An Oxon Hill businessman accused of major Washington-area drug dealings failed to appear for trial yesterday in Fairfax County, frustrating prosecutors who said they believe he fled the country without spending a day in jail, by forfeiting a $200,000 bond.
Police said Dane J. Barnhard, was arrested last August after he allegedly sold more than a pound of cocaine worth an estimated $140,000 to an undercover officer. Barnhard made his $200,000 cash bond within minutes and was never jailed, according to assistant Fairfax prosecutor Rodney Leffler.
Leffler said an informant told authorities that Barnhard, carrying $400,000 in cash, had been seen shortly afterward boarding a plane at an unspecified airport.
"I don't think we'll see this guy again," Leffler said yesterday.
Barnhard, 33, who authorities said maintained a colorful and comfortable life style, reportedly had served as a swim coach at a country club in southern Fairfax County. Police who arrested him Aug. 17 at the Yorktowne Shopping Center in Fairfax said they found $11,600 worth of marijuana, a transaction sheet and $8,500 in cash in Barnhard's late-model Mercedes sedan.
Leffler said police also found a "Taiser" gun, a futuristic weapon that stuns victims with an electrical shock, in the car.
"In his [Barnhard's] own words, "There are As, Bs and Cs in the drug world. . . . The As are in Florida, I'm a B, and the Cs are the ones you usually catch,'" Leffler said. "We got a name and address book from him that shows him to be a top-level distributor."
Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Lewis Hall Griffith issued a bench warrant yesterday for Barnhard's arrest, and Barnhard's name was given to the National Criminal Information Center but officials said they doubted Barnhard would ever be seen again.
Prosecutors and police said they have been frustrated by the ability of some drug suspects to make substantial bails and by the jail terms served in some drug cases, which they find distressingly short.
"An officer makes a case good enough for an arrest and an indictment, and this was one of the highest bail amounts ever set here," in an effort to keep the suspect in jail pending trial, said Fairfax police spokesman Warren Carmichael.
Fairfax chief prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said he predicted four months ago that Barnhard would not come to trial.
Horan also pointed to a 1978 drug case in which five men were convicted of smuggling seven tons of marijuana into Cumberland County in central Virginia. Three of the five were freed recently by a Virginia judge after serving no more than eight months of their lengthy prison sentences.
"That's astounding," said Horan, who served as a special prosecutor in the Cumberland case. "What will the effect be on other prosecutions? What about the guy who is caught with 50 pounds? His attorney can now say 'Hold it, those guys down in Cumberland had seven tons and only served eight months.'"
In Barnhard's case, Leffler said, police found that cars seen parked near the suspect's Maryland home also had been observed at sites in Florida where planes carrying marijuana into the country had been found. Leffler said Barnhard also told authorities he had a pilot in Reading, Pa., and rented a Lear jet at a cost of $4,900 per day to fly from Florida to the Washington area.
"What you've got to do is make the bonds so astronomically high that even these people can't pay them," Leffler said.