Hayden man cleared after 2009 drug raid

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— After having his house searched and going through the court system, Hayden resident Timothy Nelson had all charges against him dropped.

Prosecutors and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office decided there were significant questions about the May 23, 2009, search of his home.

Deputies initially were called to Nelson’s home by a neighbor who reportedly was concerned about his well-being. She said his dogs were barking and his van was in the driveway.

When Deputy Shawn Hocka­day arrived, he looked around the property and looked through a window where he reportedly saw three marijuana plants. He got a warrant, and deputies raided the house. They also found bottles of liquid they reportedly thought could have been used to make methamphetamine but later were discovered to be home-brewed wine and a water test for a well.

Nelson was out of town at the time of the raid but turned himself in when he returned. Deputies said he did not have a medical marijuana license at the time. He was charged with possession with intent to manufacture marijuana, cultivation of marijuana and possession of 8 ounces or more.

The District Attorney’s Office offered Nelson a plea. Since his arrest, he was prescribed medical marijuana, and because the plea deal would not allow him to use the medical marijuana, he declined the offer.

The case was ready to go to trial when Nelson and his attorneys, first Sandy Horner and later the public defender, raised questions about the legality of the search.

In his application for the public defender, Nelson wrote that his business has not had many calls since the case was made public.

District Attorney Rusty Prin­dle looked into the search and decided the case wasn’t clear cut.

“There were some issues that were raised about the validity of the search, search and seizure issues,” he said. “My office addressed those issues. We visited the scene with the deputy that was involved in the case. I did some legal research, and then after realizing we may have some issues going forward with the search, I met with Sheriff (Gary) Wall.”

Together, Prindle and Wall decided not to pursue the case, and Prindle said as far as he’s concerned, the case is closed. Prindle filed a motion to dismiss without prejudice in March of this year, writing that it was in the interest of justice to drop the charges.

Wall said he supported the decision.

“My thought process was that there were some issues relating to the search of his place, and after discussing this with the District Attor­­ney’s Office, I 100 percent supported the action the district attorney took in this matter,” he said.

He said it wasn’t worth the time and money to go through a suppression hearing after looking at the evidence. He said he spoke with Hockaday but did not reprimand the deputy for the search.

“These are complicated issues and sometimes things come up that are technical, and it’s hard to know at the moment exactly what to do,” Wall said.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Mellisa Baumgartner said the office stands behind the warrant but respects the final decision.

“We still stand behind our warrant and our probable cause for the warrant, but you win some, you lose some,” she said. “We did put a lot of time and effort into it, and sometimes things don’t turn out the way you would like them.”

Nelson did not return messages left on his cell phone requesting a comment for this story.

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

Prindle filed a motion to dismiss without prejudice in March of this year, writing that it was in the interest of justice to drop the charges.

March??? The motion to dismiss was in March? And the article was written in November???

Regardless of the search issues, anyone think a Routt County jury would be willing to convict? Sure, could find a few to convict, but unanimous?

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ftpheide 4 years, 1 month ago

Do you think, just maybe, Wall didn't want the public to know about this "screw-up" until after the election? It's just wonderfull how Wall can violate citizens civil rights, ruin their reputations and make them incur huge legal fees to prove their innocents.

What about the DA? Does she not know the law? How many times is she going to "ok" faulty search warrents for the judge to sign?

When does the DA go up for reelection? There is probably a good reason why she was fired from her last job!

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

Geez, so everything involving the Sheriff's dept is Wall's fault. It is going to be fun looking at your comments once Wiggins takes office. Well, maybe Wiggins will make you happy and fire the officers involved in this case and in Eck's case and so on.

A motion to dismiss is not something secret. The 8 month gap was because no one followed the story, but suddenly after the election someone thought it was a newsworthy story again. Sounds almost like Mr Nelson wanted it publicized that the case against him had been dropped and it just took a little while for the paper to do that.

This is the sort of situation where the law is complicated enough that an officer is presumed to be trying to do the right thing, but makes an observation or deduction that the courts say is not justified by probable cause.

If you think officers should be punished for that then you will have real turnover issues and officers that avoid investigating anything.

