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Driver with 172 pounds of pot gets probation

A Thailand national unable to read English was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation for his role in transporting more than 170 pounds of marijuana.

Tong Xiong, 27, also will have his driver's license suspended for six months after admitting to a felony marijuana delivery count. He was assisted in Jackson County Circuit Court by a Hmong-language interpreter.

Xiong had been lodged at the Jackson County Jail since Nov. 9, when Oregon State Police caught him driving a 2017 Mitsubishi SUV rented out of Medford with 172.2 pounds of marijuana on northbound Interstate 5 near Talent, police said.

"I think this is an extremely fair resolution," said Alyssa Bartholomew, Xiong's court-appointed defense lawyer.

Xiong had been set to plead guilty last week, but the hearing was rescheduled to accommodate an interpreter. The Hmong language is spoken primarily in southeast Asia.

Last week, Bartholomew told the judge she went over the negotiated plea line-by-line, but Xiong didn't express certainty when the judge asked whether he understood the rights to a trial he was giving up by pleading guilty. He appeared to speak English colloquialisms fluently, but Bartholomew said her client doesn't read English.

"Nah, I'll take the deal," Xiong said last week.

Xiong appeared solemn during Tuesday's hearing but said little.

A passenger in the rented SUV, Spy Lee Vang, 40, of Stone Lake, Iowa, still has felony charges pending of exporting, delivering and unlawfully possessing marijuana. She was released from the Jackson County Jail on her own recognizance in November, court records show. Vang is a resident of Laos, court records show.

Xiong told police they were headed to Minnesota with the marijuana. Court records previously showed a Robbinsdale, Minnesota, address for Xiong, but they now show a White City address.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Tong Xiong