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Preliminary hearing held for drug trafficking suspect

By Ed Brock

Clayton County Drug Task Force agents could smell the marijuana when they walked into the house where they arrested Jesus Garcia Perez.

At a preliminary hearing held for Perez, 31, of Mexico on Thursday an undercover agent with the task force said the nearly 1,000 pounds of marijuana was being kept in a closet in the house on Rosewood Circle in Jonesboro.

"It was a walk-in closet and it almost filled it up," the agent said.

In the same Clayton County Magistrate Court courtroom on Thursday Rolf A. Jones, attorney for accused child molester and Mt. Zion Baptist Church youth volunteer Richard Mark Dickens, said his client would waive his preliminary hearing.

The drug bust in which Perez was arrested and charged with trafficking in marijuana and methamphetamine occurred last Thursday and has been called one of the largest drug seizures in Clayton County's history. Along with the 923 pounds of marijuana, packaged in 52 bundles, the agents found five pounds of methamphetamine in a box under a bathroom sink, the agent testified Thursday.

The task force began monitoring the house after getting information on it during a "buy bust" in which two other Hispanic men were arrested.

Previously members of the task force said they considered the Rosewood Circle address to be a "stash house," a place used only to store contraband, because while the electricity was hooked up there was no furniture in the house and no running water.

"Pretty much nothing was in the house except for the marijuana ? and the meth," the agent said.

Agents also found several garbage bags containing drug wrappers in the house's garage and large rolls of plastic wrap used for packaging drugs. Also, the agent said Perez told investigators through a translator that he had bought the marijuana for $100 a pound.

"He said the marijuana was his. He said the methamphetamine was not his but he knew it was there," the agent said.

It was unclear who owned the house.

"There were several names receiving mail there," the agent told Perez's lawyer Chaundra D. Lewis during cross examination.

Lewis used the agent's testimony that Perez's name was not connected to the house and nothing was found on his person in her argument to dismiss the case against him. She also brought up the question of how the task force agents got consent to enter the house.

"The officer has testified that he didn't know who gave consent. Therefore we don't know if that person was authorized to do so," Lewis said.

However, the judge did find that there was sufficient evidence to send the Perez case to a grand jury.

Another man arrested in the case, Octavio Juan Perez, 23, also of Mexico was charged with driving without a license and released on bond last Friday.

Two more Hispanic males were arrested in the case and have not been identified. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration participated in the raid.

In the Dickens case, the 30-year-old Fairburn man was expected to be released on $40,000 bond Thursday, Jones said. Asked why Dickens chose to waive his preliminary hearing, Jones said it was "just a strategy."

Jones also said that Dickens' family had no comment on the accusations made against him last week by a 20-year-old man who told police that Dickens molested him several times beginning when the victim was 15 years old. Some of the assaults occurred on the property of the church on Mt. Zion Road in Jonesboro, police said.

Two other men said Dickens molested them as well but because those incidents allegedly occurred in the early 1990s the statute of limitations has expired on them.

Dickens is charged with aggravated child molestation.