Attorney for former Los Angeles drug kingpin Ricky Ross says client did nothing illegal in Sonoma County

A lawyer for former Los Angeles drug kingpin “Freeway” Ricky Donnell Ross said the $100,000 his client had in the car when he was pulled over by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy last week had nothing to do with drugs.

Ross, 55, was on his way north to buy land somewhere in Humboldt County when he was pulled over Wednesday and wrongly targeted by a deputy patrolling Highway 101 in an annual harvest-time effort to intercept vehicles with cash or marijuana traveling between the Emerald Triangle and the rest of California, Ross’ attorney Jai Gohel said.

“There was not one shred of illegal contraband in the car, no marijuana, nothing, all it is was money,” Gohel said.

Ross was arrested on suspicion of possessing money related to the sale of a controlled substance and conspiring to commit a crime, according to the sheriff’s office.

Ross told the San Francisco Chronicle that he felt targeted because he is black and he believed the charges were “trumped up.” Ross said his vehicle was among at least 20 cars on that section of the highway near Windsor all traveling at about the same speed.

The sheriff’s office has provided few details about the arrest and has not released the time, location or other circumstances of the incident. A lieutenant reached Monday afternoon said that he could only confirm the charges and that Ross was arrested Wednesday while driving north on the highway. Ross was released Thursday on ?$10,000 bail.

Gohel said the bail was lifted because the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately file a complaint against Ross. Ross’ first court appearance in the case is scheduled for December.

Ross was a major figure in the crack cocaine trade in South Los Angeles in the 1990s, but he was convicted in 1996 of conspiring to buy more than 100 kilograms of cocaine from a police informant. He was released in 2009. Ross has led a lawful life since prison, earning a living through book sales and speaking tours, according to Gohel.

During the traffic stop, the sheriff’s deputy told Ross he smelled marijuana, which allowed him to search the vehicle with a trained police dog, Gohel said. The dog found the cash. Ross said that he has a valid prescription for marijuana, according to the Chronicle.

“My client has a source of money that comes from book sales; he’s a cultural icon,” Gohel said. “I think this is going to be a case that will be a total waste of time.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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