Judge: Evidence permissible against Tyrone drug suspect

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan has refused to suppress evidence against a Tyrone man who was charged with drug offenses that came about after county parole and probation officers went to his home to check on his son.

Officers went to 117 W. 14th St., Tyrone, in June to find out why Devin Keith, 19, did not report a second driving under the influence offense to his probation officer.

What they found were various people asleep or passed out at the home, including in the living room, a bedroom and a closet. Keith was found hiding in a hallway closet on the home’s second floor.

The county parole and probation officers were joined by Tyrone police and eventually the officers entered a second-floor bedroom where the father, Richard Harry Keith, 57, slept.

An officer found baggies and a digital scale in a dresser drawer, as well as a gun safe containing a shotgun and other weapons.

They also found about 100 prescription bottles throughout the home.

Under an agreement with the parole and probation department, individuals under supervision, like Devin Keith, sign agreements that waive their rights to searches and seizures, meaning the county probation personnel did not need to seek a warrant to determine what contraband might be in the home.

After learning what was in the home, Tyrone police obtained a search warrant and subsequently found baggies they said were used for packaging narcotics, a small amount of marijuana and cellphones in the father’s bedroom. Police also found $1,428 in a pair of jeans on the bed.

They found a digital scale and marijuana residue in the kitchen and hypodermic needles.

In testimony earlier this year, Tyrone police officer Adam Bonsell told Sullivan that the gun safe and drugs were within six feet of each other, noting that it was common for individuals with drugs to have guns nearby.

Richard Keith was charged with possession with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Blair County Assistant Public Defender Joseph Hartye challenged the right of police to obtain a search warrant, contending they did not have probable cause.

He contended that the parole and probation officers, who had the right to search the home, did not have the right to serve as “stalking horses,” referring to a term used in a prior higher court opinion, for the police in an effort to bring about new charges.

Assistant District Attorney Dan Kiss countered the argument, stating the evidence of drug abuse by the father was uncovered during a lawful and appropriate search by county parole and probation officers.

Sullivan said the probation officers had reason to conduct a warrantless search and police had reason to obtain a warrant to conduct an even more thorough search.

“…The search in any closet, under any bed sheets, under or behind furniture, etc., and generally any area where an individual could be hiding was justified as a protective sweep,” Sullivan concluded.

He dismissed Hartye’s request to suppress evidence and ordered that Richard Keith next appear in court for a review of his case on April 8.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.