Possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine – these are serious charges hanging over the head of Sam Hurd, who was just let go from his position as a receiver for the Chicago Bears. According to Federal authorities, Hurd was regularly dealing large amounts of drugs in the Chicago area. Hurd was arrested by undercover agents at a Morton’s Steakhouse. He allegedly told the undercover agents that he wanted to buy five to ten kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana a week to distribute in the Chicago area.
Federal authorities had been watching Hurd since they received an anonymous tip about him back when he was in Texas. The tipster told authorities that someone was trying to buy four kilograms of cocaine. He had been on the federal authorities’ radar ever since, unbeknownst to him and the Bears, who were seemingly shocked by his arrest after they started looking for him when he didn’t show up for meetings on Thursday. He’s since been released from the Bears. Rumors are now abounding that Hurd was supplying illegal drugs to other NFL players but Hurd is denying this through his counsel.
Hurd had recently received a three year deal with the Bears worth over $5 million. He now faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
In Florida, under our state law, the penalties for drug crimes increase with the amount that a person possesses. For instance, if a person is caught in possession of the amount of cocaine Hurd was allegedly requesting on a weekly basis, 5-10 kilograms, that person would be facing a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years. For the amount of marijuana, 1,000 pounds, he’d be facing a minimum of 3 years in prison.
And in Florida, a person possessing that much of an illegal drug would be facing drug trafficking charges. The difference is that proving the crime of drug trafficking is surprising much easier than proving possession of a drug with the intent to sell it. This is because to prove drug trafficking, all the prosecutor has to prove is that the person possessed a certain quantity of the drug, which is over the amount proscribed by law to be trafficking. For cocaine, that’s 28 grams and for marijuana, it’s 25 pounds. So essentially, all they need is a police chemist to come in and say that he or she tested the drug, that it is that illegal drug, i.e., cocaine, and that it was weighed on a properly calibrated scale and it weighed 28+ grams.
To prove the crime of possession with intent to sell, the prosecutor has to prove not only that the person possessed the drugs and that they are drugs but also that he had the intent to sell them. Proving intent is probably one of the most difficult things to do as a prosecutor. This is because intent is “an operation of the mind” and there is no device police can use to go inside of someone’s mind and see what his actual intentions are. So in order to prove intent, the prosecution has to typically use circumstantial evidence, like the amount of the drugs, whether or not they are individually packaged, whether the person had a “dealer’s roll” on him, which is typically a large amount of cash broken into small denominations. Of course in the case of Hurd, prosecutors will prove his intent by using his own words against him when he told undercover agents that he wanted to buy the drugs in order to distribute them in the Chicago area.