U.S. magistrate tosses case, rules 4 Red Dogs were ‘less than candid’
Federal prosecutors have dropped firearms charges against a convicted felon after a magistrate found four Atlanta police officers were “less than candid” about the circumstances of his arrest.
The defendant, Kelvin Bryant, was arrested at a traffic stop in October 2008 after the officers alleged they smelled marijuana smoke coming from his car. They said the odor was so pungent they could smell it from their own car as they passed Bryant’s.
The officers — all members of APD’s Red Dog unit, which fights narcotics distribution at the street level — also testified they had radioed a dispatcher to check the tag on Bryant’s car before they pulled him over.
U.S. Magistrate Linda Walker, in an Oct. 15 ruling, said she did not believe them.
While a gun and suspected cocaine were taken from the vehicle, she noted, no marijuana was seized or even photographed. And the dispatcher’s log showed they radioed for information on the tag at the same time they called for information on the gun they found in the car, which they had already stopped at that point.
“The undersigned concludes that the officers’ testimony about the marijuana order was less than candid … Given the officers’ less than candid account of the timing of the ACIC database search for information of the Defendant’s vehicle tag, the Court cannot conclude that the absence of evidence corroborating the presence of marijuana in the vehicle was mere conincidence.”
The officers met several days before an evidentiary hearing ” ‘to make sure [they] had everything lined up … and ‘to make sure everyone was on the same page because some people [had] better memories than others,’ ” Walker noted.
On that basis, the magistrate ruled the officers did not have probable cause to stop Bryant’s car. She granted a defense motion to suppress evidence seized in the arrest — including a gun and suspected cocaine — because it was the result of an illegal search and seizure under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The officers involved in the arrest are Brandon Jackson, James Menzoian, William Porter and Jason Overbaugh.