Judge: Police violated San Bernardino man’s rights

A federal judge has found that members of a San Bernardino Police Department narcotics team intentionally violated a suspected drug dealer’s rights when they arrested him and inspected his apartment before a search warrant was signed.This means that evidence found in 46-year-old Vincent Young‘s North Mountain View Avenue home last year – allegedly including ammunition, drugs and cash – is not admissible at trial.

Officials said they were surprised by the bold language used in U.S. District Court Judge Robert H. Whaley‘s 16-page ruling on Feb. 18.

The judge says he does not believe Officer Gerald Beall‘s testimony and compares the Jan. 6, 2009, search to other alleged misconduct by the narcotics team.

“The officer’s conduct is strikingly similar to conduct that has been the target of both internal and external investigation by the” San Bernardino Police Department, Whaley wrote.

Several members of the narcotics team, including Beall and others who were present during the search of Young’s apartment, are being investigated for allegedly keeping suspects “on ice.” That is a police term for illegally detaining people while officers search for evidence to support the arrest.

Charges against another suspected drug dealer arrested by the same narcotics team were dismissed Friday in Fontana Superior Court “in the interest of justice.”

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing possible criminal charges against a former narcotics sergeant for a separate “on ice” case, authorities said.

Beall testified about receiving an anonymous tip that Young was selling drugs, prompting his team to set up surveillance. Officers have said they watched as Young left his apartment, made an abrupt U-turn and returned home. After he made an illegal lane change, they stopped Young and allegedly found 40.6 grams of crack cocaine on his passenger.

Police then took Young’s house key and allegedly went to secure the apartment.

The defendant claims officers did not have his permission to search and that they began tossing the rooms before the warrant arrived.

The judge agreed but took it a step further, ruling that officers violated Young’s Fourth Amendment rights three times.

Whaley writes that the arrest was unlawful because the drugs were found on the passenger, not on Young or in his truck.

He also found that the search was illegal and done prior to a warrant being served.

In a motion, federal prosecutor Daniel Ackerman argued that the search warrant was supported by probable cause.

“And even if it was not, the evidence seized from the apartment should not be suppressed because the agents relied on it in good faith,” Ackerman wrote.

The judge’s ruling scolded Beall for changing his testimony on the stand.

Beall initially testified that he had no evidence linking Young to the drugs found on his passenger.

He later changed his story, saying that he called an informant to make a buy and inferred that Young turned around to get drugs to sell. Beall claimed that he didn’t tell the full story initially because he was protecting his informant.

Whaley pointed out that the call to the informant was not documented in any written report.

“The complete lack of information in the affidavit regarding the informants leads the court to question their existence,” the judge wrote.

There are also several discrepancies in the dispatch log, which shows the narcotics team arriving at Young’s apartment at 5:45 p.m. to execute the warrant.

The search warrant was not signed until 6:45 p.m.

“It is undisputed that no valid search warrant existed at this time,” Whaley wrote.

Federal defender Charles Cornell Brown said the judge’s findings were courageous, and he hopes it leads to charges being dismissed against Young.

The officers’ behavior “was pretty egregious, and it was definitely an intentional violation of his constitutional rights,” Brown said. “It’s a pattern and practice that (San Bernardino police) have, and it’s pretty flagrant.”

Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the United States Attorney‘s Office in Los Angeles, said the charges will not be dropped.

Young, who remained jailed at Central Detention Center in San Bernardino, has been indicted for two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute meth and possession of ammunition.

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