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ftpheide 4 years, 1 month ago

Scott, The officers shouldn't be punished. They left and got the O.K. from their supervisor and the D.A.'s office to get a warrant. You are suspose to have proven probable cause before you pull a warrant, Scott! They should have learned , after that hugh plunder in South Routt, to not be so sloppy! I really doubt Mr. Nelson wanted his name out into the public again. Wall is responsible for the actions of his employees, Scott! It is ashame that the Pilot doesn't follow through on cases! If this would have been made public before the election - it wouldn't have definately decreased whatever credability Wall still hung on to.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

So they should have learned their lessons from a raid that happened months AFTER this case? Failing to learn from the future was another area that Wall failed to do properly?

Well, since the story said the went back to the house to look at the probable cause issue, likely situation is probably something like "You say you saw mj plants by looking in the window, but the plants were in this room so how did you look in that window?". And the effort to look in that window was too much to pass legal muster.

Well, if you see something in this case that tells you the Sheriff bears responsibility for it and did something wrong then it is going to be fun watching you criticize the dept under Wiggins.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

So they should have learned their lessons from a raid that happened months AFTER this case? Failing to learn from the future was another area that Wall failed to do properly?

Well, since the story said the went back to the house to look at the probable cause issue, likely situation is probably something like "You say you saw mj plants by looking in the window, but the plants were in this room so how did you look in that window?". And the effort to look in that window was too much to pass legal muster.

Well, if you see something in this case that tells you the Sheriff bears responsibility for it and did something wrong then it is going to be fun watching you criticize the dept under Wiggins.

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freerider 4 years, 1 month ago

3 plants considered a drug raid , you gotta be kidding me . And he was manufacturing MJ . How do go about manufacturing a plant ?? Do you buy parts at the hardware store and put it together with some glue at home ? Move over drug cartels there's some evil plants in Hayden that are going to put you out of business ..

So it's ok to buy marijuana less than an ounce is like a traffic ticket but if you actually want to grow your own and take the money away from the cartels it's a class 4 felony

Hmmm I guess our government wants people to support drug cartels ....wow !!! that's sends a special message to our kids

70 year old failed drug war that makes gangsters rich congratulations America !!! Stand up and cheer for the Billions of dollars going to Afganistan , Columbia and Mexico in drug money ...

I forgot it's good for the economy because they use all that money to buy guns and WMD'S from the Good ole U.S.A. another special message to our kids

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ftpheide 4 years, 1 month ago

Scott, At least you could have harassed me about my incorrect spelling of warrant. Excuse me for stating incorrectly which illegal raid came first! None the less they were both the out come of sloppy police work! In both cases, Wall was the supervisor . It doesn't matter if his approval came from his office at the SO or his bar stool at the VFW! Good By Wall. You shouldn't have any problem finding enployment with that criminal record of yours!

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Kristopher Hammond 4 years, 1 month ago

This story is a huge non-news item. The news (DA dismissal of charges) happened in March! This is public record and has been in the court file for 8 months. Wall could not have buried it--the SPT just didn't report it.

Hockaday peeked in a window and saw the plants. Based on his observations an affidavit was prepared and presented to a judge. The judge read the affidavit, found probable cause and signed a search warrant.

My suspicion is that the defense started looking into the question of how Hockaday got to his peeking vantage point (which information was probably not in the affidavit). If Hockaday breached the house's curtelage to gain the peeking vantage point then the 4th amendment was violated in order to obtain the warrant and it can not stand.

This is a classic example of a judgment call made in the field that turned out to be wrong. It is a good thing Nelson had good lawyers--the limits of law enforcement are constantly being refined through the judicial process.

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gatorhunter 4 years, 1 month ago

When Mr. Nelson's house was raided three times last year it was all over the news, a popular story that had many articles, many of which used words like Meth and manufacturing meth. When a news paper throws words around like Meth even though no Meth or anything related to meth was ever found, even after three different raids for the same probable cause of three MJ plants.I can see how Mr. Nelsons business has suffered. However when the DA relized the case didnt hold water, the paper suddenly stopped reporting and left it and Mr.Nelson as a busted Methhead. No wonder he doesnt return your calls. Finally it isnt illegal to have three MJ plants in your home, the judge who signed the warrent should know these things, if anyone should be held accountable it should be him. Now it gets reported that the charges were dropped, right after an election and months after the fact. And this suprises who???

