The elderly California couple who last month claimed the marijuana found in their truck was for Christmas presents appeared in Lancaster County court Wednesday for the first time since being charged with having $18,000 in drug money.
Patrick and Barbara Jiron, of Clearlake Oaks, said little at the court hearing and declined comment on the allegations outside the courtroom.
Both are accused of possession of drug money in connection with a stop on Interstate 80 west of Lincoln on Tuesday.
A Lancaster County sheriff's deputy stopped the truck they were riding in and eventually had a drug dog sniff the vehicle after developing suspicion that "criminal activity was afoot," Sheriff Terry Wagner said. That suspicion wasn't specified.
A drug dog indicated it smelled drugs in the truck, so deputies searched the truck and found most of the money in a duffel bag in the cargo area, the report said. The money and a garbage bag in the back of the truck contained traces of marijuana, according to the sheriff's office.
Patrick Jiron, 80, and his wife, Barbara Jiron, 70, were each released from the Lancaster County jail on $2,500 bond Tuesday afternoon.
In December, the couple was stopped by York County sheriff's deputies who found an estimated $300,000 of marijuana in their vehicle. En route to Vermont, the Jirons told police they were unaware it was illegal to transport marijuana through Nebraska and they were planning to give the drug as Christmas presents. The couple has pending charges for possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver.
Wednesday, a judge appointed the Lancaster County Public Defender's Office to represent Barbara Jiron.
After court, Lincoln attorney John Berry, who represents Patrick Jiron in both cases, said he didn't know enough yet about the Lancaster County stop to comment further on it or how Jiron will plead.
But Berry said he would analyze the evidence of the case to determine whether there was an illegal search, seizure or other violation of his client's Fourth Amendment rights.
On Interstate 80, law enforcement are often looking to bust drug traffickers under the theory that drugs go east and money goes west.
Some California drivers Berry has spoken to say they do feel targeted by Nebraska law enforcement, he said.
"A lot of time people who are stopped feel profiled, feel their rights have been violated," Berry said.
Berry said he couldn't say whether the Jirons feel they were targeted by law enforcement for the stop.
"As you know, Mr. Jiron is presumed innocent, and we're going to protect his rights."
The couple have separate hearings in York County Court next week, according to court records.