A Columbus woman charged with smuggling more than $1.5 million worth of ecstasy onto a Greyhound bus has maintained her innocence, claiming she had nothing to do with a duffel bag packed with some 79,000 pills that police discovered under her seat.
The defense attorney for Yasmeen Fogle, 18, argued at a preliminary hearing today in LaGrange that investigators found no means of identification in the bag to connect the drugs to his client.
“The only connection that the officer made was that the drugs in the duffel bag were found wrapped up in some black trash bags, and he said that in my client’s book bag he found a torn trash bag,” Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson said. “I argued that you can get a black trash bag anywhere.”
Fogle pleaded not guilty to felony charges of trafficking in ecstasy and possession of cocaine. Judge Vickie Sue McWaters of Troup County Magistrate Court set a bond of $25,000 and bound the proceedings to Superior Court.
Jackson said Fogle likely would post bond within the next couple of days.
Fogle was arrested Jan. 28 at the Greyhound bus station in LaGrange after a police canine detected the drugs during a routine search. Authorities said the bust -- about 33 pounds of ecstasy, a recreational drug also known as MDMA -- could rank among the largest ever recorded in the state.
“It’s more ecstasy than I’ve ever seen,” Sgt. Mark Cavender said last month.
LaGrange police regularly search Greyhound buses because Interstate 85 is a known drug trafficking corridor.
Prosecutors expressed confidence in their case today, saying a witness on the bus claims to have seen Fogle with the duffel bag.
“There’s no doubt in the state’s mind that this is her bag,” said Lynda Caldwell, senior assistant district attorney in Troup County.
Fogle was traveling alone on the bus, returning home to Columbus from the Atlanta Job Corps Center, Jackson said.
A police officer testified today that Fogle made an incriminating statement once she was in custody, Caldwell said. Jackson said Fogle denies making the statement, adding he is awaiting videotaped footage of the arrest.
Jackson said two witnesses testified on Fogle’s behalf during the hearing. A friend testified she was with Fogle when she was packing her things, and that an employee from the Atlanta Job Corps escorted Fogle to the bus station, Jackson said. Fogle’s sister testified she bought Fogle a standard ticket that allowed her to check one bag and carry another bag onto the bus.
Fogle checked a duffel bag with various clothing and carried her book bag onto the bus, Jackson said.
“Our argument was that the bus driver would have stopped her if she had more than one bag, because you can only have one carry-on,” Jackson said.
Caldwell said police found a small amount of cocaine in the checked duffel bag.
While the case remains in its earliest stages, Jackson said he feels confident about Fogle’s chances. He said Fogle has no criminal history.
“We still have a lot of investigation to do, but we do believe that some of the evidence that we’ve been able to at least present today points to her innocence,” Jackson said. “A lot of people could have had access to that bag.”