State Forced to Drop Trafficking in Cocaine and Oxycodone Charges Fletcher Bowdoin (not his real name) was arrested on 12/20/12 by the Fort Pierce Police Department. The police report states that Bowdoin was found hiding under a bed. The police claimed that 20 grams of “crack cookies” were found in the kitchen trash, together with 89 30mg oxycodone pills and 54 alprozalom pills. A Taurus .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol was also found in the same trash can. The police reported that $1,860 cash was found in a bathroom waste basket, and that Bowdoin had $475 in his right front pocket at the time he was placed under arrest.
Natalie Waldron (not her real name) was also arrested in connection with this situation. Waldron was observed walking out of the same bedroom where Bowdoin was found hiding under the bed. Both Bowdoin and Waldron were charged with trafficking in cocaine, trafficking in oxycodone, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of cannabis under 20 grams, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, and resisting an officer without violence. Bowdoin was additionally charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Bowdoin retained Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland; Waldron retained Attorney Edward Mosher. Garland and Mosher worked closely together to resolve this case successfully for their clients.
The defense immediately identified possible prosecution problems. The police reports showed that three other individuals were present in the apartment at the time of the search. Since there were five persons in the apartment, there would be no presumption that either Bowdoin or Waldron had knowledge or the ability to control the drugs or the gun. The prosecution would have to rely upon other evidence.
The defense investigation established that the three other persons present in the apartment had not been arrested, but also that they had made no statements which incriminated either Bowdoin or Waldron. Background investigations showed that neither of the other individuals had recent arrests which might have caused them to cooperate with law enforcement as a “CI”.
The defense investigation noted that Bowdoin and Waldron were not arrested by the SLCSO Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which is the law enforcement arm most likely associated with this type of bust. Instead, the arrest was the result of a random observation by an alert police officer. The officer had recognized Bowdoin’s face and that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for failing to appear on Broward County charges. The officer called for backup. The officer knocked on the door of the apartment. The officer claimed that the man who answered the door gave permission to enter and search the apartment.
Since she was female, Waldron had to be searched by a female officer. The female officer found a cell phone on Waldron, which was placed into evidence. The female officer claimed that she “observed a fresh text” on Waldron’s cell phone which reportedly stated that “the stuff was in the kitchen by the garbage and the toaster”. The female officer did not determine who sent the text. A second cell phone was seized from Bowdoin and also placed into evidence.
From the beginning of this case, the State prosecutor threatened that the case would “go federal” unless it was resolved quickly. The defense was convinced that there were major problems with the way that the evidence was handled. The problems related mainly to the fact that the officers involved were uniformed road patrol, not specialized drug investigators.
Attorneys Garland and Mosher knew that depositions would not be allowed in federal court. After careful review of the evidence, which suggested irregularities, key police officers were set for deposition to obtain more specific information about the evidence handling and about any additional statements which have been made by the other persons in the apartment.
The depositions revealed that federal agents had seized a cell phone via a search warrant for the cell phone associated with Waldron. The Fort Pierce detective admitted that he had received the results of the cell phone analysis, which was conducted pursuant to the federal search warrant. However, he claimed that he had “deleted” this data on the assumption that it was of “no value”.
The female officer, who searched Waldron, described a different scenario at deposition than was described in the police reports. At deposition, the female officer could not remember much of anything about the text observed on the cell phone – especially where the text had come from.
The defense was convinced that the State did not have sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial. However, Attorneys Garland and Mosher were persistent in trying to obtain the results of the federal search of Waldron’s cell phone conducted pursuant to the search warrant.
The State prosecutor finally advised defense counsel about a bizarre twist in the investigation. Reportedly, the federal agents seized and searched the wrong cell phone. They searched the cell phone associated with Bowdoin, not Waldron. Such a search, believed defense counsel, would be illegal under the Florida Supreme Court’s recent decision in Smallwood v. State, 113 So.2d 724 (Fla. 2013) (which issued on 5/2/13), and the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012).
Defense counsel announced ready for trial on October 16, 2013. The State requested a continuance, which caused the case to be reset for jury trial on 11/4/13. The prosecutor elected to drop all charges against both defendants in open court on 11/4/13.