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12-15-2012, 02:58 AM #1
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When the Dakota County Drug Task Force searched Scott Bradley Cunningham's Inver Grove Heights home twice last year, they emerged with what authorities say was a total of nearly 400 pounds of marijuana, much of it stashed away in a hidden room.
Now, attorneys for Cunningham and two others charged from the bust -- one of the largest in county history -- say police didn't have reason enough to conduct the search.
In a Dakota County District Court hearing Friday, Dec. 14, attorneys for the three defendants questioned the officers responsible for the bust, probing for potential shortcomings in the probable cause that led to the search warrants.
Paul Rogosheske, Cunningham's attorney, pressed drug task force head Sgt. Dan Bianconi on the credibility of the anonymous online tipsters who sparked the investigation.
Those tips ranged from accounts of a strong smell of marijuana on the Zumbrota property where the drugs were said to have been grown to information about the hidden room in Cunningham's house.
Bianconi said he was uneasy at times with the anonymity of the informants, and couldn't recall another investigation where he didn't have a live informant or undercover officer spot the drugs beforehand.
But he said enough of the information was corroborated by other means that he felt confident in seeking a warrant.
Bianconi said he sought out the judge who issued the warrant because he knew the judge to be thorough and "wanted to be conservative" with the
That prompted John Nelson, another defense attorney, to ask "what judges aren't thorough?" -- a line of questioning that Dakota Country District Court Judge Patrice Sutherland quickly shut down.
Assistant Dakota County Attorney Kevin Golden said the warrants were obtained fairly and properly.
Nelson represents Brian Lee Speldrick, a man authorities say was living on Cunningham's property.
Nelson challenged that claim, noting that Speldrick was at times homeless and that he could simply have been storing his belongings on the property.
Nelson and Steven Tallen, who represents Holly JoAnn Bignell, say there isn't enough evidence to tie Speldrick and Bignell to the drugs even if the searches stand up.
Bignell was previously known as Holly Swenson.
The Goodhue County sheriff's office conducted much of the initial investigation, obtaining energy records they claim showed abnormally high electricity use on the property where the drugs allegedly were grown.
Investigators say the property sometimes used many times more energy than its neighbors, a sign of the warm, bright conditions needed to grow marijuana.
Tallen questioned those findings, saying "the numbers don't really mean anything" without more information about how the neighboring properties were heated or other factors.
Heat imaging scans of the property turned up no evidence of a growth operation.
Defense attorneys also questioned the Goodhue County officers who first entered the Zumbrota property on whether their actions constituted a search before the first warrant was issued.
Officers said they were simply securing the property for safety reasons, but did see signs of a marijuana operation.
Motions on the case are due next month, with a decision on the issue of probable cause from Sutherland due by Jan. 28.
12-18-2012, 07:35 AM #2
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- Sep 2012
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I used to live there. Glad i dont anymore. Mn is voting on mmj here soon so hopefully in time to save these guys hides.
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