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home : news : north central illinois   April 29, 2016

2/20/2014 2:07:00 PM
Bad video wasn't enough to throw out pot bust

NT Staff

OTTAWA — A Massachusetts man was caught red-handed with 67 pounds of marijuana, though the bust was not caught on tape due to a faulty video camera.

That didn’t matter to his jury. Bad camera or no bad camera, Eric Litwin is headed to prison for 12-60 years, with no possibility of probation, at an April 4 sentencing hearing before Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr.

Litwin, 45, of South Easton, Mass., was convicted after a jury deliberated 90 minutes Wednesday and rejected Litwin’s claims that the case against him was faulty and tainted, not least because Utica police were using an obsolete VHS recorder that failed to record 90 percent of his traffic stop.

“Based on the facts, they thought it was clear: He was guilty,” said Laura Hall, assistant La Salle County state’s attorney, who said she spoke to several jurors after the verdict.

Hall said the verdict was especially satisfying in light of the accusations Litwin and his lawyers made against the Utica police officers who seized the dope in spring 2012.

“I am pleased, after the extensive amount of litigation and the ways the integrity the Utica Police Department and its officers were attacked, that a guilty man was found guilty,” she said.

Lt. Jerry Nanouski testified he smelled pot, which Litwin didn’t exactly deny, and the ensuing search yielded a suitcase on the back seat and three duffel bags in the trunk, all containing cannabis.

Litwin, however, challenged Nanouski’s credibility by asking why a state police K-9 unit brought to the scene did not alert to the presence of drugs and then tried to make hay with the decade-old VHS recorder on Nanouski’s cruiser, which rendered a nearly useless recording of the traffic stop.

But the jury apparently believed Nanouski smelled what he smelled, making the ensuing search and seizure legally justified, and dismissed Litwin’s allegations of video tampering.

Litwin’s lawyers could not be reached for comment before press time today. A notice of appeal would not be filed until after sentencing is completed.

Utica has since taken action to upgrade the cameras on its small fleet, approving the purchase of $13,500 in replacement equipment at its Feb. 12 council meeting.

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