CLEARFIELD – A 28-year-old Allport man is headed to trial for two drug cases after Magisterial District Judge James A. Hawkins returned all charges to court after preliminary hearings in both cases during Centralized Court this morning at the Clearfield County Jail.
In the first case, Christopher Edward Patrick, 28, of Allport is facing charges of manufacture, deliver, possession with intent to manufacture or deliver controlled substance; use/possession of drug paraphernalia; and intentional possession of controlled substance by person not registered.
In a second case, Patrick has been charged with manufacture, deliver, possession with intent to manufacture or deliver controlled substance and criminal use of communication facility. He is free after posting $75,000 bail.
During the first preliminary hearing, Trooper Craig M. Needham, of the Pennsylvania State Police Vice Unit at the Punxsutawney barracks, testified that on Nov. 2, 2011 he’d been in contact with a confidential informant. The informant had contacted Patrick via cellular phone and arranged for the defendant to sell him one-quarter ounce of marijuana for $60. The informant would be meeting Patrick near the Summit Grange Hall near the Morrisdale Airport to purchase the marijuana. Needham and the informant went to meet Patrick.
After arriving, Needham said the defendant pulled in; he backed up next to their driver’s side window. Needham provided the informant with $60 to purchase the marijuana. The informant spoke to the defendant at which time Needham observed Patrick reach into the dash. He told the informant, “I got your stuff right here” and handed the informant a plastic baggie. Afterward, the informant handed Patrick the $60 for the marijuana.
The informant turned the baggie of marijuana over to Needham upon re-entering their vehicle. Needham said it looked like “pretty good stuff” to which Patrick agreed. The informant and Patrick continued to converse and the defendant said he was expecting a shipment of medical marijuana, “blueberry kush.” He would have it later in the month.
Needham said the evidence was transported to the Clearfield-based state police and logged into evidence. It was sent to the Erie Crime Lab for drug analysis, which revealed that it contained marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance.
Under cross-examination, Defense attorney Philip M. Masorti, Esq. of Masorti & Donaldson PC, State College, asked Needham about his involvement in the conversation during the marijuana purchase. Needham said he limited his contributions to the conversation, but his testimony was first-hand knowledge, as he overheard most of the conversation between the informant and Patrick.
Masorti sought for Hawkins to withdraw the criminal use of a communication facility charge. He said there wasn’t any evidence to support it. However, First Assistant District Attorney Beau M. Grove opposed the defense’s request, as the marijuana purchase was arranged by the informant via text message. Hawkins denied the defense’s request, returning all charges to court in the first case.
During the second hearing, Needham testified again but about his search of Patrick’s residence on Oct. 11. He arrived to serve an arrest warrant from the previous case.
When questioned later by Masorti, he indicated his intent was actually two-fold. He said his personal suspicions led him to believe that he might end up obtaining consent to search from Patrick.
“There was a dual purpose,” explained Needham, “. . . and, if my suspicions were true, which they came true, (I’d try to obtain consent to search). Upon my first encounter with him, I smelled marijuana.”
Needham testified that when he arrived at Patrick’s residence, there wasn’t anyone at home. He and Troopers Michael Boltz and Mark Rohrbaugh were returning to their vehicles when the defendant pulled in. He identified himself to Patrick and presented his badge and sought consent to search the residence, property and vehicles, which he obtained verbally and in writing from Patrick.
“I could smell a pervasive odor of marijuana,” said Needham.
Needham, alongside Boltz and Rohrbaugh, conducted the search during which they found approximately 20 pounds of processed marijuana, 12, live marijuana plants and numerous amounts of marijuana smoking devices. He said these were located on or inside the property, garage, residence and vehicles.
Needham said they found numerous rifles and pistols locked in a firearm safe in the basement and a loaded, .22-caliber Smith & Wesson rifle in the truck, which Patrick had been operating prior to his arrival at the residence. In addition, they found approximately $2,000 in U.S. Currency.
“He was very cooperative and directed us to the locations. He basically said, ‘It’s mine. You got me,’” said Needham.
Needham said the evidence was transported to the Clearfield-based state police barracks and tested positive for marijuana. He said it was then sent to the Erie Crime Lab for further analysis, which hasn’t been received yet by him.
Under cross examination, Needham said the consent search lasted approximately three to four hours. He said it was given “very voluntarily” by Patrick, and their search began only after they’d received his consent. He said although they could smell marijuana, they didn’t search the single-axle box truck that Patrick had been operating until after receiving his consent to search the property.
“We could smell it on him. We could smell it all around,” said Needham. He said they neither threatened Patrick nor advised him that he couldn’t contact his attorney. “We told him to call whoever and we could stop whenever.”
Needham said during the search process, he didn’t advise Patrick that he had the arrest warrant for the previous case. He said he hadn’t Mirandized him before the search, because it was only a consent search. When asked by Grove, Needham clarified that Patrick wasn’t in custody prior to the search.