A Corbin man who is among 28 individuals facing federal charges of conspiring to manufacturing methamphetamine in Whitley County is asking a judge to throw out the evidence in the case that he claims was secured without a search warrant.
In paperwork filed last week in U.S. District Court in London, 36-year-old James Forrest Manning filed a motion to suppress the finished meth, meth precursors and firearms, arguing law enforcement entered his home without his permission and before they had a search warrant.
As evidence, Manning’s attorneys notes the affidavit for the search warrant completed by Whitley County Deputy Shawn Jackson was completed at 2:05 a.m. on Feb. 27, 2011. However, the warrant was issued on February 26.
When comparing that to the time stamps on the video camera and the police reports, Manning’s attorney, James Sergent, contends the following timeline is accurately describes the events.
At 10:21 p.m. on February 26, Jackson responded to a call to Whitley County dispatch of a loud noise complaint at a location he later determines to be Manning’s residence.
According to the police report, Jackson arrives on the scene at 10:56 p.m.
However, the video shows the first police car arriving at 10:48 p.m. and co-defendant Steve Peace being placed in a cruiser at 10:52 p.m.
A fourth officer arrives on the scene at 10:56 p.m. and within a minute, three of the surveillance cameras are moved, go dark, and/or become blurry and out of focus.
Sergent noted that Manning was admitted to Baptist Regional Medical Center for treatment at 1:36 a.m. on February 27.
However, while securing the residence at 2:05 a.m. a female, later identified as Kendra Sutton reportedly came out of the residence and stated that Manning had overdosed and needed help.
“Officers entered the residence to assist Manning,” Jackson stated. “While inside the residence, officers observed a very strong chemical smell along with Mason jars containing a milky liquid substance inside it. Officers also observed in plain view coffee filters, zip lock baggies along with firearms.”
A 2:06 a.m. Sergent notes the camera marked as, “camera 2” becomes clear once again.
Sergent contends the officers intentionally disabled or moved the camera that would have given a full view of the officers’ actions.
“The Affidavit for the search warrant did not advise the issuing judge that the video had been disabled or tampered with by law enforcement,” Sergent noted. “It follows that the officers could not have been acting in good faith when they entered the residence and proceeded to search it without a lawfully issued warrant.
Sergent noted that the evidence in question is the basis for three of the charges against Manning, including manufacturing methamphetamine, being an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance and possessing multiple firearms, and possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
“Here it is clear that police officers entered a private dwelling without a warrant and then obtained a warrant after their warrantless entry and based on observations made during the warrantless entry,” Sergent stated. “The video that would have shown the actual conduct and the timing of the officers’ actions was deliberately tampered with and altered by the officers, calling into serious questions both the ‘reasonableness’ of their conduct and the legality of that conduct to justify their search and eventual seizure of physical evidence.”
The U.S. Attorney is scheduled to submit a response to the motion by today. The parties are scheduled to appear in court at 1 p.m. Monday for an evidentiary hearing.
Manning is one of 28 individuals indicted for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to manufacture 500 or more grams of methamphetamine in Whitley County.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy was on-going between January 2010 and July 3, 2013.
Over a three-year period, the group is accused of "cooking" or making methamphetamine or conspiring to make methamphetamine at 21 different locations most of which were in the Canadatown area, said Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird.
Bird noted that all 21 locations where the defendants made meth were located in fairly close proximity to one another.
"They all knew each other. They all worked in concert with each other," Bird said. "It is especially large scale, especially for that community."
During the course of the investigation, authorities say there were known meth labs as part of the conspiracy located at 1188 Highway 90, Corbin; 150 Press Barn Hill; 893 Log Cabin Road; 41 Gibson Lane; 2700 Highway 204; Boyd White Road; 576 Jim Walker Road and Nannie Hubbard Road in addition to two other known labs where addresses were not listed.
Authorities say there were meth labs discovered and arrests made at the following locations during the investigation, including: Highway 90, Corbin; Brays Chapel Road; 35 Gibson Lane; Youngs Creek; 52 Plum Lane; 92 Plum Lane; 878 Letha Petrey Road; another location on Letha Petrey Road; 2568 Highway 204; 2603 Highway 204; and 421 Nannie Hubbard Road.
The indictment was the result an investigation that began when a meth lab and explosive device were found at Ball and Moser’s home on Nannie Hubbard Road during a visit by probation officers in March 2013.
Manning is scheduled to go to trial October 27.