Suspect in drug case may walk
ASPEN The fate of Moses Greengrass is in the hands of District Judge James Boyd, who will decide whether his arrest in March was constitutional.Greengrass, 26, faces charges of felony possession of more than 25 grams of cocaine and possession with intent to sell. If Boyd deems the arrest unconstitutional, the prosecution will have no case, and Greengrass will go free. Greengrass remains in the Pitkin County Jail for allegedly violating his parole. Greengrass 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; he would not be released from jail on the current charges even if he could pay the $25,000 bond.Boyd heard evidence during a seven-hour hearing Monday on whether to allow evidence. Boyd said he will issue a written ruling before Greengrass’s arraignment, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 10. At issue is the first few contacts that rookie Aspen police officer Jeff Fain made with Greengrass on the night of March 22. Though Fain was in training at the time, he was the one who allegedly saw Greengrass make a deal and was the arresting officer. Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols agreed with the defense that if the first contact “was awry, then we lose everything after.” “The officer did not have a basis to be contacting Mr. Greengrass at all,” argued defense attorney Garth McCarty. “That was an involuntary stop, if not a detention straightaway.”According to testimony, 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. A man was standing, looking in the open window of the passenger side of the vehicle. 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, though Fain never interviewed the woman.During Monday’s hearing, the woman – Heather Phillips – took the stand, testified that she was Greengrass’ girlfriend and said she had not made a drug transaction. She also testified that she was driving Greengrass’ vehicle, the Scion. The man on the passenger side of the vehicle, Benjamin Aley, testified that he is Greengrass’ brother and said he did not see a transaction either. During Monday’s hearing, Fain admitted making mistakes during the arrest, such as telling Greengrass, “Sucks to be you,” just after the arrest. Fain said his training officer reprimanded him after the incident was over. Fain was still in training at the time of Greengrass’ arrest; his training was extended because he failed some tests, such as knowing every Aspen street name.McCarty also brought up Fain’s recent car wreck while on the job, in which Fain was at fault, and said it shows Fain is willing to put the public at risk to make a bust. “A police officer who would cut corners, a police officer who would sacrifice public safety for a simple car stop,” McCarty said, “would also be willing to cut corners when it comes to constitutional rights.”Nichols argued that the initial contact with Greengrass was voluntary and that Fain grew more suspicious because Greengrass looked nervous. Fain testified that he kept asking Greengrass to talk more and eventually grabbed Greengrass while he was walking away.When Fain attempted to question Greengrass further, he fled on foot, shedding his puffy black jacket as he ran, according to Fain. Fain caught Greengrass in the breezeway behind the Caribou Club on East Hopkins Avenue and watched as Greengrass stuffed the jacket behind a wooden pallet.Renee Rayton, then an Aspen police officer, retrieved the jacket and found a velvet bag containing plastic baggies and small, folded envelopes, also known as bindles. Police Sgt. John Rushing testified that he searched the jacket with Rayton and that one of the baggies tested positive for cocaine.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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