CLINTON — Clinton County District Court John Telleen granted a Savanna, Illinois man’s request for suppression of evidence.
Telleen on June 3 granted the motion to suppress evidence filed by attorney Micah Johnson on behalf of Travis M. Robertson, 30.
Assistant Clinton County Attorney James McHugh filed a motion to dismiss June 3. Insufficient evidence exists following the suppression ruling, McHugh states in the motion.
Robertson is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, methamphetamine, in excess of five grams, a Class B felony; and one count of failure to affix an Iowa drug tax stamp as an habitual offender, a Class D felony, in connection with a complaint at the Clinton Walmart store on March 26.
Johnson filed the motion to suppress on May 23. Both the Iowa and United States Constitutions protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, the motion to suppress states. Officers did not have a warrant to search Robertson, the motion says. Initially, officers seized Robertson for the purposes of investigation when they commanded him to stop walking away, told him he was not free to leave, ordered him to stand in a certain location and ordered him to keep his hands out of his pockets, the motion says. The seizure turned into an unlawful search when the officer ordered Robertson to empty his pockets to look for stolen merchandise, the motion says.
“The subsequent search of Mr. Robertson’s person should be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree,” the motion says.
Unsupported by probable cause, the officer‘s expressed intent was to see if Robertson had any concealed merchandise on him, the motion says. Walmart employees had not reported they suspected Robertson of having concealed stolen merchandise during the March 26 store visit, the motion states. Neither the officers nor Walmart staff reported suspecting Robertson had a weapon, the motion states.
The motion also contends Robertson did not give free and voluntary consent to the search. The baggie of suspected methamphetamine dropped onto the Walmart floor following the unlawful directive to empty his pockets that led directly to the full search of Robertson, the motion says.
McHugh filed a resistance to the motion to suppress June 3. McHugh notes in the resistance Robertson argues the officer’s request that Robertson empty his pockets constitutes a search of Robertson. Whether the officer’s request should be construed as a search of Robertson appears to track closely with whether Robertson voluntarily consented, the resistance states.
“From the outset, the Defendant began to comply with the request,” McHugh states in the resistance. “The Defendant immediately began patting his pockets and discussing the items, such as a flashlight and change, that he had on his person. The Defendant had established earlier with the question of his name that he was familiar with the legal system and willing to refuse officer requests.”
The interaction lasted about 20 seconds and no threats or physical intimidation were used, the resistance states. The officer did not touch Robertson but simply asked Robertson to show the the contents of his pockets, which should be strong evidence he voluntarily consented, the resistance states.
According to the affidavit, at 9:48 p.m. March 26, an officer was dispatched to Walmart to remove a subject. Walmart loss prevention wanted Robertson removed and served with a no-trespass order because he had stolen from the store in the past. Robertson admitted to previously shoplifting from Walmart.
The affidavit states based on the circumstances of the call, the officer requested Robertson empty his pockets to ensure there was no merchandise from Walmart. The officer noticed a small plastic bag fell out of his left front pants pocket. The officer picked up the item and found a small crystal substance inside, which was consistent with ice methamphetamine, according to court records. Robertson was placed under arrest.
During a search, an officer found a bag with a large crystal substance inside, consistent with methamphetamine, according to court records. Robertson also had over $500 in his possession. The contents of the two plastic bags weighed a total of 8.56 grams, the affidavit states.