Search warrant secrets

Register
Apr 7, 2014

Huron County sheriff's deputies and police officers from some surrounding communities who executed a search warrant at a Norwalk home March 25 likely had the best of intentions when they set about their task. 

But something went wrong — before, during and after — delivering the search warrant to John Collins, 26, in one of the three units in the triplex home at 114 Benedict Ave. in Norwalk.
 
Deputies had bad information before they executed the search warrant because Collins was not the person they were expecting to be there and not the individual named in the warrant. 
 
Deputies handcuffed Collins and pushed him to the floor face down during the operation, leaving him there and ransacking his home despite his protests they had the wrong guy and the wrong home. Collins said some of the deputies recognized him from their school days but still did nothing to fix the fix they'd gotten themselves into by busting into Collins home with a bad warrant.  
 
And after the raid, sheriff's Capt. Ted Patrick was unable to provide a coherent explanation for any of the actions that occurred, referring to questions about the raid as a "rumor" in an apparent effort to dismiss Collins' complaint without ever having to address it. 
 
 
No mistakes were made, and the search warrant was executed at the correct address, Patrick insisted. Sheriff Dane Howard later agreed, but both still offered nothing to address the concerns raised by Collins and the misstatements made by Patrick.
 
The search warrant was sealed under a secret gag order from the court, and the raid that occurred at Collins home failed to protect his basic rights in a variety of other ways. The Norwalk Police Department, the agency with jurisdiction in the city, also wasn't involved or apparently even notified of the operation.
 
Patrick and Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard can insist whatever they want to insist. But just because they say it is so doesn't make it so, and the secret operation, the secret mistakes that might have occurred and the secret search warrant do nothing to bolster confidence in the legitimacy of this operation.   

Comments

jeffdsp

Since this isn't Sandusky County, the Register will say "likely had the best of intentions". Luckily for Huron County, the Register is still on the Sandusky County witch hunt. I don't know how any LE organization could make a mistake. I mean we're all perfect in our jobs. Just look at all the typo mistakes that AREN'T made when writing these online articles. And just think, if LE officials were as perfect as journalists, there would never be an error in making arrests, conducting investigations, carrying out search warrants, etc. Here's an idea...how about you "journalists" use your time and efforts going after the politicians that are ruining our health care and education systems! The last person I want to dictate what's best for my health and best for my child to learn in school is a corrupt politician. Too big for ya??

Matt Westerhold

Thanks jeffdsp, but your comment about a "witch hunt" is not accurate and your other comments don't address the issues raised.

The Register seeks to correct any mistakes in our reporting and publishes corrections when errors are found. You mention "typo" mistakes without pointing any out, but that comparison, even if it is accurate, is pretty weak, seems a bit petty and seems designed to divert attention away from the information being reported.

Please be sure to read the comment guidelines and keep these in mind in making any future posts.

holysee

Go Matt go! Very amusing to see the Sandco supporters attack you!
Don't suppose any of the beef jerkeys attacking your fine reporting in the coomments are perhaps the very people being taken to task for their lack of integrity?
When you hit a nerve, the brain will most definitely protest and I do believe you hit the cerebral cortex on this mess.
Please continue to do the reporting that is necessary, proper and REQUIRED of any decent news source. Where are the Fremont News Mess reporters in all of this? Cowering and shaking in a corner behind a curtain reading the Sandusky Register, that's where they are!
But please, also keep the witch hunt comments coming you staunch supporters of Justice Denied and bland/bleached reporting.
Such comments are quite revealing and entertaining.
The bottom line is, some real messed up things have been going on for a long time in Sandco and this corruption continues to go basically unchecked. Most of what Matt has reported would remain only as unconfirmed rumours floating around the county without this vital reporting to confirm the facts. A deep pattern of corruption and operating outside of the rule of law exists in Sandco. The arrogance of expecting the media to look the other way infuriates me. I would expect that if everything was laid transparent, more corrupt counties than even Sandco surely exist in Ohio, but that surely would be no excuse for criticism of the current focus.
By the way jeffdsp, go look up the definition of witch hunt. You will not see any reference to news reporting in that definition.
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Thank you once again Matt Westerhold and the whole Sandusky Register team! Your professionalism is rare, vital and appreciated by those of us who know better.
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mamaC

Until YOUR rights are violated right? Then YOU would care. As far as a "witch hunt" you say is going on in SC 1 mistake is understandable but, 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,ETC in case after case by the same people that are sworn to protect and serve the people is Not a mistake! Corrupt Politician or LE official should be held accountable and until the citizens stand up and demand it to stop it will continue to go on.

My point is this, people really do not care until it happens to them or their love ones. They all should be held accountable for their positions. McDonalds hold their employees at a better standard the any of these "Officials" are. They choose to serve the community and knew they were going to be held at a higher standard and in the public eye. I can't feel sorry for any of them being exposed or held accountable for their actions or lack of in their job performance.
A typo in a story vs. a human having their civil rights violated, hmm I would take a "typo" any day.

Keep up the great work Sandusky Register.

