SALEM — A Salem man who recently completed a prison term for drug trafficking could be heading back there after his arrest Thursday on new drug charges.
A lawyer for Alexander Jiminian, 25, of 7 Ward St., Salem, accused Salem police of making a bogus traffic stop after "profiling" Jiminian as a drug dealer due to his past arrests.
Jiminian allegedly told officers, "I chose this path to survive," following his arrest. "It got me stuck. Life is hard."
Police say they found more than 23 grams of cocaine and more than 11 grams of heroin, along with $3,305 in cash during an inventory search of Jiminian's 2003 Honda Accord, which they had ordered towed because when Jiminian pulled over, he was more than two feet from the curb on Peabody Street, a narrow one-way.
Patrolmen Rafael Gonzalez and Ian Canty were on Lafayette Street around 4:30 p.m. when they saw the Honda pull out of the parking lot of Wendy's, forcing other drivers and the officers to veer to the left.
The officers then saw the car make a quick left turn onto Peabody Street — without signaling, they say.
During the stop, Gonzalez, who recognized Jiminian from prior cases, saw two cups in the car's console, one full cup from Wendy's and the other, a McDonald's cup that had water and a bag floating in it.
That bag appeared to contain several smaller bags of brown powder, suspected to be heroin.
During a search of the vehicle prior to it being towed, police spotted a winter jacket over a small black case and a bag with white powder. The officers also found a small scale, another bag suspected to be heroin, plastic baggies and a few playing cards, which police say are often used to sift and slide the drugs into bags.
They also found a bundle of cash. More cash was found on Jiminian during booking.
Despite his license being suspended, Jiminian had allegedly obtained a license with a variation of the spelling of his name, as "Jimenian."
Jiminian pleaded not guilty to charges of cocaine trafficking, possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine, driving after license suspension, failing to yield, and failing to signal, during his arraignment Friday in Salem District Court.
Prosecutor Michael Varone asked Judge Randy Chapman to set bail at $100,000, citing the likely minimum mandatory sentence Jiminian is now facing.
Jiminian is still on probation as a result of his 2015 drug arrest — an arrest that occurred after he first attempted to jump out of a third-floor window during a raid. He was sentenced to three years in prison in that case and was released in December 2017.
Jiminian's lawyer, Justin Edwards, told the judge his client could afford no more than $5,000, however, and called the prosecutor's request "quite excessive."
Jiminian is a lifelong Salem resident, Edwards said, with many family members in the city, and had been working full-time since getting out of prison.
Edwards also said Jiminian is adamant that he used his turn signal before the stop, and suggested police "yanked" him out of the car based on their prior knowledge of him rather than any probable cause, "profiling" him as a drug dealer.
"There's a lot more going on here," said Edwards. "He's vigorously going to fight this case. He believes the police violated his rights."
Chapman said the defendant's likely minimum mandatory sentence and prior defaults in earlier cases warrant high bail, however.
He set bail at $50,000. Even if Jiminian could come up with that amount, however, he will remain in custody pending the resolution of his Superior Court probation.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 2.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.