Drug case goes undecidedJudge William Herauf doesn’t expect to make a decision on a case involving 50 pounds of marijuana for about three weeks, he said during a hearing at the Stark County Courthouse Friday.
Judge William Herauf doesn’t expect to make a decision on a case involving 50 pounds of marijuana for about three weeks, he said during a hearing at the Stark County Courthouse Friday.
The hearing was held over defense attorneys’ motion to suppress evidence against Arturas Teras of Van Nuys, Calif. and Donatas Jasiulionis, of Seattle, who are charged with allegedly possessing about 50 pounds of marijuana and intending to deliver it in November 2009.
Expert witnesses testified for and against a North Dakota Highway Patrol canine named Sadie who allegedly alerted her handler Trooper Shawn Skogen that the van Teras and Jasiulionis were operating contained narcotics.
A video of Sadie sniffing out the van after Teras and Jasiulionis were stopped for allegedly speeding on Interstate 94 in Dickinson was shown to those who testified at the hearings, which began Thursday.
Barry Cooper, a former Texas canine officer turned marijuana legalization advocate who has made several TV appearances, testified Friday he does not believe Sadie alerted Skogen to the drugs in the vehicle.
“When I first saw the video, I never saw an alert,” Cooper said.
Skogen testified Thursday that though Sadie never sat, scratched or bit at the van as she is trained to do when she smells drugs he could tell by her behavior there was drugs in the van.
He said Sadie was “wanting to sit” but Skogen erroneously continued walking around the van and the dog followed. She was also engaged in “heavy scenting.”
“Heavy scenting is when her mouth clamps shut and she is air scenting heavily through her nose,” Skogen said. “That’s what I call her high odor response.”
Skogen added Sadie was engaged in other behavior he observes when she smells drugs.
Roy Engebretson, head trainer at Midwest Canine Alternatives in Long Prairie, Minn., who also trained Sadie, said Skogen was accurate in his testimony that Sadie indicated drugs were in the van.
“I know this dog indicated,” he said.
Engebretson added Sadie was likely alerting Skogen when she jumped onto the side of the vehicle at the van’s open window, saying she wouldn’t be able to give a scratch response in that position.
He said the handler knows a drug dog’s behaviors and alerts best.
“The idea that only the handler can really know the dog is alerting, it’s ridiculous to me because I know better,” Cooper said.
He added dogs often go for open windows whether there are drugs inside or not.
Lawrence Myers, associate professor at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama, testified, as well. He said Skogen’s behavior could have unintentionally affected Sadie’s responses.
Attorneys are to submit their arguments by June 8 and Herauf said he expects to have a decision by June 10.
After the hearing, Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said it would affect the state’s case if Herauf decides to suppress evidence against Teras and Jasiulionis.
“Is it critical to the case? Yes,” he said.
Defense attorneys Kelly Armstrong and Mary Nordsven declined comment after the hearing.