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Drug conviction overturned on appeal

An appeals court has vacated an alleged narcotics trafficker’s conviction after finding that a 2010 raid on a suspected Springfield drug house was based on a faulty search warrant affidavit.

Andre Terrell, 34, of Springfield, has been serving a 29-year prison sentence, but the decision from the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed his convictions for possession of cocaine, crack cocaine and ecstasy. The first two charges were first-degree felonies and the other was a fifth-degree felony.

Terrell remained in prison on Tuesday and it wasn’t immediately clear if he would face another trial or be released.

All of the charges resulted from a search of 239 E. Grand Ave., Terrell’s residence. The investigation was led by the Dayton Police Department Narcotics Unit Task Force.

Dayton police searched the Springfield home after a judge approved a search warrant based on an officer’s affidavit and information provided by a confidential source, according to court records.

In a unanimous decision handed down Jan. 18, the appeals court found that investigators didn’t have probable cause to execute the search warrant, and that Clark County Common Pleas Judge Douglas Rastatter erred in denying Terrell’s motion to suppress the evidence collected during the search.

Rastatter couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Prior to sentencing, Rastatter found that Terrell qualified as a major drug offender under state law, then imposed a 29-year prison sentence, which included 10 years for the major-drug-offender specification. Rastatter also fined Terrell $20,000 and imposed a 15-year driver’s license suspension.

Judge Michael T. Hall authored the decision.

Hall wrote that “the issuing judge lacked a substantial basis for finding probable cause to believe drugs or related contraband would be found inside 239 East Grand Ave. The problem, from a probable-cause perspective, is that (confidential source No. 1) provided almost no information establishing the likely presence of drugs inside the East Grand Avenue residence when the warrant was issued.”

Hall wrote that the affidavit showed only that:

• Three drug traffickers were distributing cocaine, primarily in Dayton but also in Springfield.

• The confidential informant told authorities on May 14, 2010, that three locations, two in Dayton and the East Grand Avenue home, were used for storage and distribution of narcotics. However, the informant had never been inside the Springfield property.

• The informant claimed to have picked up drugs at the three residences and returned money to those three places.

“Without any corroboration whatsoever related to the Springfield address, and without any sense of the timeliness of the information, the averred facts provided almost no evidence to support a finding that drugs likely would be found inside 239 East Grand Avenue when the warrant was issued on June 1, 2010,” Hall wrote. “In our view, these facts did not provide a substantial basis for finding probable cause to believe drugs likely were present when the warrant was issued.”

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