April 18, 2014

Elyria
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Charges dropped against Mass. man after judge bars evidence

ELYRIA — Prosecutors on Monday dropped drug trafficking and other charges against a Massachusetts man who was arrested after the Ohio Highway Patrol discovered nearly 90 pounds of marijuana in his pickup.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office had no choice but to drop the charges against 57-year-old Adam Liebling after now-retired county Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski barred prosecutors from using the evidence gathered during a search of Liebling’s 1992 Mitsubishi pickup.

“Without the evidence, there is no case,” Will said.

Zaleski actually ruled twice that prosecutors couldn’t use the marijuana seized during the Feb. 2, 2010, traffic stop against Liebling. An appeals court overturned the first ruling, but just days before his retirement, Zaleski issued a second ruling again suppressing the evidence.

In his second ruling, Zaleski wrote that he found Liebling’s testimony more believable than that of Trooper Todd Roberts, who testified that he pulled over Libeling after he saw the pickup cross over the white line three times in two miles on the Ohio Turnpike.

Liebling denied crossing the line and insisted he had been obeying all other traffic laws.

Zaleski criticized Roberts for not recording the alleged traffic violation with a dashboard camera he had in his patrol car, but prosecutors had argued it wasn’t Roberts’ job to document the traffic violations that led him to stop Liebling.

Roberts started recording after pulling over Liebling.

The 9th District Court of Appeals ruled that as the judge, it was up to Zaleski to determine the credibility of witnesses.

Zaleski also took issue with the drug dog that troopers brought to the scene after Roberts reported smelling marijuana in the vehicle. In the video, a stick can be seen being tossed into the back of the truck.

That prompted Zaleski to ask “whether the dog is sniffing drugs or chasing sticks” in his first decision to suppress the evidence in the case.

Will said despite the dismissal of the charges against Liebling, the marijuana seized during the stop won’t be returned to him because it is still contraband.

A call to Liebling’s attorney wasn’t returned Monday.

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

  • Don Grantzki

    Where’s the party?

  • Joe Smith

    Good, pot should be legal anyway and the police should be required to have the recording going all during a shift on a loop just for this reason, it protects the officer and the citizen.

  • Bonnie Pickett

    The most surprising thing to me is that the judge wasn’t Judge Burge, the champion of the criminals.

    • Greg Staller

      Your an idiot

      • It has to stop

        Why, because Bonnie hit the nail on the head. No disputing what she said. It’s a fact.

  • Zen Grouch

    The troopers are either not playing by the book, as in they’re not following the law, or they’re really stupid…

    Every drug bust they made because of illegal lane changes or crossing the white lines should be thrown out, unless they have video to support their bum raps.

    And tossing a stick into the back of the truck to get the dog interested in that area?!

    **Hey Cowboy… stick to your speed traps m’K?**

    • Bill

      Happens a lot through that stretch. Always a pretty lame excuse to pull them over when you would think these people hauling their drugs would be pretty damn careful

  • Linda Nutt

    Wow! I support most police work, but throwing a stick to gain the attention of a drug sniffing dog?? What were they thinking?? It was a totally unscrupulous tactic!! Shame on them!! To think they are now shocked it won’t hold up in court, duhhh!! Police cams are installed for a reason, use them officers!! To think a case over 90# of weed has been lost due to shoddy police work and mistake after mistake says some retraining is necessary here! Maybe you won’t lose your next case, if your lucky!!

  • Greg Staller

    Glad to see it. Whether he had weed or not doesn’t matter because
    The cop used illegal tactics to find it. Cops do this all the time
    By gettin dogs to do a “false hit” to justify a search. They throw sticks or toys into
    A car to get the dog to hit, because they use canines who have an
    Extreme “ball drive” in fact it’s a pre requisite to be a police dog. Too bad the judge retired, we need more like him who are for the people and not beholden to the dirty cops. Using violence and searches to find a plant that creates no victims and has never caused one overdose on history is just a waste of taxpayer money.

  • Mark B

    Need more pot cases to go to jury trial and use Jury Nullification to toss the cases out , soon they will see they are wasting their time chasing pot.
    Why do they NEVER find large amounts of Heroin, Meth or Cocaine? Do those drivers drive better ?