Asheville 11 update, April 10, 2011

There have been some major developments in the case of those arrested last May in downtown Asheville. Five of the defendants were slated for trial this coming Monday April 11th. As of right now, their trials as well as all other jury trials in Asheville have been suspended. They will not resume until a complete audit of the Asheville Police Department’s (APD) evidence room and its evidence handling procedures has been concluded.

The State Bureau of Investigation has sealed, and is investigating, the APD property room due to 397 missing tablets of Oxycodone. On Friday, April 1, an Assistant District Attorney and the defense attorney for Terry Landrum, who was facing drug trafficking and firearms charges from 2009, went to examine the evidence. They found two empty pill containers that the APD claims once held $20,000 worth of Oxycodone. Once this came to light most of the charges against Landrum, who was facing a mandatory minimum sentence of almost 19 years in prison if convicted, were dropped. He was sentenced to probation.

Records obtained by local news sources reveal that the APD’s longtime evidence manager, Lee Smith, was placed under investigative suspension before his resignation earlier this year. Smith had been placed under investigative suspension on January 25th and resigned on February 18th, after 21 years with the department. District Attorney Ron Moore has claimed that due to Smith’s resignation he asked for a full audit of drugs, guns and money in late February.

What the APD actually conducted was a “random 10% audit” that returned results with “some areas of concern”. The DA continues to claim that he was not made aware of the nature of this audit, or it’s results. The APD Police Chief Bill Hogan claims that a random 10% audit is standard and within the guidelines for a proper investigation.

There are roughly 2,200 cases on hold, and about 13,000 pieces of evidence inside the sealed evidence room. An unknown amount of past cases have been jeopardized due to the APD tampering or falsifying evidence. This investigation comes on the coat tales of a statewide investigation into the SBI crime lab, where it was found that technicians were withholding important blood evidence from defense attorney’s in numerous cases.

Recently, several defense attorneys have requested audits of their clients’ evidence. Including some of the attorneys representing members of the 5 defendants scheduled for trial on Monday. Their lawyers have filed a “motion to exclude physical evidence” based on the APD being unable to produce pieces of evidence it allegedly has against the defendants. The investigation into this matter could delay their trial by months.

All of this comes after another major development with two people in this case. On Sunday the 13th of March the APD arrested 6 individuals who were on a hike for misdemeanor trespass. 2 of these individuals were defendants from the May arrests. Normally this level of misdemeanor is treated as a ticket and people are cited, released and required to appear in court. In this situation all 6 were arrested, charged, booked and released within the day.

When the District Attorney’s office became aware of the arrest, they called a bail hearing to ask that the mayday defendant’s bail be doubled. One defendant was arrested at this hearing and the other who was out of town at the time returned to Asheville and turned himself in soon after. Both of their bails were doubled to $130,000, and since $65,000 had already been posted by a bondsmen only the remaining $65,000 was needed.

After conversations with lawyers, friends, other defendants and those in jail their support decided they were going to bail them out. At the time trial was looming only a few weeks away and those closest to the defendants knew that enduring such with only a jail cell to return to at night would be devastating. It took over a week and about $10,000 to get both of them out again.

Thank you to everyone across the country that has helped support the Asheville arrestees since the beginning, and thank you to those who have recently heard about the case and wanted to lend a dollar or a hand. The waiting that is to come over the next few months will be emotionally brutal for friends, family and defendants alike. The arrestees will need your continued support, care and donations. The defense fund has been drained and the support crew is hoping to put some back over the next little while. If you would like to contribute please visit the donations page of the support site.

This May 1st will mark a full year since the disruption of these peoples lives. It has been an up and down battle to stay afloat amidst so many challenges. These newest upset comes with a variety of their own hurdles, but the wait will be eased with the knowledge that there are those around the country and in Asheville willing to show such care for the arrestees.

Thank you again for your continued support.

AVL11 Support Crew

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