New York woman says PA troopers conducted improper search of vehicle, wants criminal charges dismissed
A lawyer for a New York woman arrested near Donegal following a traffic stop last year on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in court Monday claimed an improper search of her vehicle led to the discovery of $500,000 of heroin stashed in a hidden compartment.
Defense attorney Komron Jon Maknoon said police did not have probable cause to pull over the Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Any Crijleipy De Leon Jiminez, 27, of Bronx, N.Y. He contends the criminal charges she faces should be dismissed.
During a pretrial hearing Monday, Pennsylvania state police trooper Ryan Marmolsaid said the Jeep was traveling eastbound on the Turnpike last Aug 6. He testified that he suspected, based on its appearance, the Jeep carried a hidden compartment on its underside. Marmol said he followed the Jeep for about 10 miles until he spotted a traffic infraction that warranted it be pulled over.
“I look for plain Jane vehicles, about five to 10 years old that are newly registered,” Marmol testified. He said it appeared the rear end of the sports utility vehicle was lower than standard, its license plate not properly affixed and a check of the registration came back to an owner in Philadelphia.
Marmol said he is a member of a team of troopers who search state roads for vehicles suspected of smuggling illegal drugs, guns, cash and other items. Officers are trained to look for vehicles investigators say are likely to have hidden compartments used for smuggling operations.
Officers searched the vehicle and found two wires that triggered a trap door to a hidden compartment where two vacuum sealed bags of what was determined to be nearly three kilograms of heroin were discovered. Westmoreland County DetectiveTony Marcocci said the drugs seized carried a street value of about $500,000.
Jiminez, along with Abel De Jesus Diplan, 36, of Philadelphia, a passenger in the Jeep, were charged with three drug-related counts.
Jiminez did not testify Monday and was helped by a translator during the hearing.
Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said she will rule on the defense request to dismiss the case after considering legal arguments filed later this summer and viewing an hour-long video of the traffic stop and arrest recorded from a camera in Marmol’s state police cruiser.
The judge agreed to reduce Jiminez’s $500,000 cash bond set last year by a district magistrate. Jiminez will need to post $100,000 cash before she is released.
The defense argued Jiminez had no prior criminal record and was not a flight risk even though she planned to return to New York while awaiting trial.
Assistant District Attorney Pete Caravello said a reduced bond was not appropriate because Jiminez faces potentially six years in prison if convicted.
“There were nearly 3,000 grams of heroin being brought through our county and that creates a real safety issue,” Caravello said.
Diplan remains in jail in lieu of a $750,000 cash bond. His case still is pending and no trial date has been scheduled.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .