A few pounds of pot might have seemed like a small price to pay for freedom at the time.
But Nenad Steljic, a 30-year-old Serbian who offered some of the 139 pounds of marijuana in his car to the wrong state trooper Friday, could be stuck with up to an extra 16 years in prison over the proffered deal.
Steljic, a Chicago resident in the United States on an employment visa, was pulled over near the Utah state line Friday afternoon after a Colorado State Patrol trooper staking out Interstate 70 noticed him apparently texting and swerving while headed east toward Grand Junction, an arrest affidavit said.
The trooper wrote in his report that he could smell the "overwhelming odor of raw marijuana and air freshener" coming from Steljic's SUV. When asked how much marijuana was in the vehicle, Steljic — who said he was en route from California to Denver to visit friends — said he had none. When the trooper pointed out the odor, Steljic "apologized and told me that he had previously smoked marijuana in the car," the report said.
The trooper searched the SUV and found six large black trash bags containing smaller vacuum-packed bags of marijuana that weighed about 139 pounds, the report said.
Steljic at one point told the trooper he had grown the plant himself in San Francisco and was taking it to either Chicago or New York, the report said.
The trooper wrote that Steljic asked whether he was still recording audio of the interaction.
"I told Mr. Steljic that I was," the trooper wrote. "Mr. Steljic made the comment, 'Why don't you just shut that off?' Mr. Steljic then stated something along the lines of, I'll leave you a few pounds and you can just let me walk."
Steljic is facing felony counts of bribery as well as marijuana possession with intent to distribute. If convicted of the possession count, he could be imprisoned for up to 32 years. If convicted of bribery, he could be sentenced to four to 16 years.
He appeared in Mesa County Court Monday, where County Judge Bruce Raaum ordered that he stay in custody in lieu of a $25,000 cash-only bond.