Man appeals drug conviction linked to state trooper accused of racial profiling

A Presque Isle man convicted of drug charges following a January 2019 traffic stop is appealing his conviction, saying a U.S. district court did not adequately consider the racial profiling patterns of the officers who arrested him.

Maine State Police Officer John Darcy stopped Black Damon Fagan shortly after 11 p.m. on January 11. June 6, 2019. Darcy told the court that Fagan cut off a tractor-trailer on Interstate 95 and made an “unsafe lane change.” State troopers questioned Fagan and asked to search his car with a K-9, but found nothing. However, Fagan later admitted to possessing heroin and was charged with possessing and intending to distribute it.

Seven months after Fagan’s arrest, Darcy, a white man, was recorded telling another police officer he targeted a driver for a traffic stop because he looked like a “thug” and suspected him of being involved in a drug-related crime. Activity.

Credibility issues

Darcy’s traffic stop has raised questions in at least eight other cases, according to Fagan’s defense attorneys.

Two cases have been dismissed, with a federal judge calling Darcy “not a very credible witness.” A lawyer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday he was unaware of any active cases in which his office used Darcy as a witness.

“We do believe that Mr. Darcy has a history and pattern of engaging in such conduct,” Fagan’s appellate attorney Noreen McCarthy said Tuesday during oral arguments before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. “Tracking and targeting black motorists on I-95, stopping them for no reason, and lying. It’s a proven pattern at this point.”

McCarthy argued that U.S. District Judge Brock Hornby, who accepted Fagan’s conditional guilty plea in August 2021, rejected a motion to prevent federal prosecutors from using heroin as evidence at trial was wrong. McCarthy said Hornby did not fully consider the August 2019 recording.

Hornby cited a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said police could stop any vehicle as long as they had reasonable grounds to believe that a traffic violation had occurred.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not argue that Darcy was a credible witness. Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Bullock defended Hornby’s ruling, saying a rational officer in the same position might also have thought Fagan’s lane change was “unsafe” because he had Turn signals are not used.

“Ultimately, the question is: Is there evidence that an unsafe traffic maneuver has occurred?” Bullock said. “Here, the District Court made a factual finding that, given the overall circumstances, a rational officer in the circumstances of Mountie Darcy might have a reasonable doubt that changing lanes was unsafe.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit has no deadline to rule on Fagan’s appeal.

A spokesman for the Maine State Police confirmed that Darcy was still with the agency. He was assigned to Alfred’s Troop A and was promoted to corporal.

In the August 2019 recording, Darcy referred to the man he would later stop as a “thug” and pointed to his “fear” and “wife-battering” vest. Federal prosecutors later dismissed the charges against that man, Terrell Walker.

In December 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dismissed drug charges against Alexis Boyd, who was convicted in 2019 for a traffic violation Passengers in a car parked on I-95 in Darcy in June. After ruling that Darcy was not a reliable witness, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen dismissed the drug evidence, according to the August 2019 recordings and dashcam records of Boyd’s arrest Statements in court are contradictory.

State Police​​​​​

Colonel. Then-Maine police chief John Cote announced in July 2021 that an “extensive”, months-long internal investigation involving the Maine attorney general’s office “did not provide any Evidence of patterns targeting drivers for any other reason.” Common features of protected groups. “

Maine police deny that any racial profiling or excuses took place to stop.

“This investigation includes the examination of more than 1,000 Cpl. Darcy’s traffic stops resulted in zero evidence of any pattern of targeting drivers based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation,” Maine State Police spokesman Shannon Moss said in a statement Tuesday. “Frankly, we believe the statements made by the defense attorneys in this case are inaccurate and inflammatory.”

The ACLU of Maine filed a letter in March supporting Fagan’s appeal. Their chief legal counsel, Zachary Hayden, said Tuesday that the Maine State Police’s internal findings were “disturbing.”

“What’s important about this case is not that this was the only officer who engaged in racist activity — it’s that he admitted it and was videotaped,” Hayden said. Outside the courtroom, the ACLU advocates for increased training to prevent further pretense and racial profiling by Maine police, he said.

Bullock also mentioned an internal Maine police investigation on Tuesday.

“Although I think a fair criticism is that Maine police record keeping, regarding the race of individuals stopped for traffic violations, may not be as comprehensive as we would like,” Bullock said.

Last summer, Governor. Janet Mills signed a bill requiring Maine law enforcement to track the race of the drivers they parked. The law should help the state identify and prevent racial profiling.

Meanwhile, a bill introduced earlier this year to reduce overall traffic stops was blocked.

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