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State court of appeals reverses district court ruling in drug case

The Minnesota State Court of Appeals Monday reversed the Crow Wing County District Court's ruling regarding a search warrant in a case against a 52-year-old Crosby man.

The Minnesota State Court of Appeals Monday reversed the Crow Wing County District Court's ruling regarding a search warrant in a case against a 52-year-old Crosby man.

Albert Hester III was charged with felony drug charges in September of 2014 where drug agents seized 16.8 grams of methamphetamine and eight firearms. The charges - first-degree drug sales and second-degree drug possession - against Hester were dismissed a month later.

The Crow Wing County Attorney's Office challenged the district court's decision on suppressing the evidence obtained during the execution of a search warrant at Hester's home and the dismissal of the complaint. Hester is being represented by attorney Dennis Lothspeich.

The state court of appeals ruling said, "The issuing judge had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed for the search and the district court erred in concluding otherwise."

The state court's ruling is to reverse the district court's decision and have the case brought back to the lower appellate court for further action.

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Hester was taken into custody July 31, 2014, when Lakes Area Drug Investigative Division (LADID) executed a search warrant at his Crosby residence for controlled substances and evidence of selling drugs. The search warrant described three informants implicating Hester in the sale of methamphetamine out of his home. Authorities found 16.8 grams of meth, eight firearms, a digital scale with methamphetamine residue on it, drug paraphernalia, numerous prescription and nonprescription drugs and $14,853 in cash.

Police must obtain a valid search warrant and it must be supported by probable cause.

On appeal, the state court of appeals asserts the search warrant was supported by sufficient probable cause, arguing the statements provided by three informants were consistent and corroborated one another.

Hester argued the information from one of the informants, which came about six weeks before the search warrant was issued, should be "disregarded as stale," or insufficient to show probable cause; and another informant's three-month old information is "arguably stale." Hester claimed "the informants were not consistent with one another in the information they provided."

The court of appeal's stated the investigator describes Hester's ongoing sale of methamphetamine. In an affidavit, one of the informants said Hester "is the main supplier in the Crosby area for methamphetamine." The LADID received reports Hester was still selling a lot of methamphetamine to individuals in the Crosby and Grand Rapids area in March of 2008 and for "almost 10 years." And LADID investigators reported receiving "numerous reports naming Hester as a major supplier in the Crow Wing County area."

The court document said the investigator's affidavit is "largely specific and basically consistent when considered as a whole." The affidavit indicated the other two informants' knowledge was based on personal observation and incriminating conduct.

In conclusion, the court of appeals stated, "In this case ... the informants statements taken as a whole show sufficient reliability and basis of knowledge. ... In sum, neither staleness nor unreliability undermines the issuing judge's conclusion that the investigator's affidavit provided probable cause to search Hester's home for controlled substances and evidence of their sale. While no single piece of evidence in the affidavit is conclusive ... the pieces fit neatly together and, support the . . . determination that there was a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found."

Related Topics: CROSBY
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