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OPNET accused of misconduct
by AMANDA WINTERS
The attorney for a Sequim man charged with marijuana possession is ready to file motions in court accusing the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team of trespassing, planting evidence, falsifying information, and using a drug-abusing sex offender as a confidential informant.
In an Oct. 20 letter to Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly, attorney Michael Haas said he is hopeful the case against Steve Fager can be resolved without filing the 70-page motion, which requests dismissal of the case or in the alternative, to hold a hearing to determine if OPNET’s search warrant was based on false information by law enforcement.
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, speaking on behalf of OPNET, said he strongly denies the allegations and will fight them in court.
Fager was arrested in October 2009 after OPNET served a search warrant on his residence near the 100 block of Glendale Drive. Officers said they found more than 40 grams of marijuana, making it a Class C felony.
The search was part of a larger bust, yielding 10 arrests, following a 14-month investigation by OPNET into a marijuana manufacturing and distribution ring, officers said.
But Haas said it was a minor medical marijuana grow operation serving several middle-aged people who all had valid medical marijuana authorizations. Additionally, the confidential informant used by OPNET over the course of the investigation “most likely never had a sober day the entire time OPNET worked with him,” Haas said in his motion.
The informant, Joseph Haynes, died of a drug overdose the morning the search warrants were carried out. He also was a sex offender out of West Virginia who was wanted by authorities there during the investigation, according to the motion.
In his letter to Kelly, Haas said if the motion is filed, “The validity of hundreds of Clallam County prosecutions and OPNET seizures of property will no doubt be called into question and the financial repercussions to the stakeholders will be astronomical.”
Haas said the charges against Fager and his brother need to be dropped as well as the civil forfeiture proceedings against them and Gary Corman, who also is tied to the case along with Kathleen Wheller.
Attorney fees in excess of $200,000 also need to be paid to the Fagers, Corman and Wheller, he said.
Haas said if a resolution is not reached, they will file formal complaints against five OPNET officers and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
“There are some serious abuses OPNET has engaged in, not just in this case but a number of cases,” Haas said Monday. “It’s clear we’re trying to extend an olive branch and save taxpayers money.”
Haas said while the sheriff has not returned his phone calls, he is in contact with the Clallam County Prosecutor’s Office.