He was the king of crack cocaine in the 1980s. Now, he says, after flying straight for years, police believe he could be a prince of pot.
Former drug kingpin "Freeway" Rick Ross says he plans to fight to prove his innocence after he was arrested in Northern California on suspicion of possessing drug money and conspiracy to commit crime.
He told us he believes he was racially profiled in a 3:20 p.m. traffic stop one week ago today on Asti Post Office Road in Asti, California. He denies the charges and says that the money found in a bag in his trunk was for a real estate deal that fell through as a result of his Oct. 21 arrest.
Police, he said, believed he was heading north, to the so-called Golden Triangle of marijuana crop production, to purchase a large quantity of cannabis.
Ross says a police unit followed him for two miles north on the 101 before making a traffic stop. He was behind the wheel and he had a passenger.
"I was riding in a pile of cars, about 40 all doing the same speed," he told us, "and I looked at him and he looked at me and he decided to pull me over."
Authorities said Ross' vehicle — he says it belongs to his cousin — was stopped for alleged traffic infractions.
He said the officer asked him to step outside the vehicle before even asking for a driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. The cop asked if he could search the car and Ross says he told him no.
"He wanted to search the car and frisk a black man," Ross said, "put his hands on my groin and around my buttocks."
The cop introduced a drug-sniffing dog to the outside of the vehicle, and then to the inside, despite Ross' protestations, he said.
The officer said the canine alerted to marijuana on Ross' cellphone. Ross says he has a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana and that's probably why the dog alerted.
"He [the officer] said that somebody had touched marijuana and then touched my phone," Ross said. "He smelled marijuana, therefore conspiracy to buy marijuana. I don't need to conspire to buy marijuana because I can buy legally with my recommendation."
The officer went into the trunk without permission and found $100,000 in cash inside a bag, Ross said. It's the officer's "opinion" that it was drug money, he said.
Ross said the cash was to be used for the purchase of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom property with a rental unit in the rear in Fortuna, California, which happens to be in the weed-growing capital of America, Humboldt County. Ross said he was en route to meet the seller, who had another cash offer on the table.
He calls himself a "serial" property owner who enjoys investing this way.
"I'll probably have to sue him [the officer] for making me miss my deal," he said. "The guy who was selling it was pretty sure if I didn't get it the other guy would. I was locked up for six hours."
Asked if the property would be used to grow pot, Ross said, "We ain't going to go into all that. My doctor's recommendation says I can grow 99 plants."
He said police took all three cellphones he had as possible evidence when he was jailed in lieu of $1,000 bail. The car, he said, was impounded.
Ross believes authorities will ask a judge for a warrant to search the calls and data. He described the experience as a fishing expedition for cops looking for something to pin on him.
"He [the officer] doesn't have a case so what he wants to do is continuously try to investigate," Ross said. "No judge is going to give him a search warrant to look at my calls."
Ross denied that he initially indicated that charges in the case had been dropped or that the case was closed.
"A case means that some papers were filed and charges were filed," he said. "There's nothing filed. It's an ongoing investigation, which is going to lead them nowhere."
The arresting cop was from the Windsor, California, police agency. The department contracts with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department for public information services.
"The charges were not dropped against Mr. Ross," Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Cecile Focha told us. "He knows this because he was in court this morning when the judge continued the arraignment to Dec. 9 at 8:30 in courtroom 9 of the Sonoma County Superior Court."
"That is when the District Attorney will file the complaint," she said. "As you know, it is a common practice in cases requiring further investigation that a filing date is pushed out 15 days or so by the court."
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Ross says bring it on.
The '80s crack king has been to prison, starred in a documentary about his life, watched as his story played out on the big screen (Kill the Messenger) and written his own autobiography (from which he says he got the cash).
He said he's asked the NAACP and the ACLU for help with his case.
"Prosecutors don't like to lose," he said. "I'm going to make them work. I love to fight. Whenever they throw lemons at me, I'll turn 'em into lemonade."