Des Moines Register (Iowa)
BYLINE: JEFF ECKHOFF, email@example.com
Polk County, Iowa
Agents for Iowa’s top anti-drug police agency will stop using seized narcotics to stage certain types of drug deals pending a review of their legal authority to do so, according to newly submitted papers in a Polk County lawsuit.
The Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement suspended the practice after consulting with state government lawyers, said Bob Brammer, a spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by a man accused of buying marijuana and cocaine from undercover authorities, alleges that Iowa police agencies for years have been violating a law that requires seized illegal drugs to be destroyed once they are no longer needed as evidence in a case.
James Edward “Beep” Banks, who faces federal drug-dealing charges after he allegedly bought 44 pounds of marijuana and 2 kilos of cocaine from authorities in a “reverse sting” operation in March, contends Iowa police agencies also have failed to properly account for drugs checked out of evidence rooms.
The lawsuit alleges that police failed to file required paperwork certifying under oath that drugs have been destroyed. As a result, court documents contend, “52 plants of marijuana, over eight pounds of methamphetamine and multiple kilos of cocaine are unaccounted for at this time.”
Court papers seek an injunction banning police agencies from using seized drugs in reverse stings and a court order requiring that agencies account for the whereabouts of any drugs checked out.
Investigators with the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement have agreed, for now, to stop asking judges to release drugs for those uses, according to an e-mail contained in court papers submitted by Dean Stowers, Banks’ attorney.
The e-mail, sent to Stowers by Assistant Iowa Attorney General Jeffrey Peterzalek, is attached to Stowers’ written request on Wednesday that Polk County District Judge Eliza Ovrom schedule an immediate hearing on the lawsuit.
“It is my understanding that DNE agents are being instructed not to seek orders in state court authorizing the use of seized drugs for reverse stings,” pending clarification of legal issues, Peterzalek wrote.
A hearing is set for Thursday.
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