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A pot dealer goes down in flames.

Justin Erik DeBusk, wearing tan prison garb and handcuffs behind his back, was sentenced to eighteen months in a federal prison on July 10 for his involvement with one of the country's most elusive drug dealers, Robert Golding ("Vanishing Point," July 6). As DeBusk, who is 26, was escorted into United States District Court Judge Zita Weinshienk's Denver courtroom, he smiled at his visibly distraught parents, winked, then took his seat at the defendant's table -- but that was all that the public was allowed to see.

Seconds later, Weinshienk took her chair at the dais and promptly closed the hearing to the public. She also ordered all court papers recording the event -- including the outcome of DeBusk's sentencing -- to be sealed. Westword learned of DeBusk's punishment through his family members. Weinshienk reasoned that the information discussed at DeBusk's hearing, if made public, could influence future cases that will use his testimony.

The details DeBusk may be able to offer about Golding and others are of great interest to the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the agency's reports and court documents, Golding, who was 43 when he killed himself in January, juggled more than twenty aliases, and his activities are tied to several ongoing DEA investigations ranging from Colorado to Pennsylvania. He also maintained contacts from Peru to Canada, the agency says. According to one DEA report, DeBusk's relationship with Golding began in Philadelphia in 1998 when DeBusk purchased two digital Ohaus scales for the dealer; DeBusk subsequently became a runner in Golding's former marijuana-dealing operation, crisscrossing the country to deliver cash and drugs.

The end of the road for the two men began in August 1999, when local DEA agents arrested Golding outside a Lakewood car wash after watching him pass along 212.5 pounds of pot to alleged buyers. After Golding promised to become an informant for the DEA, he was released and quickly vanished. With DeBusk's help, Golding successfully eluded officers for the next six months.

On January 14, DeBusk was driving from Colorado in a Ford Taurus when he was pulled over by a police officer on Interstate 70 just outside of Colby, Kansas. After the officer ordered DeBusk and Golding out of the car, Golding abruptly committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth. A search of the car turned up $3,737,296 in bricks of cash. DeBusk was arrested at the scene and extradited to Colorado.

In June, just days before his trial was to begin, DeBusk signed a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney in Colorado. He pleaded guilty to one charge of intent to distribute marijuana and agreed to forever "provide complete and truthful information to the government at all debriefings, and at the direction of the U.S. Attorney's office to appear and testify for the government as a witness at Grand Jury and any trial."

 
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