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Court reinstates search warrant in Jefferson City drugs case

Court reinstates search warrant in Jefferson City drugs case

September 20th, 2017 by Bob Watson in Local News

A state appeals court panel ruled Tuesday that Cole County prosecutors can use evidence obtained through a search warrant against Leslie Michelle Bryan.

The nine-page ruling by a three-judge panel of the Kansas City court overturned Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce's March 16 order suppressing that evidence, which was found in a Jefferson City condominium after another judge — who isn't named in the court records — issued the search warrant April 4, 2016, for "an upstairs bedroom" Bryan shared with Kelly Charlton, now 49.

Charlton was in a rehabilitation facility when the search was conducted and has not been charged in the case, according to online court records.

A Jefferson City police officer, Ross Hartley, asked for the warrant after Charlton's daughter, Camryn Charlton, told him she had seen drugs and paraphernalia in a bag under the bed and in a briefcase she found in a bedroom closet.

Bryan, now 43, was charged following that search.

A Cole County grand jury later indicted her on the charges of felony possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.

Last March, Joyce ordered the evidence seized under the search warrant to be suppressed — making it unavailable for prosecutors to use in any case against Bryan.

Her attorney, Randall Barnes, had argued in a Sept. 28, 2016, motion "the affidavit in support of the search warrant is so lacking probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable."

And, Barnes wrote, "The warrant was so facially deficient that the executing officer could not reasonably presume it to be valid."

Joyce agreed, writing in a five-page order last March: "The officer knew that Ms. Charlton was not the owner or the renter of the property. (He knew that Bryan) was at work and where she worked, and knew the father was at a rehab center in Boonville. However, the officer did not attempt to reach either person."

Joyce said Hartley didn't try to verify Camryn Charlton's age nor that she actually lived in the condominium with her father and Bryan.

The judge noted Camryn told police she thought Bryan was a heroin addict but "could not offer specifics other than stating she observed (Bryan) fall asleep at the kitchen table the week before."

Hartley had testified Camryn reported finding drugs under her father's bed while she was looking for a bottle of body wash.

Joyce wrote Hartley had admitted during that testimony, "he did not believe a reasonable person would search for body wash in a closed pouch under a bed or in a closet."

Based on that, Joyce found "the search warrant was issued without probable cause," eliminating the state's use of any evidence found because of that search.

However, the appeals court ruled Tuesday: An application for a bench warrant "presupposes that consent has not been given. Even if all mention of consent were omitted from Officer Hartley's affidavit, there would still be probable cause" for the search warrant.

In addition, Judge Victor Howard wrote for the appeals court: "There was no evidence to suggest that Charlton looked in the bedroom or the pouch at the direction of law enforcement. To the contrary, she only contacted law enforcement after finding the contraband on her own Charlton was a private citizen reporting contraband she saw that day and the day prior.

"In addition to being fresh, her description of the contraband was quite detailed (and) is sufficient to establish probable cause."

The issue was sent back to Joyce, who previously had set a hearing for Oct. 18, because the case has been on hold while the state appealed the evidence-suppression order.