YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A federal judge Wednesday denied a motion to suppress evidence by a Struthers man who police said had 33 pounds of cocaine when he was arrested earlier this year during a traffic stop.
Judge Sara Lioi issued a ruling in the case against Frank Martinez Jr., 34, saying that law enforcement acted lawfully when they asked for warrants for searches in the case and when they pulled over his car and had a police dog come to search for drugs.
Martinez was arrested after he was pulled over March 7 by troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for an illegal lane change on Interstate 71 in Medina County.
The drugs were found after troopers who pulled Martinez over asked for a drug dog to search his truck. The drugs were found in a hidden compartment in the truck after it was impounded once the dog detected the scent of drugs, investigators said.
Martinez was indicted April 3 in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio on a charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He has been held in detention without bond pending trial since his arraignment.
Judge Lioi issued her ruling following an August 22 hearing.
Martinez’s attorneys challenged the arrest by saying the warrants in the case were deficient and that troopers prolonged the traffic stop unnecessarily so they could bring in the dog to sniff for the drugs.
Judge Lioi said in her opinion that she relied on the dashcam video that troopers used that night in the apprehension of Martinez.
The troopers who pulled Martinez over are part of a special team that looks for suspected criminals on the roadways. They were tipped off to look for Martinez that night, who was believed to be transporting drugs from Texas to Youngstown.
During the stop, which was captured on video, Martinez was asked to exit his truck so it could be searched. From the time that the trooper pulled Martinez over to the time the dog alerted on the odor of drugs took less than five minutes.
The trooper with the dog was in another cruiser, but when he heard the traffic stop on the radio, he waited two to four minutes before heading to the stop, Judge Lioi wrote.
Investigators began looking at Martinez in 2018, after they received information from a confidential source that Martinez became involved in a drug trafficking organization, Judge Lioi wrote. State authorities got a warrant to get records that would show where Martinez’s phone was at.
Based on the information gleaned from that warrant, federal authorities then got a warrant to search Martinez’s cell phone.
Judge Lioi wrote that parts of the state warrant are “thin,” but authorities were able to corroborate parts of it. She added that officers acted in good faith that the warrant was supported by a probable cause to search. She wrote that the officer who applied for the warrant with information from the confidential source had been truthful in the past.
As for the federal warrant, Judge Lioi wrote that federal agents had much more information, including cell phone records to back up claims that Martinez was in Texas. Judge Lioi wrote there was enough information for a magistrate to have probable cause to issue a warrant.
Judge Lioi wrote that the traffic stop itself was proper and not prolonged, which is backed up by the video.
A trial date in the case has yet to be set.