The grass is seldom greener or heavier


by Mike Kroll


On Wednesday, July 12th Galesburg Police accompanied a United States Marshal in the arrest of Ernesto C. Ponce on a Federal warrant and in the process stumbled upon perhaps the largest amount of marijuana ceased in a singe Galesburg arrest. Ponce was arrested in possession of approximately 2,000 grams or about seven pounds of cannabis according Galesburg Police Lieutenant Dave Clague. Some have speculated that Ponce may well be one of the bigger drug fish apprehended in Galesburg.

“The Marshals contacted us for help apprehending Ponce for three reasons. First, it is custom and courtesy to contact a local agency when you will be operating within their jurisdiction. Second, as the local agency we are more familiar with Galesburg and well prepared to provide tactical assistance and backup to the Marshals. And finally, due to a quirk in Federal law there are limitations on how a Marshal can react if he or she discovers an unrelated illegal activity during the course of an arrest. Our officers have greater latitude in that respect and it paid off here. When they entered Ponce's 185 Phillips Street residence they observed some of the marijuana in plain sight.”

Ponce was wanted by the Marshal's service for violation of his supervised release following a previous arrest in Chicago for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. A condition of his supervised release pending Federal trial was regular urine screening for drug use and Ponce failed one of those urine tests. According to Clague, this Chicago arrest was Ponce's second Federal drug offense. Ponce had previously been arrested right here in Galesburg as part of the Iron Eagle joint Federal-local drug enforcement task force during the 1980s. He was convicted at that time for cocaine violations and did Federal time.

“He had really fallen off our radar since that Iron Eagle arrest. We were unaware of his return to Galesburg and reinvolvement with local drug trafficking. If he had been active in street transactions our officers would have been aware of him so that suggests he was operating at a higher level. When our officers asked for permission to search his residence upon seeing traces of marijuana as they entered Ponce voluntarily consented to such a search. During that search we found the marijuana packaged in a variety of sized plastic bags ranging in size from one ounce to a pound plus a large quantity of empty plastic bags of various sizes and approximately ten grams of cocaine. We also found a pound scale and a scientific gram scale typically used to package drugs for resale. To us this is clear evidence of intent to distribute the marijuana.”

Ponce was arrested on the Federal warrant and additionally charged in Knox County with possession of cannabis with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) 1-15 grams with intent to deliver as Illinois offenses. He is presently being held in the Knox County Jail without bond awaiting court appearances on state and Federal charges.

“It isn't yet clear how these charges will be prosecuted,” added Clague. “The Federal penalties are much, much greater than state time and as this would likely be Ponce's third Federal drug offense he could well be facing life in a Federal prison if all the charges are transfered to Federal jurisdiction.”