The 28-year-old could face up to five years in state prison if convicted, but his lawyers claim he did nothing wrong
NBA big man Montrezl Harrell is facing serious felony drug trafficking charges in Kentucky after being pulled over on May 12. But Harrell’s lawyer, speaking for the Charlotte Hornets star earlier this week, says his client did nothing wrong.
The incident happened last month when Kentucky State Trooper Jesse Owens says he pulled Harrell’s rental car over for following too closely behind another vehicle on I-75. The stop occurred about 30 minutes outside of Lexington.
Troopers claim they discovered a backpack with three pounds of marijuana in vacuum-sealed bags on the backseat. Harrell now faces charges that could ultimately result in one to five years in state prison, and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
But Harrell’s lawyers say he wasn’t even behind the wheel of the 2020 Honda.
Cloudy details about the charges
The trooper cited Harrell for the weed at the time of the stop, but didn’t charge or arrest him for trafficking on the scene. State Trooper Owens said “[he] observed [the] odor of marijuana” coming from the vehicle and asked Harrell if he had any weed.
The police report says Harrell admitted he did, and presented a baggie of green from his pants pocket. Trooper Owens then says he searched the vehicle and found 3 pounds vacuumed-sealed in a backpack on the back seat.
The smell alone of marijuana is not enough probable cause to search a vehicle in Kentucky. But since Harrell admitted to possession, the search may have been warranted.
Trafficking between 8 ounces and 5 pounds in Kentucky is a Class-D felony for first time offenders and a Class-C for second time offenders. Possession of 8 ounces and under is a Class A misdemeanor punishable with up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $500 for first-time offenders.
Lawyers are confident he will beat the charge
This week, Harrell’s attorneys told TMZ that Harrell did nothing wrong. “We want to be clear that Mr. Harrell was not driving the vehicle and following the stop he was only given a ticket to appear in court at a later date for a marijuana-related charge as were all occupants of the vehicle,” Harrell’s attorneys said.
A bummer for his free agent summer
Harrell played college ball for the Louisville Cardinals before being drafted in 2015. He’s made over $24 million so far in his career, and is an upcoming free agent who played well for the Charlotte Hornets last season. While he picks a new team this summer, he will now have the added distraction of appearing in court next month.
NBA free agency negotiations begin July 1. He was traded to Charlotte this past February from the Washington Wizards. The Hornets have yet to comment on the charges. Harrell’s court date for his preliminary hearing is set for July 13.