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December 29, 2012

Judge: Police search illegal

DA dismisses guns, cocaine charges from Route 110 stop

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 on Route 110 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 Amesbury Patrolman David Noyes’ 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 the three Maine residents. The case was formally dropped by prosecutors yesterday because without the guns and cocaine, officials have no other evidence against the three suspects.

Anthony Jones, 25, of Portland; Andrew Palmer, 27, of Waterville; and Annissia Newcomb, 24, of Saco, were all arrested Jan. 3 on charges of illegal possession of a large-capacity firearm, possessing firearms without a firearms identification card and carrying a dangerous weapon after Noyes opened a drawstring bag he found in the hatchback area of their Chrysler PT Cruiser and saw four semi-automatic handguns, as well as ammunition.

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