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Cleveland Man Freed Due to Corrupt Cops’ Actions

March 1, 2016 | Written by Dan Margolis

A case out of East Cleveland demonstrates how, in the criminal justice system, illegal police procedure leads to evidence getting thrown out of court. To prevent abuse of power, police officers are expected to follow clearly laid out procedures when investigating or arresting a suspect.

A Cleveland man convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to five years in prison in 2014 has been set free, after a prosecutor recently admitted to a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge that the misconduct of the three police officers who worked the case left his office with “no case at this point.”

As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, the officers searched the defendant’s grandmother’s house, where he lived. During the search, one of the officers broke a padlock that was on the defendant’s bedroom door and searched inside. He found about $100,000 in cash. But instead of reporting all of it as evidence, the officers took $30,000 of it and split it among themselves.

The defendant and two other men were later convicted based on this corrupt investigation, though the defendant was the only one sentenced to prison time. The officers later pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

During a Feb. 24 hearing, the prosecutor admitted that the officers “were in the wrong” and urged the judge to release the defendant, 50, from prison. The defendant’s attorney praised the prosecutor’s office for doing what is right.

Under the law, evidence seized during an unlawful search is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree.” In other words, when a piece of evidence is the result of illegal police actions, it usually is not allowed to be used against the defendant.

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