Pictures do not always tell the whole story. On 8/16/17, the jury returned verdicts of not guilty on charges of sale of cocaine, and possession of cocaine with intent to sell, in just 26 minutes.
Evidence showed that a detective with the Okeechobee County Drug Task Force stopped the CI on 11/14/16 for an alleged traffic infraction. Per standard procedure, the narcotics detective ran a drug detection dog around the CI’s car. The K-9 alerted to the presence of drugs. A subsequent search of the vehicle uncovered .5 grams of cocaine.
The CI was faced with a choice: either “cooperate” or be arrested. The CI chose to become a cooperating individual. The CI advised that he had just recently purchased the .5 grams of cocaine for $50. The CI was told that he would not be charged for the cocaine found in his car as long as he could make cases against other people. The CI was further required to testify “truthfully” in any necessary court proceedings.
Fast forward to 12/22/16 at an apartment located in Okeechobee City. A different task force detective testified that both the CI and his car had been “searched” for the presence of drugs or money. The CI was given $100 and was outfitted with a video and sound recording device. Task force detectives followed the CI and observed him walk up a stairway leading to the Defendant’s apartment.
On cross-examination, Port Saint Lucie criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Garland exposed the fact that the so-called “search” of the CI did not require the CI to remove his shoes or socks. Further, the search did not explore beneath the CI’s underwear, nor was more than a cursory search of the CI’s vehicle conducted. Importantly, the task force detectives failed to utilize a drug detection dog to “search” the CI or his car before the 12/22/16 activities. Funny how the drug detection dog was used when the CI was first busted, but not used when the CI was being used to do a “controlled buy”. Even funnier is the fact that airport searches of ordinary people require the removal of shoes, but the task force detectives would not require the removal of shoes by a known criminal.
The CI testified that he had been a “friend” of Defendant ever since high school. Both the CI and the Defendant were in their early 20s. There does not seem to be much unusual about one long-time friend going to visit another at his residence.
The video recorded the CI’s entire visit to Defendant’s apartment. The video was placed into evidence and played for the jury without sound.
The CI testified that he bought cocaine from Defendant for $100. Yet the video did not show the transfer of any money from the CI to Defendant or any drugs from the Defendant to the CI. As the State elected not to play the sound along with the video, there was no evidence of any drug sale discussions. The defense supposed that sound was not played partly because there were no drug sale discussions, and partly because the sound was a mix of Spanish and English.
The video further showed the presence of another man at the apartment, who the CI knew as “Eduardo”. Eduardo was wearing a funny hat with a long tail.
The video showed the CI with a plastic baggie in his hand. The CI appeared to be hiding the baggie under the kitchen table. The defense speculated that the CI was hiding the plastic bag from the Defendant and Eduardo because he had not bought cocaine from them. Why would he appear to be concealing a baggie of cocaine which he had just purchased?
The CI turned the baggie over to task force detectives after leaving the apartment. A task force detective established that the baggie contained 1.6 grams of cocaine. The defense pointed out the discrepancy about the supposed purchase of 1.6 grams of cocaine with just $100. The price did not match the weight.
Given the lack of credible evidence, the defense rested without having the Defendant testify. In closing arguments, the defense focused on the lack of CI credibility. Further, the CI had every motive to “make a case” in order to avoid his own charges; and the CI had every opportunity to secrete cocaine in his shoes, or underwear, or somewhere in his car, because task force detectives had only conducted a cursory “search” of the CI and his car. Finally, the video did not show a transfer of money or drugs; and there was no sound presented of drug sale discussions. Results: not guilty and not guilty.
Defendant is a DACA person. A guilty verdict would have resulted in deportation. Instead, the Defendant was released from jail, that same day, to resume life with his girlfriend and child. Attorney Garland has filed a motion seeking the return of property which was seized when a search warrant was executed on Defendant’s apartment. Interestingly, no drugs and no drug paraphernalia were found. The defense is seeking the return of $1,261 in U.S. currency and a Samsung cell phone.