By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
Drug charges against three local men were dismissed recently due to an invalid search warrant.
Maurice Fort, 21, 1853 S. 27th Ave., Ethan S. Nissen, 21, 721 14th Place, Camanche, and Antwone R. Buchanan, 22, 121 N. Fifth St., were charged with conspiracy to deliver ecstacy, conspiracy to deliver cocaine base, violation of the Drug Tax Stamp law and possession of marijuana. Judge Gary McKenrick ruled in favor of a motion of suppression filed by the defendants.
After deliberating on the case, McKenrick determined the initial search warrant that led to the arrests was invalid. According to the affidavit, Camanche police officer David James obtained a warrant for a green Pontiac Grand Prix with Iowa plates 235MKD and the subjects inside for narcotics-related activities traveling across state lines. According to McKenrick’s judgement, the application for the warrant established probable cause with the belief that the defendants were going to Chicago to purchase illegal controlled substances with the intent to bring them back to the community to sell.
“In other words, probable cause existed to believe controlled substances would be found in the vehicle on its immediate return from the Chicago area,” McKenrick stated in his ruling.
When the vehicle was stopped and searched, ecstacy, crack cocaine and marijuana were found, according to the affidavit. Buchanan had approximately 46 multi-colored pills clutched in his left hand and marijuana in his pant pockets. According to court documents, Buchanan stated that they had driven to Gary, Ind., to purchase the ecstacy for $125 and Nissen was promised half for driving.
The search revealed that Fort had approximately 3 ounces of crack cocaine in his pant pocket and he told officers that two marijuana blunts in the back seat were his, according to court documents. Two more packages of crack cocaine were found in the right front door, according to the affidavit. All three admitted to using marijuana and Nissen and Buchanan admitted to using ecstacy on the drive, according to the court documents.
They were all taken into custody and charged. On Aug. 28, Nissen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver ecstacy. A motion to suppress evidence from the search was filed Sept. 19.
McKenrick said the problem with the warrant is that it was issued before the individuals left for Chicago, making it an anticipatory warrant. While anticipatory warrants are constitutional, they are not allowed under sections 808.3 and 808.4 of Iowa Code. McKenrick explained in his ruling that when the warrant was issued, probable cause did not exist to believe that the controlled substances were in the vehicle.
According to his ruling, McKenrick also took issue with a GPS device attached to the vehicle prior to it leaving the area so police could monitor its movements. There was no warrant authorizing the attachment of this device, according to the judgement. The information that the police received from the GPS device allowed police to anticipate the arrival of the defendants’ vehicle and stake out the bridges from Illinois. McKenrick stated that it is unlikely that the search warrant could have been successfully executed without the GPS device.
“Therefore, the court concludes that the unconstitutional use of the GPS device also mandates that the evidence seized from the vehicle be suppressed,” McKenrick wrote in his ruling.
The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence at the defendants’ cost.