Contango

The War on Drugs is really a War on Rights.

Random Thoughts

According to the Reflector, the Norwalk Police were notified prior to the search but did not participate.  Also, the Sheriff's Department has concurrent jurisdiction with any municipalities or townships within the county.  Next, I keep reading about who was or wasn't named in the search warrant, but if it was a search warrant for drugs or drug paraphernalia, which it was according to the Reflector, then it would only list the address and no names.  If they were searching for a person or persons, then those names would appear, but a search warrant is not needed if the person you have an arrest warrant for resides at the address.  Also, you don't need a copy of the arrest warrant in hand to arrest someone.  Finally, whether sealed prior to the search or not, a copy of the search warrant (but not the application or affidavit) has to be left at the location, so somebody at that residence should have a copy.  The article in the Reflector last week, in which someone from the Sheriff's office was interviewed, pretty much explained the entire situation.  

Matt Westerhold

It was a quick rendering of perfection, then Random Thoughts,  and "pretty much explained the entire situation." Nothing to see here folks, move along. 

Random Thoughts

Mr Westerhold, did anyone ask Mr. Collins or anyone else at the address if the Sheriffs Office left any paperwork whatsoever?  At a minimum, a copy of the search warrant should have been left at the residence and if they took anything, there should be a receipt.  Also, do you not communicate with your sister publication?  Certain information in your story directly contradicts what they wrote.  As an example, they quote the Norwalk Police Chief as saying he was notified.  

Babo

I believe you are mistaken concerning arresting someone without a warrant in hand when going into a home without exigent circumstances present. You seem to acknowledge this fact as you state the Officers had to leave a copy of the search warrant. Well they can not leave a copy of the warrant if they do not have it with them.

Also Officers may stop and make arrests for felonies without the warrant in hand if the warrant is available on the NCIC outside of a home or in pursuing the suspect into his home but for a misdemeanor they must have the warrant in hand to stop and arrest or the crime must be committed in their presence.

They have the right to isolate residents in a home that is subject to a search warrant and if the individual is interfering with the search detain them. However, if the search warrant was not specific as to the address and the person and or items to be seized, law enforcement officers in this case IMO proceeded at risk of being sued.

Random Thoughts

Babo, If I read the Reflector article and interview correctly (keeping in mind, as Mr. Westerhold correctly points out, that it was the Sheriff's version of the events), they went to Mr. Collins residence with a search warrant for drugs/drug paraphernalia, some of which was seized during the search.  That search warrant would have likely just listed the address and items to be seized (no names).  While inside, they learned of the presence next door of a person or persons who had arrest warrants out on them.  If next door was the residence of that person or persons, I do not believe the Deputies needed the arrest warrant in hand, or a search warrant for next door, in order to enter and seize that person or persons.  The arrest warrants would then be served on those persons arrested when they are processed.  If, however, a person who is wanted on an arrest warrant is staying at another person's residence, then a search warrant for that person is needed in order to enter that residence, absent consent given by an owner of that residence.  I think you are correct as to misdemeanors.  However, don't quote me since I'm not licensed to practice law in Ohio and merely stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Babo

We agree based on the facts as you present them.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for the questions, Random Thoughts. The Register reporter did ask this question and it appears no copy of the secret search warrant was left where the warrant was executed. The Register and the Reflector newsrooms work independently. Also, we received a call this morning from the court and were informed the secret gag order on the search warrant has been lifted. We will check on the notification to NPD and publish a correction if one is warranted. 

Random Thoughts

If they didn't leave a copy of the search warrant and an inventory/receipt of the property taken, then at a minimum they should be given some remedial training.  Looking forward to see the documents you receive from the court posted on the website.

Babo

Failure to leave the search warrant and the inventory/receipt of property should result in the suppression of the evidence in any criminal trial due to no chain of custody on the evidence. It leaves the Sheriff's office wide open to allegations of fabricating evidence and or misappropriating property such as drugs. For example without a copy of the search warrant left at the scene, there's nothing to prevent altering the original terms of the search warrant
such as the address and back dating it. May be one reason why the court sealed the case originally.

Isn't this the same County and Sheriff's office where a "drug storage" wooden shed with little security was supposedly broken into and all the pot disappeared?

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

Yes it was. They sheriff failed to secure evidence (pot). Everybody got a laugh out of the stolen pot. There also was some moldy pot being sold in Norwalk right after the theft.

worddrow811

Regardless of who did what to whom, the enforcers of the law should be doing that, not manipulating said laws, in order to prevent this type of situation.

