Marijuana plants allowed to remain as evidence against Smithfield man
By Liz Zemba
Published: Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A Fayette County man accused of growing 377 marijuana plants lost a bid to have the plants tossed as evidence.
Charles Alan Smith, 53, of Smithfield is charged with manufacturing marijuana, possession and possession of drug paraphernalia at his former home at 17 W. Berkeley St. in Uniontown.
A city code enforcement officer, Mark Pasquale, found the suspected marijuana plants when he went to the house April 26, 2012, to investigate complaints of building code violations.
City and state police who executed a search warrant found the 377 plants and 20 pounds of processed marijuana that District Attorney Jack Heneks said had a street value of $610,000.
In a pretrial motion, defense attorney Patrick Kenneth Nightingale sought to have plants suppressed as evidence, claiming Smith was duped into consenting to a search. Nightingale claimed Pasquale used the ruse of a code violation to conduct a narcotics investigation with police.
In an opinion and order issued Tuesday, President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. denied the motion. Wagner said Pasquale was doing his job when he went to the house to investigate complaints of “filth and unsanitary living conditions.”
Wagner noted that when Smith gave Pasquale permission to enter the house, Smith “did not attempt to limit the scope of the area of the search before doing so.”
Pasquale had searched the basement and first floor before he found the plants in an upstairs room, according to prosecutors.
Wagner said that although Uniontown fire Chief Chuck Coldren and a police officer waited outside while Pasquale conducted the search, there was no evidence they forced Smith to agree to the search.
“The mere presence of the police officer, seated in a clearly marked police vehicle at the curb, does not give rise to coercion,” Wagner wrote.
The fire chief and police officer were acting within their “delineated duties” when they went with Pasquale “because of complaints made by neighbors about trash and other conditions which were making defendant's home dirty, unsanitary and probably unsafe, even for defendant,” Wagner wrote.
Once Pasquale found the alleged marijuana, Wagner wrote, he was “within permissible constitutional parameters” to make an arrest and to relay his findings to the police officer waiting outside.
Court records indicate Miller in December rejected a plea offer that called for a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. He is free on $100,000 bond, pending trial.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 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.
- Former public defender sues Fayette County officials over firing
- Brutal attack gets Fayette County man up to 11 years in prison
- Fayette County residents sue over landfill fumes
- W.Va. woman in high-speed Fayette chase sentenced to 7 to 14 years
- Masontown man sentenced in crash
- Jury selection ends in trial for Fayette County boy’s beating death
- Brownsville Area Redevelopment Corp. chief ousted after 9 weeks
- Southmoreland seniors to don caps and gowns June 4
- Bullskin, Connellsville youngsters ‘paying it forward’
- Uniontown man sentenced to 12 years for burglaries
- Connellsville rec board making plans for summer