Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 20, 2013

Motion to suppress drug search granted

Drug case in jeopardy after ruling

By Michael R. Moser

CROSSVILLE — A Crossville Police search based on suspicious activity was conducted without probable cause and the seizure of evidence ruled inadmissible in court, placing the case in jeopardy.

Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns granted Crossville attorney Robert Zecher's motion to have the search ruled illegal, saying city police had no reason to search a vehicle his client was found sitting in at a city park.

As a result, state prosecutors will have to decide whether the case can proceed, but that seems unlikely.

Crossville Police Ptls. Camden Davis and Dustin Lester testified they were on routine patrol, which included surveying activity at Centennial Park off Industrial Dr., because of the large number of nuisance and drug complaints and charges in the area.

On Feb. 4, 2012, Lester and Davis made contact with a Buick car parked near some picnic tables near the tennis courts, an area out of view of the nearby city street. Also parked was a Ford Ranger pickup. The officers observed three men in the Buick which aroused their suspicions.

The man on the passenger side of the car was identified as Jeffery Michael Roberts.

Lester testified that at no time during the interaction with the trio were the men detained or prevented from leaving. He testified that even though the patrol car was parked at the rear of the Buick, he believed the driver could have pulled out of the parking space and left.

A verbal consent to search was granted and the officers found two "bank bags" of pills, which Roberts said were his.

Roberts testified that he and the other two men were sitting in the car, listening to guitar music because it was raining. He testified the patrol car had his car blocked from leaving.

Police seized the bank bags of drugs and $896 in cash and charged Roberts with possessing controlled drugs for resale.

Burns agreed with Zecher's motion, stating police had no reason to search the vehicle because they did not observe suspicious activity. He added that testimony from the defendant was that he did not believe he was free to leave.

The case was continued but appears headed for dismissal.