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Marijuana Case May Be A Bust

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
ST. JOHNSBURY -- Police might have violated the rights of a man accused in a marijuana cultivation case, a Vermont District Court judge said Friday.

Businessman and former Lyndon Selectman Robert Elmes was arrested last summer after state police saw pot plants on his property from the air. Elmes' defense attorney filed three motions Friday to suppress information obtained by search warrants, saying the officer who made the initial accusation wasn't trained to spot pot plants from the air.

Judge Thomas Zonay unexpectedly said at the end of a motion hearing Friday that police might have violated Elmes' rights at the time of arrest.

David Sleigh, the defense attorney representing Elmes, a 56-year-old financial adviser, also filed a motion to dismiss the case. Sleigh said Elmes had not freely given consent to police to search his property.

Those issues fell by the wayside at the conclusion of a daylong hearing Friday when Zonay said he was more concerned that police might have violated Elmes' rights when they began searching before handing Elmes a search warrant and by not reading his Miranda rights. Police had not arrested Elmes, but he was not allowed to leave his property, according to Elmes' testimony, because three state police cruisers blocked the driveway.

Three state police officers testified in Vermont District Court that on Aug. 13 they found what they say was a marijuana cultivation operation on Elmes' property after Trooper Shawn McGarvin conducted his first marijuana eradication mission riding in a Vermont National Guard helicopter.

McGarvin met state police Sgt. Brian May and Trooper Matt Amadon, who fanned out in separate cars in search of the residence, according to testimony. Police reached Elmes' residence about 20 minutes after the flyover. Most of the initial search was recorded by video and audio equipment in May's cruiser. The 18-minute tape was played in court Friday. Elmes could be heard denying any knowledge of pot cultivation on a few occasions.

"I don't know what the heck's going on here; I have no idea what is going on," Elmes is heard saying on the tape. Elmes is seen only briefly on the fixed-position video. The rest of the tape has audio where the occasional comment can be heard as police ask to look around. Police can be heard asking permission to look around, to which a voice attributed to Elmes responds, "Hey, wait a minute, what are my rights, here?"

The question sounds as though it went unanswered.

"There's no evidence you are growing marijuana, but let's look in the back; we've got pictures of it," someone is heard saying.

Police are heard saying they found a marijuana branch on a path and on the mown lawn near the home. A person later identified as May is heard asking Elmes for permission to smell his hands and asking to look in the car. Elmes is heard to allow May to smell his hands but does not allow him to open the vehicle. May then advises Elmes he is freezing the property until a search warrant can be obtained.

According to testimony, police began searching after Amadon said by radio he obtained the warrant but before Elmes received it. The search allegedly turned up marijuana seeds; maps of the area where the plants appear to have been pulled out of the ground; magazines and Web sites on how to cultivate marijuana; a pipe and other evidence, according to testimony.

Police also said they discovered a small amount of processed marijuana inside the home and a black plastic garbage bag full of marijuana plants in the trunk of Elmes' car.

Police charged Elmes with felony cultivation and misdemeanor possession of marijuana. If convicted, Elmes would serve a maximum three years in jail, State's Attorney Robert Butterfield said.

Judge Zonay continued the hearing until next week to hear explanations on what he said were inconsistencies between the original affidavit and the sworn testimony.

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Burlingtonfreepress.com
Author: Carla Occaso
Contact: metro@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com
Copyright: 2007 Burlingtonfreepress.com
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