DOBSON — A California truck driver pleaded guilty to two reduced drug trafficking charges on Tuesday during an administrative session of Surry County Superior Court.
Darwin Alexis Morales, 29, of Upland, California, had been approached by a state trooper while stopped at an I-77 south weigh station, Assistant District Attorney Tim Watson told the judge.
The trooper had inspected the truck and issued violations to Morales for a slick tire and carrying an unauthorized passenger.
In what Watson described as a “consensual encounter,” the trooper searched the inside of the truck and discovered what he suspected was a quantity of cocaine.
A federal lab later confirmed the substance was cocaine, according to Watson.
Morales was arrested and charged with two counts of trafficking cocaine.
He spent 849 days, or about 28 months, in the county jail waiting for trial.
On Tuesday, the defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted trafficking of cocaine on Tuesday.
“It is a well-reasoned plea,” stated Mike Grace, of Winston-Salem, defense attorney.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge A. Moses Massey accepted the plea based on information gleaned through conferences with the attorneys, he announced during the hearing.
The state’s case had “significant issues,” the judge said, mentioning the defense had been prepared to file a motion to suppress evidence.
In a jury trial, “the state might prevail, the state might not prevail,” and for the defendant, “the consequences could be much more severe,” said Massey.
“I learned long ago it behooves judges,” he continued, “to pay attention to lawyers who know more about the case, to be very respectful about what they propose, very respectful of the balance that takes place. This is one of those cases.”
Massey sentenced Morales to be imprisoned for two consecutive 13- to 16- month sentences, with credit for time served.
“You have satisfied the judgment in both these cases,” the judge said.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.