By RYAN SHERIDAN
Daily Press writer
In the first drug case since his girlfriend was arrested in a drug sweep in August, District 14 Judge Joel Thompson ruled against the prosecution in a motions hearing concerning a drug arrest. The defense claimed that Franklin Charles Taylor, 36, was actually in custody without being advised of his rights when police searched his vehicle, and Thompson supported that assertion.
The Craig Police had pulled Taylor over on Feb. 6 to arrest his passenger, Jennifer Tafoya, on a GRAMNET warrant. After arresting Tafoya, the officers on the scene specified that Taylor was not under arrest, but they were going to conduct a "search incident to arrest" of his vehicle because Tafoya had been a passenger and an arrest had already taken place, according to court files.
During the search, officers found cocaine and drug paraphernalia, and Taylor admitted some of what was found was his. After this confession, Taylor was placed under arrest.
Thompson ruled that Taylor was "effectively in custodial detention" during the search, and since he had not been read his rights, Taylor's statements that drugs and drug paraphernalia were his were ruled inadmissible.
Taylor is being held on a $10,000 bond in the Moffat County Public Safety Center. Taylor is charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving under restraint of license.
Both the Craig Police and the Moffat County District Attorney's Office felt confident the motion to suppress would be denied.
"This decision surprised me," said Sergeant Corey Wagner, one of the arresting officers. "I've always been impressed with Judge Thompson's rulings on the bench before."
The District Attorney's Office is similarly impressed with Thompson's past record, and was equally caught off guard by this ruling.
"I have to say this was an unexpected ruling," Chief Deputy District Attorney David Waite, said. "Judge Thompson has been excellent in dealing with these kinds of cases in the past, but this is a ruling we feel should be looked at again."
The ruling is being appealed to the state Supreme Court, and that decision should be handed down by mid-November, Waite said.
Both Wagner and Waite declined further comment on the case in question or Thompson's ruling.
Judge Thompson declined to comment because the case is still pending.
Thompson's live-in girlfriend, Billie Vreeman, 36, was arrested on August 10 in a multi-state drug sweep that stemmed from an 18-month investigation coordinated by GRAMNET and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Vreeman has been charged by federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court with distribution of cocaine.