CLEARFIELD – A Springdale man facing charges for his alleged involvement in a methamphetamine drug ring was back in court Thursday.
Darrell Taylor, 30, was charged with two felony counts of possession of firearm prohibited after police say they found him in a bedroom where they located a handgun, drugs, cash and a shotgun when they executed a search warrant on the home of Vincent Panebianco, 29, Clearfield in February.
The firearm charges were separated from Taylor’s drug charges, which are being tried along with his co-defendants, Panebianco and Marcus Waltmon, 41, Clearfield. Their five-day trial ended in a mistrial last month. A new trial has yet to be scheduled.
The group is accused of running a methamphetamine ring out of Panebianco’s home.
The search was initiated after police stopped a vehicle driven by Eric Kyler, 42, of Winburne, who was in possession of over $19,000, methamphetamine, scales and other items used in drug distribution.
Taylor has a separate trial, beginning on Nov. 25 for just the firearm charges.
According to information discussed in a hearing about the case on Thursday, the firearm charges were removed from the main case due to the fact that Taylor has a prior felony conviction, which is why he is prohibited from possessing a gun.
Separating the charges allows the drug trial to go forward without mention of Taylor’s criminal record.
Taylor’s attorney, Joseph Valenza, filed a motion to prohibit the mention of the drugs found with the gun in the firearm trial, which was the purpose of Thursday’s hearing.
Valenza argued to President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman that it was not necessary to mention the traffic stop because the drug evidence is not relevant to the firearm case. Valenza said mentioning it could be prejudicial and could cause jury confusion.
“This is straight forward. He either had the guns or he didn’t,” he said.
Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman, who is prosecuting the case, responded by having an AG agent testify that the handgun was found in a lockbox next to methamphetamine and cash.
The guns were there “to protect the drugs and the money that would come from the drugs,” meaning the drugs were relevant to the firearm case, the agent said.
When asked if it would be difficult to talk about the gun without talking about the drugs, the agent said “yes.”
Gorman also noted that it would limit the evidence, which includes photos of both the drugs and the guns.
Gorman pointed out that not talking about the drugs would restrict the agents and officers’ testimony because they would need to explain why the residence was being searched. He asked the judge to deny the motion.
Valenza responded that he was not challenging the search warrant and suggested witnesses could simply testify that they found Taylor in the room with the guns.
Ammerman asked both sides to submit case law on the issue saying “this can’t be the first time anyone severed weapon charges from drug charges.” The attorneys have until Nov. 20 to submit any information they find to him for review before making a decision on the motion.