A recent drug bust in Haines now has much less serious charges attached to it. The defendant in the case points to that as evidence of police ineptitude. But prosecutors and police say even though the case is diminished, they plan to pursue the remaining charges.
Police initially charged Dean Lari with four felonies. They include three possession charges, which are class C felonies, and one more serious class B felony involving manufacturing or delivering drugs.
The charges stem from a sting in mid-October in which police worked with an informant to observe Lari allegedly selling six grams of cocaine. They then obtained a warrant to search his house, where they allegedly found 57 marijuana plants, and small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine.
But Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige decided to drop two of those charges and reduce the other two to misdemeanors.
Paige said there were ‘legal issues’ that made her think she could not prove two of the charges ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ She dismissed the manufacture/deliver charge and the possession charge connected the marijuana plants.
Paige said she could not give details about what the ‘legal issues’ were.
Haines Police Chief Heath Scott says he thought the case for those two charges was solid.
“We made it known that this was important to the community,” Scott said. “And the bottom line is the DA’s office does what the DA’s office does. It’s our job as law enforcement officers in the state to observe and provide documented evidence so the DA’s office can do their job. And for whatever reason they found that that was going to be difficult. So I would defer to them on that.”
The remaining two charges are connected to the small amounts of substances found at Lari’s home that police say tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamine. Paige reduced those charges from felonies to misdemeanors. The reason for that, she says, is crime reform bill SB 91. The recently-passed bill eases penalties for some non-violent crimes.
Lari says he was not surprised when he learned that of the four original charges against him, two were dropped and two were reduced.
“I knew that when the DA saw this she was gonna be like ‘has anybody trained or talked to’…there’s just too many unanswered questions.” Lari said. “You know, why not a month-long investigation or a six month investigation? If the cops got you they want to solidify their case. Just look at the tools that were used to build the box.”
Lari maintains his innocence. He says he was unfairly targeted by police and that it all goes back to a personal vendetta against him.
“There is not police excitement here and they are trying to rustle some up,” Lari said. “All these guys came from big cities where there’s lots of excitement, lots of things to do, and they are simply getting bored.”
“I don’t think there’s a personal vendetta,” Scott said. “Mr. Lari was engaging in criminal acts and he was arrested for it.”
Scott says his department is still investigating the case.
“Every time that we make a mistake, we’re going to get better at what we do,” he said. “If we can’t get somebody one way, we will try another avenue. And if we are aware of behavior, we’re going to put all of our efforts behind resolving.”
When asked whether there was a mistake made with Lari’s case, Scott said no, but there’s always things the police can improve on.
“We can get better each and every day,” Scott said.
The police chief says he plans for the department to take a more ‘proactive stance’ cracking down on manufacturing, distribution and cultivation of drugs in Haines.
Lari is set to be arraigned on the updated charges Thursday in Haines court.