This story was featured in the January 10, 2018 edition of The Edina Sentinel.
By Echo Menges
According to court documents, an Assistant Attorney General has withdrawn the appeal challenging Second Circuit Presiding Judge Russell E. Steele’s decision to exclude all the evidence seized during a search of the James Lasher home and business located in Knox City in 2016.
Lasher was criminally charged in January of 2016 after police knocked on his door to follow up on a tip about illegal activity at the Lasher home.
Law enforcement officers testified to smelling a strong odor of marijuana outside of Lasher’s residence after he opened the door to talk to them. Lasher was taken into custody, his home was secured by law enforcement and a search warrant was obtained to search the residence. Another search warrant was obtained to search Lasher’s business.
During the search, six bags and 10 jars of marijuana were discovered in the kitchen of the residence along with various items used to smoke marijuana. A bag of methamphetamine was found in a bedroom of the residence, along with bags of marijuana seeds.
In the basement of the residence, a marijuana cultivation cache was discovered including 14 boxes of grow lights, a dry erase board with notes on it documenting the times marijuana plants had been watered and cloned, a hydrologic (hydroponic) water purification system, several fans, extension cords, soil tester and a timer.
More jars of marijuana were also found in the basement with names on them like Strawberry Cheesecake, Liberty Haze and Blueberry Kush.
On the back porch of the residence, eight large bags of Miracle Grow potting soil were found.
During the search at Lasher’s mechanic shop, more items were seized including a number of glass jars containing marijuana.
Lasher’s attorney argued law enforcement didn’t have enough evidence to enter and subsequently search Lasher’s home to begin with, and he won that argument in court.
The State appealed the ruling to suppress the evidence in the case, but unexpectedly asked for the appeal to be dismissed on December 15, 2017. That dismissal was officially filed on December 20 in case number 16KN-CR00003-01.
Now that the appeal has officially been dismissed, it cannot be refiled according to the attorney representing Lasher, Jay Benson.
“It means the court’s ruling on the motion to suppress is fine,” said Attorney Jay Benson. “The court has ruled based upon the unlawful entry into the Lasher residence without probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. The evidence seized cannot be admitted at trial.”
According to Benson, it is common for charges to be dismissed after the evidence in a case is found inadmissible.
“We are waiting for the State to dismiss the charges. They don’t have any evidence to proceed with. They don’t have a case. I can’t imagine the State will go through the process when they know what the Court’s ruling is,” said Benson. “The ruling to suppress the evidence is final. They cannot come back and refile.”
Knox County Prosecuting Attorney Jo Fortney filed numerous felony and misdemeanor criminal charges against Lasher after the cache of illegal drugs and marijuana growing supplies were confiscated nearly two years ago.
As of our press time, the criminal case against Lasher had not been dismissed.
“The Constitution is pretty strong when it comes to this. There is nothing more sacred than your home and your right to privacy in your home,” said Benson. “Our founding fathers were clear about that in the fourth and fourteenth amendments. That’s been the law since our country’s been founded.”
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