URBANA — A Champaign County prosecutor dismissed a felony drug charge Tuesday against a South Pekin man after a judge ruled that University of Illinois police improperly detained him and searched the car he was in.
Assistant State's Attorney Scott Larson dismissed a Class X charge of possession with intent to deliver Ecstasy against Randy L. Lindsey, 28. He had been accused of having between 15 and 200 pills intended for sale on the UI campus on Oct. 5.
Larson said he intends to also dismiss the same charge lodged against co-defendant Jeremy Oaks, 22, of Wyanet.
Judge Harry Clem, in a written ruling, found that UI police Detective Nathaniel Park did not tell two fellow officers that he had seen illegal acts by people around two cars in a UI parking lot across the street from the Canopy Club, 708 S. Goodwin Ave., that night. Therefore, the other officers had no reason to approach the car that Lindsey and Oaks were in.
The cars had been parked in a lot across the street to the west from the popular night club. On nights when there are live performances, police consider the lot a high crime area because patrons tend to consume alcohol and drugs in cars parked there, Clem noted in his ruling.
About 9:15 p.m., Park first noticed an Audi and a Chevrolet parked next to each other. His attention was drawn to them because each car had an open door and people were standing outside them. After several minutes of the people not moving, Park informed fellow officers William Reynolds and Anthony Carpenter that he had seen suspicious cars in the lot.
When the cars and the people were still there an hour later, Park, who was on foot, again informed Reynolds that he might want to take a look.
Reynolds and Carpenter, in plain clothes but wearing vests with police markings and driving an unmarked car, then drove into the parking lot and parked three to five feet behind the Audi.
Lindsey was in the car. Police testified they saw an open can of beer and that the car smelled of cannabis. The driver was Oaks.
After inquiring about the beer and the smell of cannabis, Reynolds then asked if there was anything else illegal in the car and informed the men they were being detained.
Lindsey admitted the beer can was his. Reynolds searched Lindsey and found nothing illegal on him but handcuffed Lindsey. The officer then searched the inside of the Audi and found two separate packages of MDMA (Ecstasy) and a small amount of cannabis.
Both Lindsey and Oaks were arrested. Police also took a cellphone from Oaks that purported to have incriminating text messages on it.
In his ruling, Clem said that Park had not seen either Lindsey or Oaks engaged in any illegal behavior before he sent his fellow officers into the parking lot to check out the Audi.
"In this cause, the occupants of the black Audi were seized for Fourth Amendment purposes when officers Reynolds and Carpenter pulled their unmarked squad car into parking lot D-15 and halted their vehicle perpendicularly to, and three to five feet behind, the Audi, activating the emergency lights on the squad car," the judge wrote.
The judge noted that Reynolds testified that Lindsey and Oaks were not free to leave.
"The officers may have intended a consensual police/citizen contact with the individuals in the D-15 parking lot, but a Terry stop occurred," said the judge, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court case that authorizes police to stop and question individuals based on a reasonable suspicion that a crime has or might occur.
"The facts available to officers Reynolds and Carpenter at the time that the occupants of the black Audi ... were seized did not justify the seizure," Clem wrote.
The ruling meant that Larson could not have used the Ecstasy, cannabis, or Oaks' cellphone as evidence, leaving him with no choice but to dismiss the charge. Oaks' case is set for Feb. 4 and Larson said he expects to dismiss his charge that day.
Had they been convicted of the Class X felony, the men faced a mandatory six to 30 years in prison.
Lindsey was represented by Champaign attorney Brian King and Oaks by Urbana attorney Brett Olmstead. They had a joint hearing before Clem on their independnt motions to suppress the evidence Dec. 5. Clem issued his written ruling Jan. 15.