Pubdate: Wed, 08 Aug 2007
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2007 Summit Daily News
Author: Joel Stonington, Pitkin County Correspondent
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Constitutional Issue Looms Over Charges Of Cocaine Possession

ASPEN - The fate of Moses Greengrass is in the hands of District 
Judge James Boyd, who will decide whether his arrest in March was 

Greengrass, 26, faces charges of felony possession of more than 25 
grams of cocaine and possession with intent to sell. If Boyd deems 
the arrest unconstitutional, the prosecution will have no case, and 
Greengrass will go free.

Greengrass remains in the Pitkin County Jail for allegedly violating 
his parole. Greengrass was released from prison in January after 
serving seven years for his role in a 1999 crime spree in Aspen, 
which involved local teenagers committing a string of armed robberies 
in the upper valley; he would not be released from jail on the 
current charges even if he could pay the $25,000 bond.

Boyd heard evidence during a seven-hour hearing Monday on whether to 
allow evidence. Boyd said he will issue a written ruling before 
Greengrass's arraignment, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 10.

At issue is the first few contacts that rookie Aspen police officer 
Jeff Fain made with Greengrass on the night of March 22. Though Fain 
was in training at the time, he was the one who allegedly saw 
Greengrass make a deal and was the arresting officer.

Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols agreed with the defense that if 
the first contact "was awry, then we lose everything after."

"The officer did not have a basis to be contacting Mr. Greengrass at 
all," argued defense attorney Garth McCarty. "That was an involuntary 
stop, if not a detention straightaway."

According to testimony, Fain came out of a walk-through of Eric's Bar 
early on the morning of March 23 and noticed Greengrass on the far 
side of a Toyota Scion speaking with a woman in the driver's seat. A 
man was standing, looking in the open window of the passenger side of 
the vehicle.

In testimony, Fain said he saw, from 10 feet away and through the 
front windshield of the car, Greengrass make a handoff with the 
woman. Fain suspected a drug transaction and stopped Greengrass for 
questioning, though Fain never interviewed the woman.

During Monday's hearing, the woman - Heather Phillips - took the 
stand, testified that she was Greengrass' girlfriend and said she had 
not made a drug transaction. She also testified that she was driving 
Greengrass' vehicle, the Scion.

The man on the passenger side of the vehicle, Benjamin Aley, 
testified that he is Greengrass' brother and said he did not see a 
transaction either.

During Monday's hearing, Fain admitted making mistakes during the 
arrest, such as telling Greengrass, "Sucks to be you," just after the 
arrest. Fain said his training officer reprimanded him after the 
incident was over.

Fain was still in training at the time of Greengrass' arrest; his 
training was extended because he failed some tests, such as knowing 
every Aspen street name.

McCarty also brought up Fain's recent car wreck while on the job, in 
which Fain was at fault, and said it shows Fain is willing to put the 
public at risk to make a bust.

"A police officer who would cut corners, a police officer who would 
sacrifice public safety for a simple car stop," McCarty said, "would 
also be willing to cut corners when it comes to constitutional rights."

Nichols argued that the initial contact with Greengrass was voluntary 
and that Fain grew more suspicious because Greengrass looked nervous. 
Fain testified that he kept asking Greengrass to talk more and 
eventually grabbed Greengrass while he was walking away.

When Fain attempted to question Greengrass further, he fled on foot, 
shedding his puffy black jacket as he ran, according to Fain. Fain 
caught Greengrass in the breezeway behind the Caribou Club on East 
Hopkins Avenue and watched as Greengrass stuffed the jacket behind a 
wooden pallet.

Renee Rayton, then an Aspen police officer, retrieved the jacket and 
found a velvet bag containing plastic baggies and small, folded 
envelopes, also known as bindles. Police Sgt. John Rushing testified 
that he searched the jacket with Rayton and that one of the baggies 
tested positive for cocaine.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman