The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Otter House owner wants evidence suppressed
By KEITH EPPS
One of the owners of the Otter House is seeking to have all evidence seized during a July 27 raid at his business thrown out of court.
Andy Cornick, attorney for Otter House co-owner Stephen Cameli, filed a 28-page motion this week in Fredericksburg General District Court seeking to have the results of the search warrant suppressed. If the request is granted, prosecutors will not be allowed to use the two Oxycodone pills and the smoking device with marijuana residue seized in the raid against Cameli in the pending misdemeanor case.
Both Cameli, 33, and co-owner Paul Stoddard, 32, were recently charged with maintaining a common nuisance. The Class 1 misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
It was the first time since 2005 that a common nuisance charge was filed in connection with a city business.
In his motion to suppress, Cornick argues that an affidavit in support of the search warrant is based on inaccuracies and does not supply enough information to support a raid on the business.
Cornick was particularly critical of a portion of the affidavit written by Detective Jason Pitts that refers to the seizure of 2.27 ounces of marijuana at the “establishment” on Dec. 28. He said the the wording could lead someone to believe that the marijuana was seized at the Otter House when in fact it was seized from the home of Cameli and his brother on Littlepage Street.
Cameli was charged with simple possession of marijuana and was eventually convicted of possession of paraphernalia. Cornick argues that none of that indicates drug dealing occurred at the Otter House.
Cornick’s motion attacks other incidents mentioned in the affidavit as well, including an April 18 incident in which a man was seen urinating in an alley next to the Otter House. Police recovered three bags of marijuana from the man and stated that an associate of his walked to the Otter House and talked to people sitting on the deck after the arrest.
The motion states that there was no connection between that man and the Otter House, other than him “having chosen it as a good place to urinate.”
Police used the affidavit to also search nearby 1009 Princess Anne St., and the motion claims that many of the incidents cited in the affidavit deal with that residence, “which is in no way connected to the Otter House.”
The motion also disputes several suggested connections between drugs and other suspects and the Otter House listed in the affidavit.
According to the motion, the raid occurred about 2 a.m. July 27 just before the business at 1005 Princess Anne St. was about to close. Court records state officers armed with assault rifles and extra magazines herded customers, band members and employees into a corner at gunpoint while they searched the business. Some of the officers had their faces covered and some were in full military gear, the motion states.
A hearing on the motion will be held on Oct. 18, the same day trials for Cameli and Stoddard are scheduled.