News and Press Releases

Jury Deliberates for Two Hours following Two Day Trial

December 18, 2008

GURMIT SINGH JASSAL, 30, a native of India and citizen of Canada, residing in British Columbia, Canada, was found guilty late last Wednesday of Conspiracy to Distribute Ecstasy and Marijuana, Possession of Ecstasy with Intent to Distribute, and Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours following a two-day jury trial. JASSAL was arrested on February 5, 2008, after he and another man were spotted by U.S. Border Patrol agents crossing the international border with Canada on foot carrying four duffle bags.

According to records in the case, and testimony at trial, JASSAL and another man were spotted by surveillance cameras as they crossed the border on foot and entered the Smuggler’s Inn near Blaine, Washington. The men went to the front desk and asked the inn’s owner to arrange a ride to the Bellingham Airport. At the airport, a Customs and Border Patrol agent questioned the men and got inconsistent answers about whether they knew each other and where they were headed. When the duffle bags were searched, they were discovered to contain over 90 pounds of Ecstasy and more than 20 pounds of Marijuana, with a street value of approximately $3.1 million.

JASSAL tried to claim at trial that he smuggled the drugs because a drug dealer in Canada had kidnaped his wife and daughter, and threatened to harm them if JASSAL did not transport the drugs into the United States. At trial, JASSAL testified that the Canadian drug dealer ordered him to cross the border with the drugs, and then get arrested, so that he could provide information to law enforcement officers regarding other competing drug smugglers. However, in multiple interviews immediately following his arrest and in the weeks following JASSAL made no claims that his life or the lives of his family were being threatened, and instead made a series of inconsistent statements as to why he had crossed into the United States with the drugs. In particular, on the night of his arrest JASSAL identified the Canadian drug dealer who sent him with the drugs – the same man who JASSAL later claimed had kidnaped his wife and child. With their verdict, the jurors rejected JASSAL’s story as a defense. When sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on April 10, 2009, JASSAL faces up to 20 years in prison.

The case was investigated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Roger Rogoff and Aravind Swaminathan.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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