Christmas Pot-Giving Couple Gets Probation

YORK – The elderly man and woman from California who said their intention in hauling 60 pounds of marijuana was to give it away as Christmas gifts have been given probation.

Patrick Jiron, 80, and Barbara Jiron, 70, appeared in York County District Court Monday morning, where each was sentenced to three years of traditional probation and they will be supervised at their home in California.

Barbara Jiron was represented by York County Public Defender Nancy Waldron and Patrick Jiron was represented by John Stevens Berry.

They were accused of transporting $336,000 worth of high grade marijuana in York County, which they told investigators was for family presents during the holidays.

In the week before Christmas, 2017, the couple was stopped on Interstate 80 for a traffic violation. Deputies with the York County Sheriff’s Department quickly detected the odor of marijuana and during a subsequent search of the vehicle, 60 pounds of marijuana were discovered.

The couple said they were traveling from California to Vermont for the holidays and didn’t know it was illegal to transport marijuana in Nebraska, according to York County Sheriff Lt. Paul Vrbka. They reiterated their claim that they intended to give it all away as Christmas gifts.

Then in mid-January, 2018, they were arrested in western Lancaster County – again on Interstate 80 – this time allegedly traveling from Vermont to California. Again, their vehicle was stopped for a traffic violation – which was being driven by their daughter this time. Law enforcement officers allegedly found $16,000 in cash that was believed to be drug buy money due to the detection of marijuana. Their daughter was not charged in the Lancaster County incident.

In the York County case, each of the Jirons was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver, a Class 2A felony, which carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; possession of more than one pound of marijuana, a Class 4 felony, which carries a possible maximum sentence of two years in prison; and no drug tax stamp, a Class 4 felony, which carries a possible maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Mrs. Jiron was also charged with failure to appear, a Class 4 felony, which was a result of her failure to show up for her first court appearance in this case.

Each eventually pleaded no contest to possession of more than one pound of marijuana. The other charges against them were dropped.

On Monday, in District Court, York County Attorney Christopher Johnson said “when it comes to people hauling large amounts of marijuana down Interstate 80, this is a crime for financial gain. York County is very fortunate to have a spectacular set of sheriff’s deputies and state patrol troopers, because of their hard work and attention, we catch many . . . and if we gave them all prison, we’d have to building three to four additional prisons in Nebraska. They (the Jirons) grew the marijuana on their own and they were transporting it. They got caught with 60 pounds of marijuana. Yes, it wasn’t cocaine, or methamphetamine, or heroine. Marijuana isn’t as damaging as those substances to the body or to society as a whole. They initially said the marijuana was to be for gifts. Again, I believe this is a crime for financial gain, and in trying to match the penalty to the crime, the state is recommending a sizable fine if they can pay it and if not, probation.”

Regarding Mrs. Jiron, Waldron said her client, at the age of 70, had her first contact with law enforcement (in York County) . . . which was followed by another in January, in Lancaster County.

“She retired in 2008 and the last time she drank alcohol was a wine cooler six months ago,” Waldron told the court. “She said she will do what the court asks. She is on oxygen, has a pacemaker and suffers from back pain and high blood pressure.”

“You are 70, you are retired,” Judge James Stecker said to Mrs. Jiron. “Your prior record is minimal. You were transporting 60 pounds of marijuana. Your husband said he didn’t know it was illegal to transport marijuana through Nebraska and the court has a difficult time believing that. But the court does note your lack of prior offenses and that the probation office is recommending probation.”

It was noted, in Mr. Jiron’s case, that he had no prior offenses either and they had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It was also stated that the couple has no intention “to ever return to Nebraska, just to go back to California and stay there.”

“You are 80 years old, a veteran, you are also retired and you have no prior record,” Judge Stecker said to Mr. Jiron. “What the court can’t reconcile is the quantity you were transporting – that’s much more than for individual consumption and the court doesn’t believe you didn’t know the law. But due to probation officers recommending probation, I will also place you on three years of probation.”

As part of their probation, each was sentenced to 90 days in jail, in 30-day stints, which can be waived if they remain in compliance with the terms of their probation.

“You hold the keys to the jail in your hands,” Judge Stecker said to the Jirons. “If you are in compliance, your jail sentences will be waived. It’s up to you. If you stay out of trouble, you won’t have to serve that time. That is your choice.”