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kathy foos 4 years, 1 month ago

ftpheide,it would be nearly impossible to correct all of your spelling mistakes,I see that your seething anger about Wall hasnt gotten any better since Wiggens won,how boring! Why do you hate him so anyway?

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

At the time of the warrant it was illegal to have 3 plants in your home if you didn't have a mmj license and the law presumed that if you had even that then you were a dealer. And the officer that saw the plants couldn't assume that was all of the mj plants because there could have been many more plants that weren't visible. So I don't blame the officer for getting a warrant.

Where it went wrong was when they found only 3 plants. That could have been the end of the case. Instead they also took unidentified liquids and speculated that those might be related to meth. And then the DA instead of saying 3 plants, and now identified legal liquids is not a case worth bothering with, continued on with the case. It does the DA no credit that a pointless case is dismissed in the end because it also had issues with the warrant. Every second of DA time spent on this case was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Though, I don't blame Gary Wall for this because he wasn't pushing officers to ignore their doubts and pursue investigations and after the bust then pursuing charges is the DA's discretion. Imagine the fuss if the Sheriff wants the case dropped when the DA wants to pursue charges.

If we are going to blame the Sheriff for cases like this then we are going to have a Sheriff micromanaging the officers and telling the DA to drop cases.

It'll be interesting watching all of these people that couldn't stand Gary Wall when the dept under Wiggins does something controversial. Will they remain highly critical of the actions of the Sheriff's dept or will they become complete hypocrites?

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ftpheide 4 years, 1 month ago

Apparently, Mr. Nelson was victimized multipliable times by the SO. Why didn't he fight back? If you don't stand up for yourself, they will walk all over you! The SO deputies are the people that give the information to the newspaper. The SO also has a spokeswoman, who is told what to say. They always "juice up " the story.

Hopefully Garrett will take pride in his profession. Hopefully the judge will review the evidence before signing a warrant. Especially when it results in a forcefull entery into a citizens home ! (They are 0-5 as it stands now) When the DA goes up for reelection - hopefully we won't forget about all her costly mistakes and violations of citizens constitutional rights!

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gatorhunter 4 years, 1 month ago

At the time of the warrant it had not been established weather Mr.nelson had a license or not. The officers saw plants and got a warrant, disregarding Wiggins suggestion to find out if he has a license before they proceed with the raid. So at the time, for all they knew he could have been well within the allowed limits and within colorado law.

And who was this conserned neighbor, he doesnt have any neighbors and the ones that live close by know him and how any cars he has, not to mention the mysterious two dogs that were placed in his yard by someone maybe the conserned neighbor, only to be taken out of his yard by the sheriffs and charge him for dog at large, while his only single dog was with a dog sitter,arranaged by Mr.Nelson while he was out of town. Days later proven to sherrifs office they took someone elses dog. Who knows whos, the two dogs taken to the pound where never heard from again...???

There are many of these sorts of things (mysterious events) all threw the case. None of which Mr.Nelson Did, all performed by our highly trained officers.

Also... Why didnt he fight back...That takes money. They ruined his business, made him pay thousands in lawyer fees, financially broke him, mentally strained him to the limit. In this judicial system you must prove yourself innocent and that is lots of money,it's even harder when people treat you like a druggy like the paper made you out to be . All for three small plants, growing in dirt. Am I supprising anyone yet? Didnt think so....

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ftpheide 4 years, 1 month ago

Your not supprising me. I've seen them in action. Please keep in mind the paper gets it's information only from the Sheriffs Office. It means nothing to the SO if they screw up. They are protected! We found out their protection ends on election day-

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freerider 4 years, 1 month ago

The lesson here for Mr. Nelson is that our government wants pots smokers to BUY marijuana and support the drug cartels . Less than an ounce is a slap on the wrist . He could have paid for a lifetime of pot with the money he spent on a lawyer . What a great message we send to our kids ...Buy it don't grow it and take the money away from the DEA , Cartels , Law enforcement ....

In California the prop 19 defeat was being hailed as a victory by the cartels and growers ,,,,duh I wonder why ??

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 1 month ago

What the officers did was not that wrong because they faced circumstances which they did not know and sought additional info. Where it went wrong was afterward when the Sheriff's office and DA should have said, get your mmj license, deal with your dogs and stuff and moved on, they continued on with the case.

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