Martha’s Vineyard Drug task force arrest nets 56 grams of cocaine

James K. Rowell in his booking photo from the Dukes County Jail. — Photo courtesy of Dukes County Sheriff's Department

Members of the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force arrested James K. Rowell, 56, of Edgartown on Friday, April 27, on a charge of trafficking in cocaine. Police said they discovered 56 grams of cocaine hidden in a compartment of his motorcycle following a road stop.

Task force police were waiting for Mr. Rowell, the subject of an ongoing investigation, when he returned to the Vineyard on the 4:30 pm Steamship Authority ferry.

Edgartown police officer Michael Snowden watched as Mr. Rowell drove off the ferry in Vineyard Haven on his red 1995 Harley Davidson motorcycle, according to the police report, and followed him in an unmarked police car. At Mr. Snowden’s request, Oak Bluffs Detective Nicholas Curelli driving a marked cruiser stopped Mr. Rowell on County Road.

Mr. Snowden and Mr. Curelli were joined by Edgartown Detective Chris Dolby and K-9 officer Jeff Trudel and Buster, a black Labrador retriever trained to find narcotics.

“After conducting a pat frisk, Det. Curelli informed me that he could feel Rowell’s heart pumping through his chest at a very high rate and stated that he [Mr. Rowell] was very nervous,” officer Snowden wrote.

Mr. Rowell told the officers that he was not aware of any narcotics and gave officers permission to search his motorcycle. Buster immediately indicated the presence of something in a storage container.

Police found a bag full of coffee grounds, sometimes used by drug traffickers to prevent a dog from detecting narcotics, he said. Det. Dolby opened the coffee bag and found a surgical glove. Inside he found two “ball shaped objects” consistent with cocaine.

Police towed the motorcycle, seized a cell phone they said was indicative of drug dealing activity, and arrested Mr. Rowell for intent to distribute 56 grams of cocaine, that “without being cut has a street value of approximately $5,600.”

Mr. Rowell was arraigned in Edgartown District Court on Monday, on a charge of cocaine trafficking. The court set bail at $5,000.

A conviction on that charge, with the amount of cocaine seized by police, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, and as many as 20 years, in state prison.

Police said Mr. Rowell has no record of prior arrests and the case remains under investigation.