December 23, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
39°F
test

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.