PENN TOWNSHIP, CUMBERLAND COUNTY – Boiling Springs High School wrestling coach Rodney A. Wright has been ordered to stand trial in Cumberland County Court on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.
District Justice Vivian Cohick found enough evidence in a three-hour preliminary hearing Wednesday to order Wright, 44, to appear for formal arraignment Aug. 22 in Cumberland County Court on the misdemeanor charge. Wright was arrested April 11 after police found a marijuana pipe in a jacket alleged to be Wright’s in the mud room at Wright’s Penn Township home Jan. 14.
Wright, who is free on his own recognizance, is on sick leave from his teaching and coaching positions according to his attorney, Jay Abom of Carlisle.
Key witness Michealle Wright, Rodney Wright’s estranged wife, testified she called state police to their home Jan. 14 and pointed out a red jacket in the mud room where she said she saw her husband stash a marijuana pipe. Trooper David C. Long II testified he looked in the jacket and found a small wooden box and a metal pipe which was later determined to contain traces of marijuana.
Later the same day Michealle Wright signed a consent form allowing police to search their house and outbuildings. No more evidence was found, police testified.
Rodney Wright was not at home either time police were at his house, but returned moments after the search party left, Michealle Wright said. She said her husband was “very upset, nervous … and crying” when he learned about the search.
Cumberland County First Assistant District Attorney Jaime Keating presented evidence and testimony alleging that early the next morning Rodney Wright purchased gallons of water and fruit pectin at Wal-Mart in Carlisle. Drug-testing expert Paul Polensky testified that ingesting fruit pectin is believed by some to be a way to fool a drug test.
The district attorney also called police witnesses who testified Rodney Wright changed his story several times in subsequent interviews, first saying he’d never seen the paraphernalia and later saying he had seen it but wasn’t his.
In a closing statement, Abom argued the prosecution had not shown that Wright owned the drug pipe and intended to use it to consume marijuana, and implied that Michealle Wright had unrelated motives for calling police.
The purpose of a preliminary hearing is determine if there is enough evidence of crime to bring a witness to trial, and “clearly, the court felt there was sufficient evidence to go forward,” Keating said outside the courthouse.
“Mr. Wright is very disappointed,” Abom said after the hearing. “However, we recognize that the crux of the facts in this case are based on the commonwealth’s key witness, his estranged wife.”
He wasn’t permitted at the preliminary hearing to question Michealle Wright’s credibility, Abom said, but “at trial, a jury is entitled to disbelieve … they can consider whether she was motivated to lie.”
The district attorney’s office issued a statement in April denying that Wright was targeted because he’s well-known in the community. Wright issued his own statement through his attorney saying he expected to be cleared of the charge.