THE seizure and search of Yuzhu Zhang’s vehicle was lawful, Deputy Attorney General Steven Kessel said in response to the defendant’s request to suppress evidence.
Zhang was accused of attempting to smuggle 4.9 pounds of methamphetamine out of California through the mail. The confiscated contraband has a street value of about $700,000, authorities said.
Zhang, 48, was charged with importing contraband, trafficking and possession of a controlled substance. He has denied the allegations.
Zhang is being represented by Assistant Public Defender Vina Seelam, who asked the court to suppress all evidence discovered as a result of the search of her client’s vehicle and all observations by the police during and after the search of his vehicle.
For his part, Kessel has asked the Supreme Court to deny Zhang’s request for suppression of evidence.
According to Kessel, officers from the CNMI Customs Service were operating within the jurisdictional parameters of 6 CMC 2304 at the time the defendant was arrested and his vehicle searched.
“The customs service retained its jurisdiction, although by the time the defendant was detained and his vehicle was searched, the package in question no longer contained any suspected contraband,” Kessel said.
He also said the defendant’s detention and search occurred within 72 hours of the suspected contraband arriving in the package in the Commonwealth.
“The container with the contraband was constantly monitored by Customs from the moment it entered the Commonwealth,” Kessel said.
Once a lawful arrest was made, Kessel said, officers would have reason to believe evidence of the crime for which the defendant was arrested was in Zhang’s Toyota Yaris.
“Indeed, the subsequent search of the Yaris turned up just that – evidence relevant to the crime for which he was arrested – in the form of 19 individual bags of alleged methamphetamine weighing 26.3 grams gross and $4,239 in small denominations.” said Kessel.
He added that confessions made while the accused was in custody are admissible if the government can show that the accused waived his rights “intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily” under the overall circumstances.
Zhang’s jury trial is scheduled for September 26, 2022.
Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has ordered bail of $1 million for the defendant, who is currently in Justice Department custody.
Zhang told police investigators through an interpreter that an unidentified man offered him $100 to pick up a large package of chinaware from a postal service in Garapan and take it to the back of a gas station on Beach Road.
Zhang also stated that the $4,239 in cash found in his vehicle belonged to him, but not the 19 small clear plastic bags of methamphetamine, which weighed 26.3 grams.
Investigators stated that the cash and meth found in Zhang’s vehicle were strong indications that he was a drug trafficker and trafficker.