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Registered: 07/26/04
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$10 million coke confiscation ruled illegal - case dropped [CO]
    #4600611 - 08/30/05 09:55 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

DA punt huge coke bust
August 30, 2005 - journal-advocate.com

Fifteen months after a drug-sniffing dog and his cop handler uncovered 235 pounds of boxed cocaine inside a rental U-Haul truck outside Sterling, a local judge dealt a coup de grace to the criminal case.
The judge cited precedent for tossing the alleged smuggler's statements to cops, and deemed their errors "flagrant." For about 1 1/2 hours they kept Marco Falcon on the roadside, searching an hour for the drugs, the judge's order recounted, and then they jailed him for about half a day before final questioning by Colorado State Patrol.

A Denver lawyer for Falcon, 32, freed months ago on $300,000 bond from county lockup, has waged a mostly paperwork battle with prosecutors. The case ended abruptly a day before his trial was set for last Thursday, when the judge granted a prosecution request dismissing the case.

Monday, court staff said Falcon's bond had been released and is expected to get back his security deposit.

The government said they saw slim chances of winning with first the coke and then defendant's statements blocked.

"Given the suppression orders, the people do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial," prosecutor Atrelle Jones wrote in her motion.

Earlier this year, prosecutors had filed a substitute charge that Falcon lied to cops about his truck and travel plans, after Judge Douglas Vannoy of Logan County District Court deemed the $10 million coke confiscation illegally obtained. That first setback for the prosecution came this January when Vannoy deemed the seizure unconstitutional; however, he gave prosecutors leeway with the defendant's allegedly incriminating statements.

Defense attorney Liz Castle had argued that Colorado law didn't allow prosecutors to charge her client with trying to sway Leo Fleckenstein, the local Colorado State Patrol trooper who had pulled over Falcon for weaving May 27, 2004, nine miles east of town on a rural stretch of Interstate 76. Fleckenstein kept the truck because of paperwork irregularities, according to court files, but allowed Falcon to go free.

"This is 1 o'clock in the morning on an interstate highway at a location miles from the nearest services or city," Vannoy wrote in a 30-page decision excluding the coke seven months ago. "Of course he (the Spanish-speaking driver) didn't ask for a ride. But the officer didn't make any offer to arrange for a ride either."

Vannoy reasoned, in part, there was implied coercion and deemed consent for the search invalid. He also determined the patrolman's hunch wasn't reasonable suspicion for detainment, court documents say, and the later narcotics search.

Back then, District Attorney Bob Watson doubted the original trafficking charge could proceed to trial, after Vannoy's first ruling.

"If we decide not to appeal ... I don't see under any circumstances that the trial date will actually occur," a transcript from the hearing quoted Watson.

The defense persisted challenging the amended allegation Falcon tried influencing the patrolman, arguing that a cop didn't fit the statutory definition of a public servant and that false reporting was the better charge. But Vannoy disagreed, ruling against a defense dismissal motion.

He also rejected the defense contention that Falcon's right for equal protection was violated because of the two dissimilar statutes.

Vannoy said the two laws do not prescribe disparate sanctions for the same criminal conduct, and thus there was not equal protection violation.

On Aug. 17, Vannoy granted a defense motion seeking clarification of his previous ruling regarding Falcon's statements to other cops, including a Logan County Sheriff's deputy, who joined the traffic-stop search.

Vannoy partly accepted a defense contention hinging on the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine, that evidence derived by unlawful means is not admissible; however, he noted exceptions. He determined that the defendant's statements to a sheriff's deputy about his travel plans to Ohio that preceded the search were properly gathered.

"The police did not exploit their own illegal conduct to obtain those statements," Vannoy said about deputy Judd Lee, who also helped with the trooper's investigatory detention before the "illegal seizure of the vehicle."

However, the judge did bar Falcon's answers to Lee while cooperating with the trooper's search, after two separate air-inspections by drug-dog Bud. What precisely Falcon said wasn't revealed in Vannoy's order, which refers to numbered lines in previous testimony.

"Trooper Fleckenstein did not have probable cause to seize and search the vehicle and he did not obtain valid consent for defendant to do so," Vannoy wrote. "Therefore (certain) defendant's statements must be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree."

Vannoy used similar reasoning to exclude Falcons' conversation with another trooper, Greg McComas. The judge cited the "attenuation exception" to the poisonous-tree rule that considers three factors. They are time and proximity between the illegal police conduct and the statement; intervening circumstances and also flagrancy of police misconduct.

His order summarized the night's events, the traffic stop at 12:24 a.m., the unlawful search and seizure that commenced 35 minutes later, and the coke discovered an hour later at 2 a.m.

Falcon was arrested and jailed, Vannoy recollected, but wasn't interviewed by McComas, a Fort Collins based CSP detective, until about 10 hours later 11:20 a.m. The court saw no intervening acts "that would dissipate the taint of unlawful police conduct."

Falcon was in continuous custody during which he didn't see a judge, nor talked with a lawyer or his family or another from beyond jailhouse bars, the order says.

"The police conduct involved here was flagrant," Vannoy declared about the scope exceeded for the traffic stop and detention. "(The) defendant's statements to Trooper McComas were obtained by exploitation of the illegal conduct by Trooper Fleckenstein."

The decision says prosecutors didn't oppose Falcon's clarification request that led to the case's dismissal on Aug. 24 with prejudice, which means a criminal case can't be resubmitted.

Last week, highway patrol supervisors in Denver refused a Journal-Advocate request seeking historical data about the local trooper's drug seizures, and also statistics about the handful of drug-dog teams based in the state.

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Re: $10 million coke confiscation ruled illegal - case dropped [CO] [Re: veggie]
    #4602554 - 08/31/05 06:23 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)


Last week, highway patrol supervisors in Denver refused a Journal-Advocate request seeking historical data about the local trooper's drug seizures, and also statistics about the handful of drug-dog teams based in the state.

Does nobody else find that frightening? What do the police have to hide that they are refusing to let an outside entity review their performance?

Just another spore in the wind.

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Re: $10 million coke confiscation ruled illegal - case dropped [CO] [Re: Seuss]
    #4602696 - 08/31/05 09:25 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

What DON'T they have to hide? The fact that they're cops pretty much sums up why they wouldn't want anyone discovering their dirty schemes. This story is really amazing also..I can't even begin to imagine the relief felt when the guy realized they had no case against him.

Manoa said:
I need to stop spending all my money on plants and take up a cheaper hobby, like heroin. :lol:

Looking for Rauhocereus riosaniensis seeds or live specimen(s), :pm: me if you have any for trade

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Re: $10 million coke confiscation ruled illegal - case dropped [CO] [Re: SuperD]
    #4605358 - 08/31/05 09:40 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

i find it interesting that this falcon guy was infact a lwayer and got himself off as it seems.



"in times of widespread chaos and confusion, it has been the duty of more advanced human beings - artists, scientists, clowns, and philosophers - to create order. In such times as ours however, when there is too much order, too much m management, too much programming and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, they must sow doubt and disruption"

"People do it every day, they talk to themselves ... they see themselves as they'd like to be, they don't have the courage you have, to just run with it."

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Re: $10 million coke confiscation ruled illegal - case dropped [CO] [Re: ZippoZ]
    #4607426 - 09/01/05 11:13 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)


zippoz said:
i find it interesting that this falcon guy was infact a lwayer and got himself off as it seems.

Are you sure? I skimmed it, and it said a lawyer provided the bond for him.


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Re: $10 million coke confiscation ruled illegal - case dropped [CO] [Re: veggie]
    #12697715 - 06/06/10 04:53 PM (7 years, 11 months ago)


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