Two West Virginia women arrested for hauling 290 pounds of pot in their recreational vehicle in Yellowstone National Park in May pleaded not guilty in federal court in Casper on Wednesday. After hearing the charges against them during their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Michael Shickich, Daphne Watkins and Janette Day entered their pleas during their arraignments.
Day, 61, wore a navy blue prisoner jumpsuit. Like Watkins, she had her long white hair pulled back into a ponytail. Attorney Tom Smith accompanied Day, who will be later represented by U.S. Public Defender James Barrett.
Both defendants remain in custody because of their potential long sentences if convicted, for being potential flight risks, and for their potential to obstruct justice, according to court records. Prosecutors claim the marijuana has a street value of more than $1 million.
They are innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, they face between five and 40 years behind bars and up to $5 million fines, Shickich said.
The trial date has been set for Sept. 2, he said.
The case began on May 28 when two Yellowstone Park rangers saw a RV with its generator running and lights on at the still-closed parking lot of the Grant Village Marina Area, according to an affidavit filed with U.S. District Court
The rangers knocked on the door and were greeted by Watkins who said she and Day wanted to camp at Grant Village, found it wasn’t open, and decided to stay at the parking lot.
A ranger smelled pot smoke. Watkins said she and Day had smoked before dinner. Watkins then gave him a couple of small bags with pipes and marijuana.
He then asked if they had any more. Watkins said she was trafficking and had 289 pounds, but Day disagreed, saying the amount was closer to 200 pounds.
The ranger told them they were under arrest.
Watkins blurted out, “‘I knew what I was doing…. I wasn’t planning on getting caught but I damn sure knew what I was doing…. I never did it while my children were children,’” according to the affidavit.
During a search of the RV, the ranger found large vacuum-sealed prepackaged bags weighing about 290.5 pounds.
After waiving her Miranda rights the next day, Watkins told National Park Service agents that she had been trafficking marijuana and cash between California and West Virginia about four times a year for four years.
The women have been associated with businesses in Tucker County, W. Va., near Maryland, according to the July 23 “Parsons Advocate” newspaper.
Watkins and Day are each charged with one count each aiding and abetting to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, and one count each of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana