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Pennsylvania

Erie courthouse coke search legal, judge says

| Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 4:39 p.m.

ERIE — An Erie County sheriff's deputy's power to search courthouse visitors for weapons extends to the inside of an aspirin bottle, especially in an age where weapons can be contained in a grain of ricin.

That was the ruling last week from Erie County Judge William R. Cunningham, who was asked to rule on whether the seizure of crack cocaine from an Erie County Courthouse visitor's Anacin bottle was legal.

Cunningham, siding with arguments made by Assistant District Attorney Erin Connelly, upheld a deputy's search of defendant William Gillespie's belongings on March 27.

The deputy, Cunningham said, “was acting within the administrative authority given him to determine whether the defendant's bottle contained a weapon or any other substance capable of harming a human.”

Cunningham noted that the courthouse was once shut down for three days following threats of mass destruction made with a powdery substance.

With the ruling, the prosecution of crack cocaine possession charges against Gillespie, 30, of the 800 block of Walnut Street will again move forward in Erie County Court.

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