CANYON CITY – Attorneys tangled last week over the validity of a search last June in Seneca that led to marijuana charges against three people.
The hearing was the latest step in the marijuana case against Joy Maxine Graves and Raymond Scott Martin, who are accused of growing pot within 1,000 feet of a school.
Attorneys for Graves and Martin filed a motion to suppress the evidence from the warrantless search, contending the entry to the property was not done with proper authorization.
The case began when the Grant County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to a report that marijuana was being grown at a Seneca property.
In a series of visits to the site, officers talked with Martin and Kenny Walters, who was also arrested in the case but has since disappeared. Graves, described as the owner, was not there at the time.
The encounters were recorded by Sheriff Glenn Palmer, using an on-body law enforcement camera.
Deputy District Attorney Matt Ipson played video from that recording last week in court. The video showed Palmer informing the men the discussions were being taped.
The recordings showed Palmer and Deputy Zach Mobley talking with the men over a chain link fence, then inside the gate and finally by garden beds farther into the property.
Defense lawyers Timothy Gassner and Robert Raschio contended the officers weren’t given clear consent to enter the property, and that they entered the property without determining that Martin and Walters had authority to let them in.
They questioned whether the officers knew the men were caretakers at the time, citing statements on the tape that indicated they were staying there to tear down an old building for Graves.
“Hiring a person to come onto your property to do a job doesn’t give that person authority to do away with the property owner’s Fourth Amendment rights,” Gassner said.
Raschio said police had ample time to get a search warrant and could have asked specifically about Walters’ and Martins’ authority, “but they didn’t.”
Ipson, however, said what the officers could have done was irrelevant.
Ipson also said there are many circumstances where someone who is not the owner has the authority to let law enforcement into a property.
He said there was consent when Palmer asked Martin if there was a gate and whether they could move their conversation, which led to them moving through the gate.
He contended the men let the officers into the property and led them to the garden beds, and even lifted the tarps that covered the marijuana plant starts.
“They were just having a conversation, and the two of them led them back into the property,” Ipson said. “No coercion, no threats … It was voluntary.”
Gassner argued that letting them through the gate was acquiescence, not consent.
Cramer said he would make a decision as quickly as possible to move the case forward, but needed to review the case law cited by the attorneys and “look at this quite carefully.”
This was the second hearing set for the motion to suppress. An earlier one was sidelined after Martin had asked the court to dismiss his attorney, and Graves also expressed concerns to the judge about her representation.
Last week, however, Graves continued with the same counsel, and Martin informed the judge he wanted Raschio to continue to represent him.