Thanks to Bob Weaver for his excellent reporting!!!!
MOTION ENTERED TO DROP DRUG CHARGES AGAINST RICHARDS – “Staggering Negligence” By State Police
By Bob Weaver
A motion to dismiss a number of drug charges against John M. Richards will be heard by Judge David Nibert.
Richards is facing multiple counts related to the alleged operation of a meth lab in south Grantsville. He had been scheduled to go to trial this month.
Richards’ attorney, Robert C. Catlett, has requested the dismissal after State Police in Grantsville say they lost evidence taken from the Richards residence.
Catlett is asking the state to dismiss with prejudice (cannot be re-filed) or in the alternative to disallow any mention of these items at trial.
Richards’ attorney cites a letter from former detachment commander Sgt. C. J. Ellyson, stating he discarded the alleged meth lab materials from a garage located in the barracks, indicating they were not properly secured by Sgt. Darrin Campbell.
Catlett’s motion further claims proper police procedures were not followed, including the obtaining of chain-of-custody receipts.
Catlett further claims the desire to examine and possibly have tested the evidence, but the court did not grant the opportunity until December, 2006. It was then the Grantsville State Police advised prosecutor Matt Minney that the evidence had been disposed of.
Sgt. Darrin Campbell, in a press statement following Richards’ arrest, told the Hur Herald a field test was positive for the presence of meth, while officers did a search of the property.
Catlett’s motion says “Staggering negligence is the conclusion most charitable to the state…There is no claim that the evidence was destroyed during testing, as there was no testing done.”
Catlett was critical of the Grantsville State Police, saying before a December 19, 2006 hearing, an officer testified that to the best of his knowledge these items were in his possession, when they had “been in a garbage dump for three months.”
The motion says there is “a much darker picture than mere negligence,” indicting “a shocking failure to preserve the evidence” or that the evidence ever made it to the detachment.
Much like the Kelley Mace meth case a few years ago, there was no analysis of an illegal drug, nor was the illegal drug ever presented.
Cpl. Doug Starcher testified numerous times during the Mace case that State Police had an illegal substance (meth) in their possession, taken from her residence using a search warrant.
The case was eventually dropped, when Starcher could not produce the evidence.
A State Police internal investigation and a criminal investigation of Starcher’s sworn statements, indicating perjury, produced no repercussions for the officer.