October 25, 2014

Partly sunny with showers

Appeals court agrees that judge was correct in not admitting seized pot as evidence

ELYRIA — An appeals court has upheld the decision of a former county judge to bar prosecutors from using nearly 90 pounds of marijuana as evidence against a Massachusetts man who was arrested during a 2010 traffic stop and now faces multiple drug charges.

Now-retired Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski twice ruled that he had issues with how the Ohio Highway Patrol handled the Feb. 2, 2010, traffic stop of Adam Liebling on the Ohio Turnpike.

Trooper Todd Roberts has said he pulled over Liebling’s 1992 Mitsubishi pickup after he saw the vehicle cross over the white line three times in two miles. During the traffic stops and at hearings on the motion to suppress, Liebling said he didn’t cross the white line and had been obeying all other traffic laws.

Among Zaleski’s concerns was that although Roberts had a working camera in his cruiser, he didn’t start recording the incident until after he stopped Liebling.

The judge also had questioned how the drug dog brought to the scene after Roberts smelled marijuana behaved and said he had concerns about video that showed a trooper tossing a stick into the back of Liebling’s truck. That caused Zaleski to ask “whether the dog is sniffing drugs or chasing sticks” in his first decision suppressing the drugs later found in the truck.

Prosecutors successfully appealed that decision, arguing that Zaleski had applied the wrong standard, but the judge issued a new ruling just days before leaving the bench in which he wrote that he didn’t believe Roberts had reasonable suspicion to stop Liebling.

The 9th District Court of Appeals sided with Zaleski in a decision released this week.

They wrote that as the judge hearing the case, Zaleski was best suited to determine who was more credible, Roberts or Liebling.

In the end, Zaleski ruled that he found Liebling’s version of events more believable.

“The trial court specifically noted that there was conflicting testimony presented by the parties and stressed its belief that ‘defendant’s version was ‘more plausible’ and that the trooper’s testimony in this regard was not credible,’” the appeals court wrote.

Liebling, 57, remains free on bond in the case.

Calls to his attorney and prosecutors were not returned Wednesday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

  • stillsleepyeyes

    What……a state trooper wrong………no way……………

  • im heartless, so be it

    not the troopers wrong? they should give his weed back!

  • Joe Smith

    Weed should be legal anyways and they could spend thier time and money going after the dangerous drugs

  • coolj

    give the man his pot back. its about to legal anyways. the highway patrol are always messing with people for no reason. what type of jurisdiction do they have anyways? because i see them on city streets trying to do the city police jobs.

    • d c c

      the patch says “State of Ohio” that includes everything except private property

      • tickmeoff

        The State highway patrol are
        outsiders and belong on the highway, not in our neighborhoods. They are
        trolling for DUI’s and drug charges, because that is where the money is.
        I had a case with them, and if I had the money to hire an attorney, I
        would have won my case. As it was, a court appointed attorney whose only
        interest was his next paycheck went along with the judge and the fix was in.
        I have no confidence in the court and believe the judge’s main interest
        is raising revenue, not justice. Money is what buys justice, not the
        merits of the case. By all means hire an attorney if you can. Don’t
        forget the judge was once a practicing attorney himself.

        • d c c

          I hope they get a lot of drunks and druggies, maybe you will find a job so the next time you get arrested you can hire your own attorney, instead of using tax payers money, don’t break the law and you won’t need an attorney or worry where those troopers are

          • Brion Eduardo

            Court-appointed attorneys are reimbursed by the defendant, if convicted. You will learn that again if/when you get to high school. You’ll also have an opportunity for remedial education vis-a-vis spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Carpe diem!

          • tickmeoff

            I have a job, and have worked my entire life. I pull my weight. I am not making what i used to, remember, my advice was to hire an attorney. It’s obvious if you don’t break the law, you won’t get in trouble. My point is pay for an attorney if you want a chance. Your case isn’t based on the merits of your case, but on your ability to pay. Who wouldn’t agree with getting drunks and druggies off the road. Don’t forget some of these druggies have prescriptions, therefore they are not criminals.