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Guard Accused as Drug Courier Pleads Not Guilty

Crime: Defense attorney says the Santa Ana jail employee never smuggled substances into holding facility.

May 23, 2001|JACK LEONARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Santa Ana jail guard accused of smuggling drugs into the city jail surrendered to authorities Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to drug charges.

Michelle V. Rodriguez, 25, faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison if convicted on all five felony counts, which include furnishing drugs to prisoners.

Her attorney, Charles E. Frisco Jr., said Tuesday that Rodriguez never took drugs into the jail and that prosecutors are relying on the word of inmates.

"The basis of the case is the statements from convicted felons," Frisco said.

Orange County Judge James Stotler freed Rodriguez on her own recognizance. She is scheduled to appear in court again July 6.

Authorities allege that Rodriguez acted as a drug courier for an inmate with whom she became romantically involved. Court documents allege that the inmate set up a meeting outside the jail between the guard and a woman who supplied Rodriguez with books stuffed with methamphetamine.

Bypassing tight security at the jail, Rodriguez slipped the books in undetected and passed them to another inmate, according to court documents.

Between November 1999 and February 2000, Rodriguez made the drop off at least five times, prosecutors allege in court documents.

Another guard uncovered the conspiracy after discovering drugs during a cell search, prosecutors allege.

Rodriguez began working in the municipal jail in February 1997. Like all 85 guards at the jail, she was a civilian employee of the Santa Ana Police Department. She was fired in October.

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