Drug suspect fails in bid to get evidence pitched

November 20, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Noland Maurice Rheubottom's hopes of avoiding a third cocaine distribution conviction have been substantially diminished by a judge who refused to throw out key prosecution evidence.

Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold denied the 26-year-old Westminster man's request to quash the search warrant that led to his June 19 arrest.

The judge issued his decision from the bench Wednesday night after hearing nearly three hours of testimony.

"I've listened to the witnesses, and I can't find that the defendant has established any reason to strike any part of the warrant," the judge said.

Rheubottom presented four witnesses in his attempt to persuade Judge Arnold that the search warrant lacked probable cause and, therefore, led to an illegal search of his West Main Street apartment.

The defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison if he is convicted of cocaine distribution a third time. Rheubottom spent almost two years in state prison after his second conviction in December 1990.

But the judge, and prosecuting attorney Barton F. Walker III, found the three witnesses who followed state police Tfc. Robert Heuisler to the witness stand to be far from credible.

Brian L. Magruder, 23, a convicted thief and fellow resident of 10 W. Main St., had been arrested in a routine traffic stop and questioned about drug dealing.

He told police that he knew of a man named "Tom Brown" who dealt drugs "out of his car" in Westminster.

Questioned for more details -- how he came to know Mr. Brown, for instance -- Magruder said plainly, "You know, everybody knows who he is and what he does."

"So he's sort of a legend, a drug dealing folk hero?," Judge Arnold asked, grinning widely.

The second witness, Diane L. Wisner, 33, was arrested last spring and admitted to possessing cocaine. She was called to cast doubt on the warrant's claim that she knew Rheubottom.

However, testimony showed that when Ms. Wisner was arrested police found Rheubottom's telephone pager number and a code number in her belongings. She said the numbers were for contacting Rheubottom's cousin.

Prosecutors contended she had the numbers because Rheubottom was her source for cocaine.

"You tell us that you don't know Mr. Rheubottom, yet you have his beeper number and your own special code?" Mr. Walker said.

"I told you, I told you, I had it to reach his cousin," Ms. Wisner replied.

The third witness was Rheubottom's cousin, a woman who tried to corroborate Ms. Wisner's testimony.

Rheubottom's defense lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Brian Green, tried to convince the judge that the search warrant contained incorrect and inconsistent statements, and should be discarded.

"They needed probable cause to search 10 West Main Street," said Mr. Green. "They have to know what they're looking for. They can't just have carte blanche. On its face, this warrant should be quashed and all of the evidence seized should be suppressed."

"I think what we have here is a last-ditch effort of a man who has been caught red-handed, dealing drugs for the third time," countered Mr. Walker.

Much of the seized evidence is damaging to Rheubottom's defense.

During the early evening raid on June 19, officers from the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force seized more than half of an ounce of cocaine, $4,400, hand-held scales, a telephone pager and many other electronic items.

Court records show that, as task force officers conducted the raid, Rheubottom told them he "sold cocaine, but not at the residence."

When the officers asked him about the hand-held scale, Rheubottom told them, "You can't use a hand-held scale to weigh cocaine," and said that if he had lots of money, "I wouldn't be doing stuff like selling drugs."

Rheubottom is being held at the Carroll County Detention Center in lieu of $37,500 bail. His jury trial is scheduled Dec. 23.

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