Hayden man cleared after 2009 drug raid
November 5, 2010
Steamboat Springs — 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.