Arrest in drug case legal, judge says

Baltimore man accused of selling crack cocaine

trial to begin Monday

March 09, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County Circuit Court judge rejected yesterday a defense attorney's motion to rule the arrest and search of a suspect in a drug case in Westminster were illegal because they were made without probable cause.

"There clearly were some innocent and negligent inconsistencies [in police reports and testimony], which are not uncommon," said Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., after hearing several hours of testimony at the pretrial hearing. "But there was probable cause to make the arrest and search."

The motion was the first of three filed by Laura G. Morton, a Westminster attorney representing Nathan S. Walker, 28, of Baltimore. He is accused of selling crack cocaine to a police informant Sept. 4 in Westminster.

Morton withdrew the remaining motions, which sought to link Detective Chris Outten, a Westminster police narcotics investigator, to a state attorney general's investigation of his partner, Detective Richard A. Ruby. Ruby was suspended last month after two Westminster officers alleged that he had tried to plant narcotics on drug suspects.

Ruby's name did not surface during yesterday's hearings. Morton's motions -- requesting police personnel files and investigative notes from police and the attorney general's office -- alleged that Outten and other Westminster officers were suspected of fabricating evidence against her client.

Morton said she withdrew the motions because it was clear the judge was not going to grant her request to subpoena the records.

"Judge Beck gave us a fair hearing," Morton said. "I believe the results will be different when we take the circumstances to a jury." Jury selection in the trial begins Monday.

Yesterday, Outten, Patrolman 1st Class Keith Benfer and Officer Scott Peter described the circumstances in Walker's arrest.

They differed in details, but essentially agreed that they all met Chad Barron, who then lived with his girlfriend on Union Street. They said Barron was willing to help curtail drug sales in the neighborhood and agreed to make a controlled purchase from a white man in an apartment building on Union Street.

Barron was searched to ensure he had no drugs on him and given $40 to buy crack cocaine.

While Benfer and Peter waited nearby in marked patrol cars, Outten said he watched from a covert vantage point as Barron entered the building and then left with a black man.

Outten said he observed hand-to-hand contact between Barron and the suspect, later identified as Walker.

As Barron and the suspect walked away, Outten radioed for Benfer and Peter to make the arrest. One vial of suspected crack cocaine and the $40 police gave Barron were recovered.

After Benfer drove Walker to police headquarters, he reported finding 16 bags of suspected crack cocaine stuffed in the rear seat of the patrol car.

Testifying yesterday, Barron's version differed slightly from police. He said a man known only as Tom was the one who called police. He said he thought the man called police because of "rowdy and rude behavior" by apartment residents.

Outten said Barron offered to make the drug purchase, but Barron said Outten suggested it.

Outten's reports and testimony at a preliminary hearing in October made no mention of the man known only as "Tom."

County prosecutor Theresa M. Adams objected to any implication that Outten's reports were intentionally inaccurate, or that the officers somehow fabricated evidence.

"The state is unaware of any allegations against Detective Outten or any other Westminster police officers, other than Detective Ruby," Adams said.

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