SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 29, 2012

Guns, cocaine tossed by judge

District attorney opts to dismiss case against three stopped on Route 110

SALEM — A veteran Amesbury police officer’s hunch — accurate, as it turns out — was far from an adequate basis to search a car where police found a bag of unlicensed, high-powered handguns earlier this year, a Salem Superior Court judge has ruled.

Police also found approximately $30,000 worth of cocaine in the groin area of one of the car’s passengers during the Jan. 3 stop in Amesbury.

Police characterized the search as a permissible “safety sweep” of the vehicle during a routine stop of a car for an equipment violation.

But a judge, in a 16-page ruling, disputed that, calling the officer’s claim a “subterfuge” for a search that violated the Fourth Amendment’s right against unlawful searches and seizures by police.

“In sum, the search of the rear hatchback of the vehicle and its closed containers was not a safety sweep of the vehicle and cannot be sustained as such,” Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley wrote in a decision granting a motion to suppress evidence filed by lawyers for three Maine residents charged in the case. “It was an evidence search based on (the officer’s) hunch that the vehicle was carrying drugs from New York to Maine.”

The Essex County district attorney’s office has opted not to appeal Feeley’s finding in the case against three Maine residents, which was formally dropped by prosecutors yesterday because without the guns and cocaine, they have no other evidence against the three.

Anthony Jones, 25, of Portland, Andrew Palmer, 27, of Waterville, and Annissia Newcomb, 24, of Saco, were all arrested on charges of illegal possession of a large-capacity firearm, possessing firearms without a firearms identification card and carrying a dangerous weapon after Amesbury Patrolman David Noyes opened a drawstring bag he found in the hatchback area of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and saw four semi-automatic handguns, as well as ammunition.

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