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Charges dropped in drug case Second suspect in May raid cleared


The State's Attorney's Office last week dropped charges against a second suspect among four arrested in a May drug raid by the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force.

Citing "insufficient evidence," Gail Kessler, an asssistant state's attorney, dismissed a single misdemeanor marijuana possession count against Claudia Mary Roll on Wednesday.

The dismissal is the latest turn in the so-called UPS case, in which drug task force members -- disguised as United Parcel Service workers -- delivered an ounce and a half of marijuana to a home on Humbert School House Road.

After a woman at the house signed for the package containing the pot, task force members raided the place.

The home, owned by Pamela S. Davis, was "ransacked and turned upside down," said Westminster attorney Charles O. Fisher Jr., who represents Ms. Davis and her son, David K. Davis.

In addition to the delivered marijuana, the raiders reported that they seized an additional ounce of marijuana in a night stand, a water bong, some drug literature and other paraphernalia.

They also seized more than $40,000 worth of computer equipment used by Ms. Davis to run her Guatemalan import clothing and accessory business.

Ms. Davis, her son and her daughter, Sara L. Davis, were arrested during the May 7 raid. Ms. Davis and her son were later indicted on felony drug charges.

Sara Davis was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Ms. Roll -- who lives at the Davis house -- was arrested about a week after the raid, even though she entered the home while it was going on.

Sara Davis' case was dismissed July 29, when District Judge Donald M. Smith ruled that the task force's search warrant was "bad" and granted a defense motion to suppress evidence seized in the raid.

Officials in the state's attorney's office maintain that Judge Smith's ruling in Sara Davis' case would have no bearing on the trials of Pamela and David Davis in September.

"We're still confident" the remaining defendants can be convicted, said Barton F. Walker III, the assistant state's attorney who coordinates the task force.

He said the state's decision to drop charges against Ms. Roll was independent of the warrant. "We just didn't have enough evidence against her. We had been planning to drop charges for some time," he said.

Mr. Fisher -- who filed a civil suit against the task force and got Ms. Davis' computer equipment returned -- said he's confident, too.

"I can't tell you whether these two cases are a forerunner to my cases," Mr. Fisher said last week. "The state's attorney believes that even if the warrant was defective, the officers, if they were working in good faith, could still seize evidence in plain view.

"But I know that, to get the evidence they seized, they had to ransack the place. There was nothing of a contraband nature in plain view," he said.

The raid was an unusual one for the county's drug task force. It was prompted by a tip from a Southern California UPS security official who thought a package addressed to Terrapin Station -- Ms. Davis' business -- looked suspicious. The security official opened the package, found the marijuana, resealed the package and and sent it to the task force.

The task force, in turn, used the package to establish probable cause -- a necessary condition for the issuance of any search warrant. And, although the bulk of drugs that the task force would eventually seize would end up being the drugs they delivered, Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. signed the search warrant.

Not everyone agrees with Judge Beck's decision to sign the warrant.

"That doesn't sound right, even with the weak standards of the Fourth Amendment," said Stuart Comstock-Gay, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

"There's real bad stuff going on out there. Why are people going after something like this? I'll tell you what's really dangerous, it's this attitude that we can do anything we want in the name of the war on drugs."

Judge Beck declined to comment.

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