Read the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee document detailing the court's ruling in the case.View
An iffy affidavit for a search warrant got a Marion County, Tenn., man's drug manufacturing and paraphernalia convictions vacated and his charges dismissed after a successful appeal in his 2014 guilty plea.
When William Gary Mosley pleaded guilty in December 2014 to a class B felony charge of initiation of a process to the manufacture of methamphetamine and two misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, he reserved certified questions of law on the affidavit for the search warrant that led to his arrest, according to a ruling handed down this week by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
Taking up the certified questions, appellate court justices found the affidavit filed by a Marion County Sheriff's Department detective "failed to establish probable cause." The case was originally heard by Marion County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Graham and the search warrant was issued by Judge Mark Raines.
According to appeals court documents, veteran Detective Matt Blansett had used information in the affidavit for the search warrant that came from local resident Christopher Lee Trussell about Mosley's alleged methamphetamine production at a home on Elm Avenue in South Pittsburg.
Trussell told Blansett of his making purchases of the meth ingredient pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter form of cold medicine that requires buyers to provide identification and sign a log to make the purchase. Trussell told Blansett that Mosley was using the precursor drug to make meth and was paying $75 to $100 for each box of cold pills or providing finished meth, according to the ruling.
The ruling mostly points to a snag that arose because Blansett was unaware Trussell had just been convicted of a drug charge that would have made him a "criminal informant" rather than a "citizen informant" as the search warrant was sought. There is a significant difference in the eyes of the law in the reliability of a citizen informant and criminal informant because "criminals are inherently not reliable," trial court judge Graham states.
During case negotiations in 2014, Graham asked the prosecution and defense sides to file briefs on whether Trussell should be considered a criminal informant or citizen informant. Graham later ruled Trussell was a criminal informant but his information was still reliable.
Meanwhile, Mosley received concurrent sentences on the combined convictions of eight years, with six months of the term to be served in jail and the balance to be served on supervised probation. Mosley already had spent six months in jail at the time of the plea so he faced no more time behind bars in the sentence.
Twelfth Judicial District Attorney Mike Taylor said he didn't see any major fault on the investigator's part and that the case was typical of one that hinges on the initial information.
"Search warrants have to stand on their four corners," Taylor said. "If the search warrant's bad, then the case is bad."
Mosley's lawyer, Dunlap attorney D. Keith Davis, said Mosley "was pleased with the result."
"I wish it hadn't taken to so long but justice does work," Davis said.