Producers of ABC's Primetime Live searched coast to coast for a "typical" drug defendant to feature in their coverage of this week's drug summit in Colombia. They found their defendant in the Pinellas County Jail.
And on Thursday evening either Sam Donaldson or Diane Sawyer will introduce the country to Monique J. Baker, a St. Petersburg woman accused of smuggling $395,000 worth of cocaine in a stretch limousine.
Neither of the program's stars set foot in St. Petersburg for the story. That task was left to two producers and a camera crew.
Producer Susan G. Adams said she intends to use Baker's case to illustrate the "staggering" amount of time, money and manpower required to prosecute a single drug defendant. The point, she said, is to show America that "winning the drug war is not that easy."
The show, which airs at 10 p.m. on WTSP-Ch. 10, interviewed Pinellas sheriff's deputies, jail officials, attorneys, court clerks and judges to trace Baker's case through the criminal justice system since her arrest Aug. 16.
Among other things, the producers filmed the 6.6 pounds of cocaine seized in the limousine and learned taxpayers spend about $44 a day to keep Baker in jail.
Baker, 30, has been in jail 183 days. She is scheduled for trial March 1 on one count of trafficking cocaine.
How did Baker catch the eye of Primetime producers in New York City?
Adams said producers 'sort of threw out the net nationally," calling law enforcement agencies to drum up a list of defendants. "It had to be basically a normal drug case," Adams said.
In fact, Baker's case is somewhat unusual.
Police say Baker copied her scheme from an episode of Miami Vice in which two drug dealers rented a chauffeur-driven limousine to smuggle cocaine.