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Monsey Man Looking to Suppress Police Confiscation of Marijuana


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Matthew Pearl hopes to convince a County Court judge tomorrow that Ramapo police illegally found 9 pounds of marijuana in his house while inspecting his legal gun arsenal.

The suppression of the search would void a felony count of first-degree possession of marijuana against the 45-year-old Pearl.

Ramapo police went to Pearl's Monsey house in May to question him about reports of a man dressed in camouflage who fired a shotgun or rifle in the woods a mile away near West Fessler Drive. It was near the start of turkey-hunting season.

Pearl had been identified by a witness that day as the hunter, police said, though another man would later tell police he had fired the gun, not Pearl.

While officers spoke with Pearl on that day outside his Lyncrest Drive house, Pearl denied shooting a gun.

But he agreed to let the officers inside his home to inspect what turned out to be 84 guns, which were all legal.

While inside, an officer saw marijuana and later obtained a court-approved search warrant, police said. They came back and confiscated 9 pounds of marijuana, police said.

Police, and later a grand jury, charged Pearl with first-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Police also charged Pearl that day with second-degree reckless endangerment, a count related to shooting a gun in a residential area. That charge was dropped when police later learned that another man claimed to have fired the gun.

Pearl's lawyer, James Winslow, wants Judge Karen Riley to toss out the seizure of marijuana - and the felony possession charge - based on an illegal search of Pearl's home.

Police convinced Pearl to let them just inspect his guns inside the house, Winslow said.

"My position is that he agreed to show them the guns," Winslow said. "As soon as they got inside the house they started searching willy-nilly. Our position is that the search and subsequent seizure is not legal."

Winslow said he still is not sure what led police to Pearl's house, which was more than a mile from where the gunshots were fired.

He said Pearl had never been arrested, but speculated the police might have checked to see who owned guns in the neighborhood.

His collection included handguns, rifles, shotguns and 10 brand-new AK-47 rifles, as well as two Tec DC-9 machine pistols.

Winslow said he wasn't told another man admitted firing the gun until the hearing started.

Ramapo Detective Sgt. John Lynch said Pearl was identified from a photo array and the police had reasonable cause that day to believe he had fired the gun.

Lynch said Pearl acknowledged to officers that he owned guns and allowed the officers into his home.

Lynch said the officers saw the marijuana and later that day obtained a search warrant signed by a judge to enter the house and seize the marijuana.

Ramapo officers will testify during tomorrow's pretrial suppression hearing and will answer questions from prosecutor Steve Miller.

"We feel the police conduct in this case was entirely proper," Chief Assistant District Attorney Louis Valvo said.

Pearl has worked 25 years for the state agency that helps developmentally disabled people. He was the state employee of the year in 2004 and has never been arrested, his lawyer said.

He could lose his job if he's convicted of a felony, Winslow said. The felony charge also could bring a maximum prison sentence of two years.

Newshawk: User - 420 Magazine
Source: The Journal News
Pubdate: 12 November 2006
Author: Steve Lieberman
Copyright: 2006 The Journal News
Contact: slieberm@lohud.com
Website: Error: Invalid story key (BH,20061112,NEWS03,611120354,AR).
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