Steroid conviction clears way for civil forfeiture case
July 13, 2017 at 9:51 p.m.
Updated July 14, 2017 at 6 a.m.
The conviction of a Victoria man charged with intending to distribute steroids could result in the loss of more than his freedom. About $36,000 of his cash, which authorities argue was drug money, is also at stake in a civil forfeiture case.
Thursday afternoon, jurors found Trace Britton Adams, 38, guilty of two counts of intention to distribute between 28 and 200 grams of steroids. They sentenced him to 10 years in prison despite prosecutors' requests for 50 years.
Although the Victoria County District Attorney's Office would have been able to seize Adams' cash despite a not-guilty verdict, he now will not be able to present his innocence as evidence in the forfeiture case, said Pink Dickens, assistant district attorney.
In that case, prosecutors will have to prove the money "probably" was used in the commission of a felony, rather than the far-stricter criminal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Adams' mother, Sandra Rudd, of Victoria, claimed prosecutors and investigators were motivated to conspire against her son because of that money.
Authorities found the steroids inside Adams' vehicle after they stopped him for making an illegal turn May 26, 2016, in Victoria.
Before jurors could consider whether Adams knowingly intended to deal the drugs, they first were tasked with considering whether the traffic stop was legal.
Adams' attorney, Brent Dornburg, contested testimony by Deputy Joshua Vaclavik, whom Dornburg described as a "young gun," performed the traffic stop on a false pretense and in fact never witnessed Adams illegally drift into another lane as he turned.
"Mr. Vaclavik got lazy," Dornburg said.
Dornburg argued Vaclavik's dashboard camera footage, which jurors viewed, showed otherwise. He asked jurors to trust the recorded footage they viewed over the deputy's testimony. That judgment, he said, was especially important considering an unlawful arrest would throw the state's case into jeopardy.
"They are the whole key to the case," he said, brandishing a stack of printed images taken from the video. "Your eyes don't lie to you."
But Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Johnson saw the traffic stop in a simpler light. During her closing argument, Johnson spent a matter of seconds defending the legality of the traffic stop, describing it as a "non-issue" and pointing out that two other law enforcement officers supported Vaclavik's claims.
"Anytime you have a case, you don't want to get weighed down by small details or arguments that really are kind of foolish," she said after jurors left the courtroom.
While Adams admitted on the stand to possession of misdemeanor amounts of steroids, he said the drugs found inside his vehicle during his arrest were planted there by a vengeful ex-girlfriend.
And Adams testified the pill press, homemade labels, receipts, dozens of empty glass pharmacological bottles and steroids belonging to him were for personal use. Plastic trashbags filled with the evidence sat at the foot of Judge Eli Garza's bench, clinking quietly whenever attorneys presented evidence to the jury.
Adams said each of the items had a legitimate use, arguing he used the pill press to ingest legal supplements. He also said he kept empty steroid bottles because he had paid for them and didn't want to throw them away.
As for the more than $36,000 found inside Adams' home and his father's residence, that money was given to him by his brother and raised through legitimate work, he testified. Dornburg said bank records corroborated the $30,000 had come from Adam's brother.
Adams testified he planned to use the money to start a legal supplement business, using his body and physical prowess as a means of advertising.
In her closing arguments, Johnson seized on Adams' explanations, describing him as someone who continually and habitually refused responsibility. She also compared his life with those of countless hardworking Victoria residents who have struggled to succeed through legitimate channels.
"It takes more than muscle to be a good person," she said. "A good person takes responsibility for what they do."
She also reminded the jury of the similar circumstances surrounding a 2011 arrest Adams described in his own testimony. Adams said another ex-girlfriend framed him as a methamphetamine dealer.
He served one year and 9 months in prison before being paroled, Johnson said. During sentencing, she said Adams' recidivism was a clear example that a light sentence would not correct his behavior.
"The only thing the defendant cares about is the size of his muscles and the stacks of his cash," she said.
She asked jurors to not only hold Adams accountable but also send a message to criminals that steroids will not be tolerated in Victoria.
"He's pushing poison," she said.