September 30, 2014

Elyria
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Ga. man faces charges for ‘secret compartment’ in car

Norman Gurley

Norman Gurley

ELYRIA — A Georgia man has been indicted for having a secret compartment in the car he was driving on the Ohio Turnpike in November.

Norman Gurley, 30, is the first person to face the felony charge in Lorain County, Assistant County Prosecutor Dave Muhek said.

Gurley was stopped by the Ohio Highway Patrol on the Turnpike on Nov. 19 for speeding and following too closely, according to an initial report on his arrest.

“The odor of raw marijuana was smelled inside the vehicle,” the report said. “A probable cause search of (Gurley) revealed a small amount of marijuana. A probable cause search of the vehicle revealed an electronic, after-market, hidden compartment built in to the rear seat.”

Muhek said the secret compartment was a metal box installed in the rear seat of the Buick controlled by an electronic switch. The compartment was empty when troopers found it during what Muhek described as a routine traffic stop.

He said under Ohio law, it’s not illegal to have a secret compartment in a vehicle as long as it’s not used for transporting contraband such as drugs, which is what police and prosecutors believe Gurley was using the compartment for.

The law against using secret compartments to smuggle contraband was passed in 2012.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio had opposed passage of the bill as “an unnecessary and unproductive expansion of law,” arguing on its website that drug trafficking already is illegal in the state.

Gurley, who is free on bond, pleaded no contest in March to disorderly conduct and was fined $100 in Oberlin Municipal Court after prosecutors agreed to amend the original possession of marijuana charge, according to court records.

Gurley’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.


  • Mark B

    More out of control laws for out of control cops

  • Steven

    its not illegal? I thought Ohio somehow passed the law that it IS illegal to have a hidden compartment. That one made me scr4atch my head.
    I don’t advocate drugs or its trafficking, but have to admit, having the means to commit a crime and committing a crime are two different things. I have a gun – it doesn’t make me a criminal.

    • bpbatista

      To Liberals it does.

      • B4CE

        Funny, except a Republican sponsored the law. Never let facts get in the way of a chance to bash a liberal though

        • bpbatista

          I was clearly referring to being a gun owner. Never let illiteracy get in the way of a chance to bash Republicans. ;-)

  • Chan

    Seems to me that the police has too much free time on their hands. Maybe too many officers and not enough work to do, perhaps time to look at layoffs and they can’t find more productive things to do….and no I don’t smoke marijuana.

  • John Demirjian

    Now we have two blacks, one for robbery and another now for drugs, and we have the two white people arrested for heroin. Seems to even the playing field now.

  • 2111

    It is legal to have a secret compartment if it isn’t used for illegal purposes. Since when is carrying nothing illegal? This makes all of us guilty of felonies according to our local prosecutor and their broad interpretation of an ill-conceived law. This prosecution will only cost us money, tie up the courts an ultimately be lost.

    • SniperFire

      Not really. There was probable cause.

      • 2111

        There certainly was probable cause for the search. Finding the compartment was part of the search, no problem so far. The compartment was empty so no crime was being committed pertaining to the compartment even though other crimes were being committed. Here is where the problem starts. Adding a felony to a possession charge is a waste of everyone’s time in this case.
        Again, this leads the door open for much misuse of the statute by prosecutors. If any other illegal activity is taking place and an empty hidden compartment is found should all be charged with a felony. The law had good intent, was drafted poorly and if pursued in this manor I predict proper convictions under the law will get overturned once one of these inappropriate charges gets appealed.

        • SniperFire

          ‘The compartment was empty so no crime was being committed ‘

          You are basing that on the inference in a Brad Dicken’s report in the C-T. I wouldn’t do that.

          Watch the story develop and you will see that this wasn’t about ‘adding a felony to a possession charge’ and that it is about drug trafficking.

          • 2111

            Fair enough.
            You are saying this article is poorly researched and factually incorrect therefore shouldn’t lead me to believe the conclusions the author wishes to be true?

          • SniperFire

            Yes. The first spin from the Left on a story like this is almost always biased and distorted to attempt to enrage their low IQ base.

          • 2111

            Not sure if I should be insulted or not.

  • Phil Seguin

    You can thank Gayle Manning for this ridiculous law.

  • Phil Seguin
  • Phil Seguin

    I hope that anyone who values freedom and civil liberties will remember the people responsible for this bill at election time – here is a link to the vote on SB 305 – as I mentioned Gayle Manning supported it – shameful. http://openstates.org/oh/votes/OHV00000704/

    • SniperFire

      It is a criminal tools matter. It is not illegal to have a hidden compartment in a car. * Nor is it illegal to have a bent screwdriver unless you are committing a crime with it. Then it is all about probable cause.

      *The C-T headline is intentionally misleading to create outrage amongst the low information crowd. Imagine that.

      • Bill Love

        how is the Chronicle telegram misleading anybody the guy didn’t have nothing in the compartment got caught with a little bit of weed on him. there was nothing in the compartment and how are they going to prove he has it to smuggle drugs

        • SniperFire

          You are going by Brad Dicken’s account. Think about it.

          If the probable cause is unwarranted he will have been dealt an injustice and will be a free man and be released upon due process.

    • jz

      I went to the site. It proves my point, [above]. Both sides voted for it. Interesting that the 2 no’s were republicans.

  • Robert Ives

    This story doesn’t make sense. Is it written correctly Brad?

    • Robert Ives

      I re read it. Understood

  • golfingirl

    I too have a secret compartment in my car.

    It is called a “gas tank,” I believe.

    That is where I hide all the filthy fossil fuel in preparation for the day when the environmentalists tell me I can no longer own it.

  • Bob Dobbs

    Here is why they are charging him the way they are… https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140203/11143926078/parallel-construction-revealed-how-dea-is-trained-to-launder-classified-surveillance-info.shtml

    its called parallel construction. This guy was prob being illegally watched by the NSA under one of their huge gather everything programs and they passed the tip on to the local law enforcement to pick this car up on x date driving on x road and make up a reason to cover up why you pulled him over. That’s why they said they saw some aftermarket wires sticking out and got suspicious of this guys car having a compartment. What most likely actually happened is the NSA said grab this car they are talking about transporting drugs or talking with guy who makes the custom compartments to transport drugs, local LEO did and made up probable cause reason to check car. Problem is that they got him on way to pick up not way to drop off so he has empty compartment and they have nothing to charge him except for some trumped up charge.

  • DonMega

    Put him in his secretcompartment an send him back to Georgia.

  • jz

    A little history. Until about 100 years ago marijuana and all other drugs were legal. I suppose society was a sewer of total immorality until that time? Prohibition is the most immoral policy of all. Drug addiction is definitely a problem for some people but it is not the governments business. This belief has has destroyed countless lives and de-stabilized S. America to such an extent that all of those countries are now controlled by the drug lords. You will never eradicate drug use just as you could not eradicate alcohol. All we have done is give power to vicious criminals. The prohibitionist is the best friend of the narcotics organizations. This particular law and prosecution is indicative of how desperate, and self serving certain powers to be will go to get re-elected off the drug war gravy train.