Crime

Accused cocaine trafficker Chase Hanson found guilty on all but one count

Chase Hanson, center, was convicted Thursday on nine of 10 counts stemming from his August 2015 arrest for running a drug trafficking operation.
Chase Hanson, center, was convicted Thursday on nine of 10 counts stemming from his August 2015 arrest for running a drug trafficking operation. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The Morro Bay man accused of running the largest cocaine trafficking operation in recent San Luis Obispo County history faces a lengthy stint in state prison after he was convicted on nine of the 10 counts stemming from his August 2015 arrest.

A San Luis Obispo Superior Court jury Thursday found Chase Hanson, 26, guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime, transport/sale/furnishing a controlled substance, felon in possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and two counts each of possession of an assault weapon and possession of large capacity ammunition magazines. Jurors acquitted Hanson on one count of felon in possession of a firearm.

Each charge carries an average maximum sentence of approximately three years in state prison, although enhancements could increase that time.

Hanson appeared calm as the clerk read the verdicts.

It brought an end to a two-week-long trial that saw testimony from more than half a dozen witnesses, including the detective who oversaw the nine-month investigation that included wiretaps and aerial surveillance, the man who served as Hanson’s right-hand man and Hanson’s grandfather.

In closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel presented jurors with a courtroom full of physical evidence: bags of cocaine and MDMA, six long rifles and a handgun, bags of ammunition and high-capacity ammunition magazines and a 20-ton hydraulic press that Hanson was accused of using to press his own kilos of cocaine. She called those items evidence of a wide-scale drug trafficking organization.

Defense attorney Jeffry Radding argued that Hanson deserved consideration without the jury making up its mind beforehand. He also took exception to the testimony of Dane Bennett, Hanson’s co-defendant and alleged right hand.

“I think we are on trial to set a record straight,” Radding said. “Dane Bennett is no victim.”

Radding said Bennett’s boyish appearance belied a career criminal who was all too eager to play the victim and sell Hanson out when the two got caught.

“(Detective Jason Nadal) delivered the theme, and Dane Bennett picked up on it,” Radding said.

In her rebuttal, Imel argued that Bennett was a self-admitted drug dealer who didn’t hide his criminal past from the jury.

“He’s a drug dealer that’s part of a conspiracy that an excellent detective got to talk,” Imel said.

Radding was successful in establishing reasonable doubt on a single count: an allegation that Hanson, a previously convicted felon, was in possession of a revolver. Radding argued that there was evidence the revolver may have belonged to Bennett.

Jury foreman Peter DuFresne, of Los Osos, said jurors quickly agreed on all other counts.

Hanson is scheduled to be sentenced July 20.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

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