Man caught on bus with kilos of cocaine pleads guilty


A New Mexico man caught with three kilos of powder cocaine during a traffic stop near Hope, Ark., pleaded guilty Thursday in a Texarkana federal court.

Coleman Tuton appeared in jail clothes and hand cuffs at a 1 p.m. hearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas. With the help of federal public defender Tiffany Fields, Tuton plead guilty to possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver.

Tuton was arrested by an Arkansas State Trooper during a traffic stop of a large Tornado Bus Line bus Nov. 6, 2014. At Thursday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wulff told the court the trooper had several reasons to be suspicious.

The big bus was only carrying four passengers. The driver told the trooper he was driving from El Paso, Texas, to Milwaukee, Wis., but the passenger manifest indicated the bus was headed to Chicago. After getting permission to search the commercial bus from the driver, the trooper noticed that one bag in the luggage compartment was set aside from the others.

An Arkansas State Police drug dog, Hemi, alerted to the presence of drugs in the luggage compartment. When the trooper searched a black bag, he found Tuton’s name tag on it and a secret compartment filled with three kilograms of powder cocaine.

Tuton later confessed that he was being paid to carry the drugs. He told investigators he worked at a job that required him to regularly cross the U.S. border into Mexico from his home in New Mexico. Tuton said he was approached in a Mexican bar by two men who offered to pay him to carry drugs in 2013 but that he turned them down.

The next year, when he needed quick money, Tuton agreed to be a mule for $3,000. Tuton reported that he had successfully transported drugs once prior to the trip that landed him in federal custody.

At the hearing Thursday, Hickey told Tuton she won’t know what range of punishment he faces until the court has received a pre-sentence report which will include a punishment recommendation based on federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines which advise judges on accepted punishment ranges are calculated using an offender’s prior criminal history, the nature of the current offense, and other factors, such as acceptance of responsibility.

Tuton will return to court for sentencing once the report is complete and both the defense and prosecution have had time to make objections to it. Until then, Tuton is being held in the custody of U.S. Marshals.

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