A state investigation of drug arrests by Tarpon Springs police continues, with claims that officers planted evidence.

A cloud of suspicion continues to hang over the Tarpon Springs Police Department and its efforts to make drug arrests, months after becoming the target of a state investigation.Chief Mark LeCouris said street informers have told him agents for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have been asking whether police officers have planted drugs on suspects, a charge LeCouris denies. But one suspect has made that allegation to FDLE, and a lawyer in another case unsuccessfully made that argument in court. Holiday attorney Steve Bartlett alleged in court pleadings that Tarpon Springs officers planted drugs in his client's car in 2002.Eric Jon Dickson was standing near his 1990 Honda CRX on Mango Street on June 6, 2002, when police Officer Matthew McLane stopped and asked if he could search the vehicle. Dickson did not consent to the vehicle search, nor did he agree to let officers search him, Bartlett claimed in court.But McLane said in a report that Dickson did consent and then tried to destroy a piece of crack cocaine he was holding in his fist. He was charged with possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence. Police also impounded his car. A search that day found a BB-gun and nothing else, records show.A week later, Dickson accused the police of stealing $600 in cash from his impounded car so they searched it again, records show. A police document naming Trill as the case officer shows that the second search revealed plastic bags containing 12 hydrocodone tablets, 20 methadone tablets, 20 diazepam tablets, an oxycodone tablet, a plastic pipe and spoon coated with drug residue. "Either they had Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles search that car the first time or something was wrong," Bartlett said.Detective Sgt. Allen MacKenzie said the first search missed a small compartment holding the drugs. LeCouris said it was an honest mistake. Dickson was never charged with possessing the drugs found in his car because officers could not prove the drugs belonged to Dickson or that he put them in the vehicle, MacKenzie said.Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nelly Khouzam ruled the evidence-planting allegations were "not relevant" to Dickson's arrest. Dickson eventually pleaded guilty to the original cocaine possession and evidence-tampering charges. A formal finding of guilt was withheld and he was sentenced to 2 years' probation. He has since been charged with possession of oxycodone and violating his probation and is serving a 6-month jail sentence.FDLE officials won't say whether Dickson's case is part of their investigation. Bartlett, who is no longer Dickson's attorney, said the FDLE has not contacted him about Dickson's case.

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 28, 2016