Judge OKs evidence in cocaine case
ASPEN A district judge ruled Monday that key evidence can stand in the cocaine-distribution case against Moses Greengrass, dealing a blow to the defense of the former crime-spree leader. District Judge James Boyd issued a four-page decision Monday that smashed defense allegations that police violated Greengrass’ Fourth Amendment rights with his arrest in March. Greengrass, 26, of Aspen, faces charges of felony possession of more than 25 grams of cocaine and possession with intent to sell. Had Boyd deemed the arrest unconstitutional, the prosecution’s case would have been crippled with the absence of the key evidence. Greengrass, who was in court Monday, remains in the Pitkin County Jail for allegedly violating parole with the arrest. He was released from prison in January after serving seven years for his role in a 1999 crime spree in Aspen, which involved local teenagers committing a string of armed robberies in the upper valley. Because of the alleged parole violation, Greengrass cannot go free from jail even if he could pay the $25,000 bond.Meanwhile, defense attorney Garth McCarty requested a last-ditch, “interlocutory appeal” from Boyd on Monday. Prosecutor Gail Nichols said she was not aware the defendant had the right to an interlocutory appeal, which is a legal move reserved for significant judicial decisions in the course of a case that typically originates in a constitutional issue. Boyd gave McCarty 10 days to write a motion in support of the appeal and gave Nichols another seven days to respond. “It was a difficult hearing and a difficult issue for the court to resolve,” Boyd admitted when McCarty verbally disagreed with the decision. Boyd’s written ruling sided with significant parts of Nichols’ arguments presented during a seven-hour hearing on Aug. 6. At issue was the first few contacts that rookie Aspen police officer Jeff Fain made with Greengrass on the night of March 22. Boyd ruled that Fain had sufficient basis to question Greengrass in the early morning hours of March 23 outside of Eric’s Bar in downtown Aspen. Not in question are the basic facts that Fain came out of a walk-through of Eric’s Bar early on the morning of March 23 and noticed Greengrass on the far side of a Toyota Scion speaking with a woman in the driver’s seat. In testimony, Fain said he saw, from 10 feet away and through the front windshield of the car, Greengrass make a handoff with the woman. Fain suspected a drug transaction and stopped Greengrass for questioning.Boyd wrote that the first contact was a “consensual interview” and later became an “investigatory stop” as Greengrass walked away from Fain during questioning. As part of that ruling, Boyd noted Fain’s understanding of Aspen that the entire downtown core is “a location associated with criminal activity” and that core “restaurants and bars [are] locations of cocaine activity.”At the point when the stop changed to an “investigatory stop,” Boyd wrote that Fain had reasonable suspicion because of “the bar-closing time of night, the location adjacent to a bar and the Aspen core, the two hand-to-hand contacts through a car window which appeared to Fain to be an exchange of items consistent with a drug transaction; the Defendant’s placement of his hand in his pocket in a manner Fain interpreted as placing something in his pocket; Defendant’s nervous demeanor; and Defendant’s explanation which was inconsistent with Fain’s observations.”As to the other questions of constitutionality, such as whether police had a right to search a jacket Greengrass allegedly dropped that contained bags of cocaine, Boyd dispatched with those rather rapidly. A decision on the interlocutory appeal is due Oct. 1. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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