A Haines man who faced several drug-related felonies last year has been cleared of all charges. Issues with the police investigation led to the dismissal of the charges.
The now-cleared charges stem from last October, when Haines police arrested Dean Lari following a drug bust.
Lari originally faced four felony drug charges. But two were dropped weeks later. At that time, Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige told KHNS there were ‘legal issues’ that made her believe she couldn’t prove two of the charges ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’
Paige reduced the remaining charges to misdemeanors, citing criminal reform bill SB91.
Last month, those charges were dismissed as well. It happened at a change of plea hearing on April 13. Lari pled guilty to two counts of violating a domestic violence protective order, and the state dropped the drug charges.
Lari’s public defender Timothy Ayer says there were several issues with the police investigation that led to this conclusion.
“In this case we felt there were certain aspects of this investigation that felt short of the constitutional minimums for admissibility,” says Ayer.
Ayer says before the plea deal was made, the defense was preparing to file a motion setting out the issues they’d found with the police investigation.
“It was going to be our position in the motion that there were some infirmities in the application for the search warrant that was ultimately issued in this case,” says Ayer. “And there were infirmities in how the investigation itself was carried out. Mainly the use of confidential informants in what they did as part of the investigation.”
According to court documents, Lari was arrested for selling six grams of cocaine in an October police sting. Police worked with an informant during the case.
Police then obtained a warrant to search Lari’s house. That’s where they say they found traces of methamphetamine and cocaine, and more than 50 marijuana plants. But Ayer says there were issues with that warrant.
He says the warrant wasn’t transparent about the informant’s motivation to report on Lari. Ayer said during the hearing the informant had an ‘ax to grind.’
“There were some statements in the search warrant application that differed from the facts as they were reported in the police report and as we understood them from some of the media that we obtained in discovery,” says Ayer.
He says misstatements in a search warrant application can make it unconstitutional.
Speaking during the change of plea hearing last month, Ayer said there was a lot the state was going to have to overcome to prosecute the case. He didn’t think they would have been able to do so.
Assistant District Attorney Paige declined to comment for this story. So did Haines police chief Heath Scott. After the charges were dismissed last month, Scott told the Chilkat Valley News that ‘mistakes happen.’ Scott told the CVN, ‘We’ve got to protect people’s civil liberties. If we do something wrong, this is the outcome.’
Lari also did not want to talk for this story. Earlier in the investigation, he told KHNS that he was unfairly targeted by police. He said it stemmed from a personal vendetta against him.
The court accepted the plea deal, dismissing the remaining charges related to the October incident. Lari was sentenced for two counts of violating a domestic violence protective order. He received no jail time.