Suppression of evidence leads to dismissal of charges

Suppression of evidence leads to dismissal of charges

URBANA — A Champaign County prosecutor Monday dismissed a weapons case against a Champaign man in the wake of a judge's ruling last week that suppressed key evidence.

Assistant State's Attorney Will Lynch dismissed charges against Sherrick Cooper, 31, of unlawful possession of weapon by a felon and unlawful possession of a stolen firearm after Judge Tom Difanis ruled that police did not have a legal basis to conduct the search in the manner they did, which led to the gun.

Cooper was arrested last summer by Champaign police who had been cracking down on people loitering in vehicles in downtown Champaign parking lots, often drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis while possessing guns.

Cooper was arrested about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, in a car in the municipal lot at 45 E. Washington St., just north of The News-Gazette.

Earlier that day, another man was found in a different car smoking cannabis while in possession of a gun. He pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen firearm and was sentenced to four years in prison.

In that same parking lot 10 months earlier, Terry Moore Jr., 30, was fatally shot in an alcohol-fueled dispute. His alleged killer, David Denson, 29, of Urbana, is tentatively set to be tried in May.

In Cooper's case, police saw a man and a woman in a car with open alcohol and began to search. Besides the open alcohol, officers found cannabis in an ashtray.

However, Difanis said that based on the police having seen only open alcohol, they were not at liberty to open the ashtray, given that they would not have expected to find open alcohol there.

It was the discovery of the cannabis in the ashtray that prompted police to continue to search, finding the loaded stolen gun in a backpack. Difanis ruled that gun would not be admissible at trial.

Cooper was represented by Urbana attorney Don Parkinson.

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