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Stark County judge rejects proposed agreement in pot case

A judge rejected a proposed plea agreement which would have put two men accused of transporting about 50 pounds of marijuana on probation during a hearing at the Stark County Courthouse Tuesday.

Arturas Teras of Clear Lake, Calif., and Donatas Jasiulionis of Seattle were charged with possessing and intending to deliver marijuana after their vehicle was pulled over on Interstate 94 in Dickinson in November 2009.

The men intended to plead guilty to the charges as part of the plea agreement, which would give them a suspended sentence of five years. They would have also had to pay a $5,000 fine and forfeit about $2,000 cash, which was in their possession at the time they were pulled over.

"I heard quite a bit about the case and I guess I'm somewhat surprised that the state would offer this type of plea agreement," Judge William Herauf said. "I'm concerned with the amount of drugs."

Herauf took a short break to contemplate the agreement and when he returned, said he wouldn't accept it.

Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning said he offered the agreement because they have no criminal history and both men, who are from Lithuania, would likely be deported.

"You're not dealing with hardcore drugs," Mary Nordsven, Teras's attorney said. "If they were to serve a period of incarceration, that then is picked up by the taxpayers of the state of North Dakota."

"Quite frankly, regardless of what this court does my client's life is already completely ruined," Kelly Armstrong, Jasiulionis's attorney said.

If Herauf would have accepted the agreement, Teras and Jasiulionis would have given conditional guilty pleas, their attorneys said. This is so they can withdraw the pleas and appeal Herauf's decision in June to reject a motion to suppress evidence against them.

Nordsven and Armstrong tried to prove during June hearings the men were erroneously pulled over and the narcotics dog which sniffed the vehicle did not properly alert police to drugs.

Officers said the dog did not alert the way she was trained to, but did let officers know there were drugs in the vehicle, which led police to search it and allegedly discover the marijuana.

After the hearing, Armstrong said Jasiulionis still wants to appeal the motion to suppress evidence.

"If we'd win the trial, there'd be no reason to appeal," Armstrong said. "Any verdict of guilt allows us to appeal the suppression hearing."

Henning and Nordsven declined comment after the hearing.