Attorney wants drug evidence dropped in Aspen case
ASPEN – A judge on Monday denied a defense attorney’s motion to suppress evidence that ties an Aspen man to a crime scene that led to his arrest on cocaine charges in October 2010.
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols listened to nearly two hours of testimony during a motions hearing that included video footage of the arrest of Justin Gordon by Aspen police. The video, recorded from an Aspen Police Department patrol vehicle, showed Gordon ridiculing arresting officer Rick Magnuson for his work as a performance artist and his unsuccessful election bid for sheriff.
Public defender Tina Fang, who represents Justin Gordon, 34, wants all of Gordon’s statements – which includes his admission that he was tackled – to Magnuson suppressed. Her reason: After Gordon told Magnuson to call his attorney, anything he said after that statement should be suppressed.
Fang also contended that Magnuson’s early-morning arrest of Gordon was not supported by reasonable suspicion, and all evidence collected after he was taken into custody is considered “fruits of the poisonous tree” and therefore should be dismissed.
Magnuson initially arrested Gordon on Oct. 1, 2010, after he fielded calls about a disturbance at Eric’s Bar in downtown Aspen. According to Magnuson’s testimony Monday, he arrested Gordon after he found him walking in downtown Aspen and matching the description of the alleged culprit – a “short, bald-headed man.” Gordon was booked into Pitkin County Jail on a disorderly conduct charge. But that same morning, Officer Jeff Fain found what he said was 13 grams of cocaine left on the street after Gordon had left the scene. A taxi driver also turned over to police a passport with Gordon’s name, a lighter and a necklace, which also were found in close proximity to the cocaine. A week later, the cabbie also told police that he saw the bag of cocaine fall out of Gordon’s pocket.
The evidence prompted police to arrest Gordon later in October on cocaine charges. The District Attorney’s Office officially charged him with intent to distribute cocaine, a felony.
Nichols ruled in September, following a preliminary hearing, that there was enough evidence to bind the case over to trial, but she conceded that the prosecution has “slim evidence.”
Now Fang is aiming to dismiss Gordon’s statements and the evidence. If she’s successful, the prosecution likely will have to drop its case.
For now, Nichols is entertaining the motions regarding the suppression of Gordon’s statements and the cocaine. The judge said the passport, lighter and necklace were collected properly.
“There’s no evidence that any of this was taken unlawfully,” she said, “even assuming if he was unlawfully arrested. I just don’t see any issues here.”
A trial for Gordon has been set for the last week of May.
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