Video and audio of alleged drug transactions were shown on Friday as part of a preliminary hearing in the case of a woman accused of as many as nine major drug transactions, involving the arrival of powdered fentanyl in Douglas County.
Sitting as East Fork Justice of the Peace, Judge Steve McMorris upheld additional felony charges against Jessica Thomas, 32, who is denying her involvement in an Oct. 20, 2022, drug bust that sent five deputies to the hospital for fentanyl exposure.
Thomas is facing an Aug. 8-18 trial in Douglas County District Court as a result of that arrest in Stateline.
However, after she denied those charges, prosecutors amended the complaint to include additional transactions that occurred in Minden, which were upheld on Friday.
A preliminary hearing does not determine guilt but requires prosecutors to establish by marginal evidence that a crime was committed, and the person charged could have been involved.
As a result of the hearing, Thomas will return to Douglas County District Court where her cases will either be combined or a second trial will be set, assuming she chooses to continue assert her innocence.
Investigator Jon Storke said that Thomas came to the attention of Douglas drug enforcers during a May 17, 2022, drug buy involving codefendant Regina Rojas.
Prosecutor Erik Levin played video of a Sept. 20, 2022, transaction between a paid confidential informant and a woman identified as Thomas. On the video, Thomas can be heard complaining about her driver being pulled over for speeding 108 mph near Folsom, Calif. during a previous run.
During that transaction Storke testified that 53.28 grams of fentanyl changed hands.
Levin also played an audio recording of an Oct. 7, 2022, transaction at a Minden gas station involving around 200 grams of methamphetamine or just short of a half-pound.
Storke described the investigation involving Thomas and Rojas as one of the largest in which he’s participated.
In response to cross examination, Storke testified dosage for fentanyl is tricky because as little as 3 milligrams could kill someone.
“Before this we had no dealing with powder, only pills,” he said.
The new charges Thomas faces in East Fork Justice Court deal with three drug sales that allegedly occurred in Minden on Aug. 31, Sept. 20 and Oct. 7, which included 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine and almost 6 ounces of fentanyl that sold for $11,400.
The most serious new charge Thomas is facing is a high-level trafficking charge which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years to life in prison. If convicted, she faces decades in prison.
Rojas, who was arrested with Thomas on Oct. 20, 2022, in the Stateline bust, admitted to charges connected to the arrest and was sentenced to 12-32 years in prison in March.
Rojas admitted her involvement in three sales in Stateline where 10 ounces of fentanyl was exchanged for $10,000 on June 2, 5 ounces for $5,000 on July 20 and 5.25 ounces for $6,000 on Oct. 20, according to court documents.
Should she be convicted at trial of the most serious charges, she could face a maximum penalty of 10 years to life in prison.