Police: Uniontown man asked code officer to keep mum about pot
A former Uniontown resident asked a city code enforcement officer not to report an alleged “marijuana grow” operation discovered during an inspection of his home, the officer testified on Friday.
Mark Pasquale said he went to the former home of Charles Alan Smith, 52, at 17 W. Berkeley St. in response to a complaint about piles of garbage and unsanitary conditions.
Police obtained search warrants for the home on April 26, 2012, and said they found 377 marijuana plants and 20 pounds of processed marijuana. District Attorney Jack Heneks estimated the street value at $610,000.
Smith, who now lives in Smithfield, is seeking to have the plants excluded as evidence. He is charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Attorney Patrick Kenneth Nightingale claims that Smith was duped into letting police into the house and Pasquale used the ruse of a building code violation to conduct a narcotics investigation with police.
Smith has rejected a plea offer that would have sent him to prison for five years. Fayette County President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. will rule later on the evidence suppression.
On Friday, Pasquale said he and city fire Chief Charles Coldren saw “scattered debris” outside the Berkley Street house.
“Did anybody ask you to go there because of suspected marijuana?” Assistant District Attorney Mark Brooks asked.
“No,” Pasquale said.
He said he identified himself and “I explained that I wanted to do a quick, visual interior inspection.”
Smith said he was preparing to take his daughter to a medical appointment. Pasquale said he could smell the odor of “ammonia, feces, urine” wafting from the door.
Smith closed the door to secure his dogs, than opened it and invited him in, Pasquale said.
“Stuff was stacked up, like hoarding, in my opinion,” in the living and dining rooms, Pasquale said.
Pasquale said Smith walked in front of him when they went to the second floor. Pasquale said there was an empty bag of fertilizer on a bed and a blanket hanging over one doorway.
“I asked about that room and he said, ‘That is where I keep my construction equipment. There are no lights in there,' ” Pasquale said.
He used his flashlight and saw a 4-by-4 silver box-like structure, topped with a foil dome. Aluminum sheeting covered the windows.
“He said, ‘Come on, man, please don't say anything about this,' ” Pasquale said.
He said he was concerned about a possible fire hazard from the cord of a halogen light, so the officer tapped the box cover. The light tipped back, Pasquale said, and he saw the plants.
He said Smith appeared “nervous” and “agitated” and attempted to go downstairs.
“I detained him, due to officer safety. I placed him in handcuffs and radioed Uniontown city police to send an officer for suspected marijuana plants,” he said.
“Nightingale asked Pasquale if he could have given Smith time to clean up the clutter and left.
“It was not only scattered debris. There was a clear odor at the residence that was not coming from outside,” Pasquale said.
“He is telling me that he had a handicapped child. That to me was a red flag, with the conditions inside that residence,” he said. “If I see (those conditions) and I leave and don't do anything . ... God forbid something happens that night, his house catches on fire. ... I'm on the hook.”
Pasquale, who also works as a constable, said he was wearing his uniform and a firearm.
“You have the right to refuse me entry into your house. I ask everybody for consent,” Pasquale said.
“Did you tell Mr. Smith your quick inspection would include every room of the house?” Nightingale asked.
“I did not,” Pasquale said.
He estimated he was in the home for six to seven minutes before he found the plants.
“In my opinion, that's a quick inspection,” Pasquale said.
Smith is free on $100,000 bond.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 3 men to stand trial over runaway Latrobe foster children
- Albert Gallatin bus driver pleads guilty to sexual assault
- Longtime Connellsville area business closes its doors
- Fayette jail foes want county to be stricken as intervenor in case
- Man held for trial in dragging of Redstone cop
- Connellsville Health Board airs ordinance issues
- Fayette Friends of Animals volunteer uses talent to help get her shelter animals adopted
- Sirochman: Fayette genealogy workshop planned for Wednesday
- Fayette municipalities will meet on land bank idea
- Lynn: Frazier to offer kindergarten readiness classes
- Old water treatment plant in Dunbar Township destroyed by fire