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Evidence Must Go After Cop Flubbed Drug Bust

BURLINGTON, Vt. (CN) - A federal judge excluded evidence in the drug-trafficking trial of a New York man because of police misconduct during the arrest.

Police did not have initial probable cause and used excessive methods during the detaining process, according to the ruling. Video and photographic evidence taken during the arrest undermines the credibility of the arresting officer's testimony.

U.S. District Judge William Sessions III handed the ruling down on May 17, paving the way for all evidence and drug paraphernalia obtained during the arrest of Kareem Campbell to be suppressed during legal proceedings. The government moved to dismiss the indictment on Thursday.

The case stems from an incident where South Burlington Police Officer Jack O'Connor says he noticed a "very clean" car with New York license plates and several air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror of a car that O'Connor claimed had been parked in a supermarket lot "kind of off by itself."

O'Connor said he ran the plates and confirmed that the car was a rental from New York, which he believes is "the main source area for narcotics coming to Burlington."

The officer then questioned and arrested a man walking back to the vehicle, who originally lied about his identity when asked his name. O'Connor claimed that he looked in the driver's side window and saw a marijuana grinder and green, leafy material all over the center console. He arrested Campbell after allegedly ordering him to exit from the back of the truck of the vehicle where he was hiding.

Campbell is accused of trying to hide oxycotin in a jail cell where he was detained, pulling them out of his pants and placing them in a crack in the wall. Police believed he had additional drugs in his buttocks because he was "clinching his buttocks closed and continued to attempt to reach down the back of his pants." A bag of cocaine was also later found in Campbell's stool sample.

Judge Sessions noted that O'Connor, who made the arrest, testified that he failed to read Campbell his Miranda rights and violated several other laws as well. Video and audio of the incident shows that O'Connor and other officers on the scene only noticed the marijuana after they arrested Campbell in the truck of the car. Photos from the incident also show "brown smudges" on the center console and not green ones. Video from the supermarket also shows that the vehicle was actually parked in front of a well-lit entrance to the supermarkets with another vehicle nearby, contradicting O'Connor's statements.

Sessions also notes O'Connor's lack of professionalism while handling Campbell while he was under arrest, as a video recording shows O'Connor "pulling Campbell's pants down to search his buttocks area and then taunting [him]." O'Connor then duct-taped the top of Campbell's pants to prevent him from reaching down them again, saying, "You have the right to be duct taped" when the suspect objected.

According to the Burlington Free Press, O'Connor is currently on paid administration leave and has come under criticism before for aggressive tactics during drug investigations.

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