(MINNEAPOLIS) — A Minnesota judge is considering whether to drop charges against an alleged drug dealer after his lawyer claimed Minneapolis law enforcement officers destroyed critical evidence in a panic prompted by a blaze and takeover of another police department precinct during a 2020 protest over the murder of George Floyd.
An attorney for 36-year-old Walter Power argued during a court hearing on Wednesday that Minneapolis police officers destroyed a search warrant obtained on Power’s home that prosecutors said resulted in the seizure of 3,000 doses of the painkiller oxycodone and other illegal drugs.
Power has pleaded not guilty to a charge of felony first-degree sale of drugs.
“Those officers made that decision. I think what’s difficult with this case is we all have to live with that decision,” Power’s attorney, public defender Elizabeth Karp, said during Wednesday’s hearing on her motion to dismiss the case, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Karp said the lost search warrant presumably contained the evidence narcotics officers used to obtain the warrant to search Power’s home in April 2020.
Karp argued that moving forward with the case would violate Power’s constitutional right to due process under the law if she does not have the ability to review and challenge a court document that no longer exists, even in digital form.
“We’re in the dark,” Karp told Judge Todd Fellman of the Hennepin County Fourth Judicial District.
On May 28, the Third Precinct in southeast Minneapolis was torched during a protest over the police killing of Floyd, forcing officers to abandon the station.
In a motion filed in June, Karp included a supplemental report written by Minneapolis Police officer Logan Johansson stating why he and other investigators in the Second Precinct across the Mississippi River from the Third Precinct in northeast Minneapolis destroyed records. Johansson, according to his report, wrote that he and other officers suspected the station was going to be attacked too and decided to destroy or move documents “in direct response to the abandonment of the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis by city leadership.”
Johansson’s report did not mention destroying the search warrant. The officer’s report, according to court records reviewed by ABC News, says that “all non-active case files and files containing CI (confidential informant) information (were) destroyed.”
Protesters, however, never went to the Second Precinct, which is about five miles from the Third Precinct.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Emily Liebman asked Fellman to reject Karp’s motion and allow prosecutors to proceed with the case against Power, arguing in court that the missing documents are immaterial to the charges.
Liebman said none of the evidence collected from Power’s home was destroyed and that prosecutors plan to use it at trial. She said investigators also conducted surveillance on Power and discovered evidence in the suspect’s trash that supported the cause for the search of his home.
In her motion, Karp stated that GPS information investigators obtained by tracking Power’s cellphone has also been lost.
Fellman said he will take the motion under advisement and render a decision soon.
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