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VIRGINIA GUILBEAU v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

JANUARY 28, 1987

VIRGINIA GUILBEAU
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P. J., PRATHER AND ANDERSON, JJ.

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Virginia Guilbeau was convicted in the Circuit Court of Hancock County of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. From a sentence of 20 years in prison, with 5 years suspended, and a fine of $150,000, Mrs. Guilbeau appeals. This Court affirms.

A" sting "operation began in McAllen, Texas where Gregory Ladner, son of the appellant, and Junco Ivan Martinez allegedly hired James Beaupre, an undercover agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to receive and store a large quantity of Columbian marijuana. Dennis Bryant, another DEA undercover agent agreed to haul the marijuana to

 Mississippi in a Ryder rental truck. Martinez gave Beaupre a telephone number for Bryant to call upon arriving in Mississippi. The telephone number was listed in the Hancock County, Mississippi telephone directory adjacent to the name of the appellant, Virginia Guilbeau.

 On March 24, 1984, Agent Bryant drove the rental truck full of marijuana to Slidell, Louisiana, where he telephoned the number given to him by Agent Beaupre. Agent Bryant talked to a Spanish-speaking man named Raul and informed Raul that he would arrive at a hospitality center and rest area on Interstate 10 at approximately 9:30 a. m.

 Agent Bryant arrived at the rest area in Hancock County at approximately 9:40 a.m. Agent Bryant was driving alone, but following closely behind in a pickup truck was undercover DEA Agent Michelle Ashley. In addition, DEA Agent William Dodge was staked out at the rest area in a Winnebago surveillance vehicle.

 After parking the Ryder truck, Agent Bryant got out and began a conversation with Agent Ashley. Shortly, appellant approached the truck, circled behind, and eventually approached Agent Bryant and asked if he was the driver. Mrs. Guilbeau was carrying a piece of paper containing the description and tag number of the rental truck. Mrs. Guilbeau asked Agent Bryant if the truck was locked, to which Agent Bryant responded that the key to the back end of the truck was on the key ring with the ignition key. Agent Bryant then admonished Mrs. Guilbeau to be careful because the truck contained a large load. Mrs. Guilbeau responded," Yes, I know. Don't worry about it, I have other people in the area and we're going to be taking it along with us. "

 Agent Bryant turned the keys over to Mrs. Guilbeau and departed with Agent Ashley. Agent Dodge continued his surveillance. Subsequently, the rental truck, driven by a Latin male, exited the rest stop onto Interstate 10 following a white Lincoln automobile driven by Mrs. Guilbeau, and occupied by her son, Gregory Ladner.

 The two vehicles eventually turned off I-10 onto Hwy. 603 and eventually found their way to Mrs. Guilbeau's farm on Fire Tower Road.

 Agent Audis Jerome Wells was staked out near the Guilbeau farm and observed the Ryder truck parked behind a barn. As Agent Wells drove away from the Guilbeau farm, he was stopped and confronted by Virginia Guilbeau, who had switched to a red automobile. After informing Agent Wells he

 had no business in her neighborhood, Mrs. Guilbeau traveled to a local sheriff's sub-station where she discovered the DEA's Winnebago surveillance vehicle. Mrs. Guilbeau looked inside the vehicle, pulled on the doors, but the vehicle was locked .

 Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Guilbeau was arrested along with her son Gregory Ladner, Junco Ivan Martinez, and Raul Rajas Lazardo. The four were charged with possession and intent to distribute 5,100 pounds of marijuana in violation of Miss. Code Ann. 41-29-139 (Supp.1986).

 Mrs. Guilbeau was tried alone and was found guilty. She was sentenced to a term of twenty years, five years suspended, in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Additionally, Mrs. Guilbeau was ordered to pay a fine of $150,000.

 Was the defendant entitled to a directed verdict or a new trial?

 Under this assignment of error, the appellant contends:

 (1) The State failed to prove she possessed the marijuana;

 (2) The State failed to prove she knew there was marijuana in the rental truck; and

 (3 ) The State failed to prove she intended to distribute or transfer the marijuana.

 Central to appellant's argument is the fact that this case was a circumstantial evidence case." Circumstantial evidence is entitled to the same weight and effect as direct evidence and this Court has upheld convictions based solely on circumstantial evidence. "*fn1 Cardwell v. State, 461 So. 2d 754, 760 (Miss. 1984). However, where the evidence of guilt is largely circumstantial, the State is required to prove the accused's guilt not only beyond a reasonable doubt, but to the exclusion of every other reasonable ...


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