Man who shot himself won't face drug charges Judge ruled that police illegally searched pants

July 28, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County prosecutors dropped drug charges yesterday against a Pasadena man whose pants were the subject of an illegal search while he was undergoing emergency surgery after shooting himself in the groin.

"It's an unusual fact pattern," said John H. Robinson III, the defense attorney for Darwin Demontico Coates, 22, of the 7900 block of New Freetown Road.

Coates, who was at a birthday party at his sister's home in the first block of Bens Drive in Annapolis, accidentally shot himself with a .22-caliber handgun about 2 a.m. Nov. 2, Robinson said. While Coates was on the floor, his cousin took the gun from him.

The cousin, identified as Gregory Johnson, 32, of Forest Beach Road in St. Margaret's, also accidentally shot himself as he tried to place the weapon in the back of his pants, Robinson said.

Coates was taken by helicopter to University of Maryland Shock Trauma; Johnson by ambulance to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

While Coates was undergoing surgery, Annapolis police searched his sister's home. In Coates' pants, which paramedics had cut off and left behind, officers said they found a dozen baggies of suspected cocaine. Police charged Coates with drug possession with intent to distribute and drug possession. They also charged him with reckless endangerment in the shooting.

But Robinson argued to Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. in April that the pants search was illegal because police had no reason to go through the clothing.

"It was a warrantless search. They knew who he was," Robinson said.

The judge agreed.

"When he [Greene] suppressed the evidence, we couldn't do anything with the drug charges," said Eileen A. Reilly, assistant state's attorney.

The reckless endangerment charge was placed on an inactive docket yesterday because the gun was believed to be defective.

Pub Date: 7/28/98

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