

Sanders said although Jinks was in a cast, it was only up to his shin, and he had been able to move around freely.

Sanders said he had come to know Jinks through his nephew, who was friends with Jinks’ roommates. Sanders had come up before to bring Jinks’ dog to Calumet on April 27, spending two days in Calumet.

Jinks claimed Sanders brought drugs up to Calumet on that trip, which Jinks sold. Sanders denied the allegations.

On the second trip, Sanders said he had not been aware of any drugs in the car. When he told Jinks he was tired, Jinks asked him “Do you want to do a line with me?”

However, he said, he had told Jinks no, and had not seen him produce any drugs.

Sanders looked over some text messages between himself and Jinks, starting on April 26 leading up to the date of the trip. Sanders said one message was related to his sister’s prescription medication, which Jinks was trying to get.

“This never happened,” he said.

Prosecutor Joseph O’Leary asked him to explain a text with the amount $270, 60 mg, and the words “Let’s go.” Sanders said the amount refers to the amount his sister would have to pay for her medication, and that the “let’s go” referred to his anxiety to return upstate, where his girlfriend had stayed after their first trip to Calumet.

The two main witnesses also disagreed over what had happened once they were jailed. Jinks said Sanders had threatened him.

“He was saying, if he does catch a case over this, he’s going to send people to my house,” he said.

Sanders recalled it differently. When he asked Jinks to clear his name, he said, Jinks’ response was, “What you want me to do, rat myself out? … I’m going to see how it play out.”

Sanders hypothesized Jinks is attempting to get revenge for getting them pulled over and interfering with Jinks’ plans.

Sanders is charged with five 20-year felony counts of possessing less than 50 grams of a controlled substance with intent to deliver – one each for cocaine, morphine, hydromorphone, methadone and oxycodone. He also faces a seven-year felony charge of possession with intent to deliver dihydrocodeinone and four-year charges of possession with intent to deliver alprazolam and phenobarbital.

A misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana was dismissed.

Because of a habitual offender notice, Sanders could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of any of the six felonies carrying five years or more. For offenses with lower maximum sentences, he could serve 15 years or less. Sanders was previously convicted of a felony firearm charge and felony assault with intent to rob while armed in Flint in 1986, and felony escape from jail through violence and assault of a prison employee in Marquette in 2001.

After the defense rested, Wednesday’s session ended with discussion over whether O’Leary would be able to call two more witnesses. O’Leary said he had not planned to call Baraga County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jim Gabe, but that he could testify as to the length of Jinks’ cast, which Jinks and Sanders had clashed over. O’Leary said he also hoped to recall Jinks to clarify the meaning of texts he had exchanged with Sanders.

Neither witness should be called, Sanders’ attorney David Gemignani said, since they had been in the courtroom to hear other testimony. Judge Charles Goodman said he would look at any relevant legal precedents.

The trial had been scheduled to end Wednesday, but was extended until today.