Random Thoughts

I'll add that I'm not sure what the big deal is about sealing search warrants before they are executed.  It is very common practice.  If they weren't sealed, anyone could check court records every day and find out where the police are going to be searching, which obviously would cause problems.  Once the search is complete, and the return is made to the court showing what, if anything, was taken, then there is no need for keeping it sealed.  Of course the application and affidavit sometimes remains sealed until someone is charged if it contains confidential or sensitive information.  Lastly, there is nothing nefarious about sealing the court order which sealed rhe warrant because the court order usually lists the address to be searched in the title, like: In re: application for search warrant at 123 Main Street.  - - Hopefully this information is helpful to those who read it.

somescrewyname

@jeffdsp, what exactly are you saying, you kinda sorta have me confused. Are you saying. because we are none perfect, don't investigate in house.(police, city officials) Just those outside (corrupt politician.)You may correct me if I'm wrong, But isn't the Sheriff a politician? Doesn't he have to run for office and obtain votes? Are you saying ok they are not perfect it's ok if they walked all over the 4th amendment to the constitution ?. Don't you think Law Enforcement. should know the laws and the constitution regarding the laws of search and seizure. And I want to go on record as saying... I'm HAPPY WE STILL HAVE A FREE PRESS to report on this stuff.

SamAdams

Nobody is arguing that law enforcement is perfect, nor are they suggesting that mistakes don't/won't happen. The issue here, it seems to me, is that a mistake DID happen, and now there's an active -- albeit inadequate -- cover-up of some sort in effect.

If the police find that the address they're searching ISN'T the one named in the warrant, they should stop immediately. They should offer apologies. They should set things aright (including compensating innocents for any damages -- which, by the way, shouldn't occur anyway unless the police are overtly hostile or careless). And then they should move on to execute the warrant correctly. The accusation made here is that, even after police KNEW they weren't in the right place, they kept on going for some 20 minutes.

As for sealed warrants, well, the sealing of such warrants in advance makes perfect sense. The sealing of such warrants AFTER the fact does not. I grant that some information might still have to be redacted (confidential informant IDs, undercover police or the like), but the fact of the warrant and the execution shouldn't be secret once everything's been done. So why is there a gag order on THIS one?

The Register isn't asking any questions here that any rational citizen shouldn't also be asking. So how about it, Huron County, hmmm?

mamaC

^ great post! secret/sealed = hiding/cover-up in LE these days..

The governed

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

Really are you ...

Don't worry martial law will be here soon. The other day while driving to work, there was a black egg shaped canopy helicopter hovering over 250 near the turnpike. Odd that I had never seen this before. Hovering over 250 about two telephone pole heights right above the road, not moving just observing. Homeland security practice? Practicing for, or observing what? Does Erie Count Sherriffs Department have a helicopter? This helicopter was black with no markings. Something bigger than this Collins raid is going on. Wait and see.

worddrow811

I saw that, too, in Huron, and wondered why it was so low. Anyone?

whattheBucks

Those helicopters are from the electric company, they are looking at lines

OH-IO

In this case the law wasn't on our side. The victim can have my tax dollars. Glad he didn't didn't get hurt or killed. Pay the man immediately.

jeffdsp

The point is that the HCSO made a big mistake and conducted a raid and "issued a warrant" to the wrong person and the wrong place; however, the SR staff majority opinion is that they "likely had the best of intentions". Really?? Best of intentions? If you're going to go after one LE agency like a pitbull, go after all of them like a pitbull! Or is there reason why you'd rather lay of off the HCSO?? Answer that question. I have no "dog in this fight" either way. I just see a lot of hypocrisy coming from the Register. Good thing the guy wasn't killed defending himself during the HCSO's "best of intentions".

Ralph J.

High five to Matt and the Sandusky Register. Keep digging. There is a lot to discover of what the good old boys have been hiding.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

This is just another nail in the coffin for police in the USA. Soon nobody will trust any law enforcement, and they are going to start getting shot as they come through the wrong doors.

hilltop

All search warrants are specific as to:

What or who is to be sought and,the correct address or location of the search. Details of the location must be given, especially with multi-family dwellings.

For instance, let's say a search warrant is needed for a business in the Sandusky Mall. The search warrant needs to be exact, otherwise from Sears to Penny's can be searched because "it's the same address."

Law enforcement must have either permission from those within or they must get another search warrant when the warrant doesn't exactly match and no sensory (visible, olifactoral, or audible means) crime can be discerned.

We should all understand our 4th Amendment rights. Too many times a "scavenger-hunt" turns into charges because of a vague warrant or aggressive law enforcement.

What really has me confused is, how do you "un-arrest" someone? Once under arrest it takes a Judge's order to dismiss charges. I guess in Amerika anything goes . . . .

libertarian

Government thugs like to say "ignorance of the law is no excuse". If that is no excuse for violating their immoral edicts, then “I don’t make the law, I just enforce it” certainly isn't an a valid excuse for conspiring to break & enter (warrant execution), robbery (asset forfeiture), assault, kidnapping (arrest), destroying people's lives, violating people's natural rights, violating natural law & failing to follow one's oath to uphold and defend the constitution (see ninth amendment). Seeing how profitable slave labor prisons have become (http://www.sanduskyregister.com/... "Inmate product lines help turn a profit for prisons"), it's no surprise that the United States has the highest per-capita prison population in history Unlike government thusg, more than half of inmates have never violated another person's natural rights or natural law . The drug war is welfare for government thugs. Every good person should shame and ostracize government thugs & profiteers.