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Business owner cleared of drug charge accusations

A prosecutor in Westmoreland County, Virginia, dropped criminal charges for drug-related offenses against a local pizza parlor owner who is also an ex-member of the county School Board. The ex-defendant has now responded by filing a $12 million malicious prosecution lawsuit against a sheriff's detective who brought five-felony drug accusation charges against him.

The charges accused the popular pizza restaurant owner of engaging in the distribution of imitation drugs. In filing the charges, the officer evidently relied on a confidential informant's false statement that he had bought drugs from the pizza parlor's employees three times and from the restaurant's owner five different times.

Charges against the two restaurant employees were also dropped. The prosecution was dropped after it was admitted that officers placed in the restaurant witnessed no drug transactions take place and that secret recordings that the informant made of his conversations with the restaurant owner revealed nothing at all incriminating. There was nothing whatsoever to corroborate the informant's story of drug purchases.

The two restaurant employees have also filed malicious prosecution lawsuits against the officer, with one seeking $5 million in damages and the other seeking $3 million.

Officers often make arrests on the basis of stories from confidential informants. Such statements can often be unreliable, and such informants are often themselves individuals facing serious criminal charges who may seek to have charges against themselves dropped or lowered in exchange for information. In such circumstances, informants may well be motivated to make up stories, hurl unfounded accusations against innocent people or single out people who they don't like.

The cases show drug charge can be beaten. Experienced defense attorneys know how to challenge the veracity and reliability of informant testimony. In addition, they demand the prosecution be held to their burden of proving criminal charges in court by admissible evidence that proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: Fredericksburg.com, " Dropped drug case brings lawsuits in Westmoreland " Portsia Smith, Jun. 27, 2013

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