Judge approves alleged Tyler marijuana kingpin’s reversal of guilty plea

Judge approves alleged Tyler marijuana kingpin’s reversal of guilty plea

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - An alleged leader of an East Texas drug trafficking ring has been given a reprieve after a federal judge signed off on his withdrawal of a guilty plea.

Judge John D. Love signed the order on Friday. Eduardo Pineda, 24, first entered the guilty plea on Nov. 27.

According to a previous report, Pineda oversaw daily operations of at least 15 marijuana cultivation sites in East Texas found in Smith, Sabine, Houston, Harrison, Upshur, Morris, Anderson, Van Zandt and Henderson counties.

Pineda was a subject of a multi-county investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies, dubbed Operation Joint Venture. Operation Joint Venture was launched July 28, 2015, in northeastern Smith County. Three cultivation sites were discovered there and about 22,000 marijuana plants were seized.

Pineda was arrested on the charges in March.

From July 2015 to November 2016, officials say about 77,000 individual marijuana plants were seized. According to a DEA formula used by law enforcement, the plants are worth about $101,640,000.

Pineda mailed a handwritten letter to the Judge Ron Clark on Nov. 28, claiming he did not fully understand the charges when he signed off on the plea on Nov. 21.

"I had only seen these new documents for the first time approximately 30 minutes prior to my appearance," the letter states. "…I was told that if I did not sign those documents and admit my guilt, I would go to trial in 'one week' and be sentenced to 40 years in prison. I felt immense pressure."

Pineda's attorney, Kenneth Hawk, in turn filed a motion to withdraw as Pineda's attorney on Dec. 5.

In the motion, Hawk stated he met with Pineda for several hours concerning the letter.

"Yesterday's meeting turned contentious and was profoundly non-productive," Hawk stated in the motion. "There is no doubt in the mind of counsel – based on both the contents of the Defendant's letter as well as the events as they transpired during yesterday's meeting, that the attorney-client relationship has been undermined to the point it cannot be repaired. Both the Defendant and counsel have lost the ability to trust one another ant the bell once having been rung, cannot by un-rung."

R. Kelly Pace was added as Pineda's attorney on Dec. 6.

Pineda is now scheduled for a jury trial on Feb. 12.

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