John Eric Hobert, 44, Minot, pleaded "not guilty" to four felonies, including a Class AA felony charge of possession of methamphetamines with intent to deliver, Thursday morning at Northwest District Court at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot.
Hobert is also charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, all Class C felonies. He has at least two prior felony convictions including an aggravated assault charge in Orange, Texas, from 2006.
The incident leading to the charges took place on Jan. 20 when Hobert allegedly led police on a high-speed pursuit through Minot, eventually ending at a truckstop where officers apprehended him. According to an affidavit filed by Minot Police Officer Charles Shane Johnson, "officers observed drug paraphernalia in plain view" inside of the vehicle.
Johnson's testimony on Thursday backed up his affidavit when he said that a pipe, which later tested positive for methamphetamine, was seen in the back seat of the vehicle and that a "sandwich bag" containing many other bags was found on the "passenger-side floorboard." The bags inside the sandwich bag were also sandwich bags with methamphetamine in one corner of each and tied off. Johnson testified that in his experience this goes beyond personal use and into an amount large enough for distribution.
Andrew Jerome Schultz, of Minot's Schultz Law Firm, questioned the class AA felony charge, which could amount to life in prison. He believes the charge should be no greater than a class A felony charge because although a firearm was found in the vehicle, increasing the severity of the crime, the prosecution has not offered substantial evidence that Hobert had access to it during the events.
Judge Todd Cresap ruled that in a preliminary hearing the bar is set very low for the prosecution and that there was substantial evidence enough to move forward with all four charges.