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Arguments in OPNET case continue next week
Seven days of testimony about alleged misconduct by the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team will continue in front of a Jefferson County judge Sept. 19.
In November 2011, attorney Michael Haas filed a motion to suppress evidence or dismiss the charges against Steve Fager, who was arrested in October 2009 after OPNET served a search warrant on his residence near the 100 block of Glendale Drive in Sequim. Fager is charged with possession of marijuana, manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. His brother, Timothy Fager, faces similar charges in connection with the investigation.
Haas is accusing OPNET detectives of trespassing, planting evidence, falsifying information and using a drug-abusing sex offender as a confidential informant. The defense claims OPNET used an inherently flawed process to obtain a search warrant for Fager’s property.
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict has said, speaking on behalf of OPNET, that he strongly denies the allegations and will fight them.
A total of 17 witnesses are listed for the extended hearing, during which Haas and Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lewis Schrawyer will argue their cases.
Schrawyer said the case is very complex and arguments likely will continue through Sept. 20.
“This is a commercial building, it is not a residence,” he said regarding the trespass allegations. “So their arguments about trespass laws applying to it are totally inappropriate. Under federal law, a commercial building does not have the same trespass protection as a residence.”
Haas agreed the case is complex and said, “You can tell that just from the length of time it’s taken.”
In support of his allegation that detectives trespassed, Haas called an expert witness who testified marijuana can not be smelled from more than about 60 feet away. Five different detectives claim they smelled the marijuana from 300 yards away, Haas said.
Schrawyer said the detectives have a 100-percent accuracy rate of detecting marijuana and finding it and are specially trained to do so.
“I have not found one decision in which a court has ever adopted his theories and I don’t see any indication it will have an impact here,” Schrawyer said of the expert witness.
Claims of falsifying information are “nonsensical,” he said.
“There are 8,000 pages of material from the state side so I’m not exactly sure which word or two words they are saying are false,” Schrawyer said. “So far there isn’t anything that shows that anything was false that the state put together.”
Haas argued OPNET lied about their confidential informant’s drug problem and placed a young girl at risk when they knew the informant, a sex offender, was babysitting her.
“They put the safety of a 9-year-old girl secondary to them,” he said.
One woman testified she didn’t believe there was any way the detectives could have not noticed how bad the informant’s drug problem had become, Haas said.
Schrawyer said an interview with the informant recorded less than a month before his overdose shows the man was coherent, he understood what he was talking about, he understood the questions and the answers and he talked about what was going to be different in his life.
“Both Steven and Timothy Fager have stipulated that no OPNET detective saw any signs of impairment on Joseph Haynes during any of the 15 or so times that he did purchases or over the course of approximately 10 months of working with OPNET, they did not detect anything in all of their interactions with Mr. Haynes,” he said.
Additionally, Schrawyer said if Haas was defending Haynes, he’d be arguing Haynes should be considered rehabilitated.
“The record shows he committed the sexual misconduct as an opportunist in an immature reaction,” Schrawyer said. “He’s not a danger to reoffend. He completed probation and only had minor charges after that.”
Haynes was 17 when he moved to Washington and he registered appropriately the entire time he lived here, Schrawyer said.
Schrawyer said more than 200 pages of the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant signed by a judge before its execution will be presented to the court.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.