Alabama/The Mobile News

Stuckey link halts federal drug case Former Prichard narcotics officer figured prominently in case

08/05/00

By JOE DANBORN
Staff Reporter

Federal prosecutors in Mobile have at least temporarily dropped drug charges against an Atlanta man, in part because the case might have hinged on testimony from embattled former Prichard Police Sgt. John Stuckey.

U.S. Attorney J. Don Foster's office requested the July 14 dismissal of the various cocaine and crack cocaine counts against Frankie Miller with the caveat that prosecutors would continue their investigation and might renew the charges later.

The case is one of dozens in federal and state court in which Stuckey, the one-time head of Prichard's narcotics and vice unit and an officer from 1992 until earlier this year, figured prominently.

So far, the Mobile Register has not learned of any other cases that have been dropped because of questions surrounding Stuckey.

FBI agents raided several Prichard Police locations Thursday with a federal search warrant, seizing evidence surrounding the months-old investigation into possible corruption in the department.

Prichard Police Chief Sammie Brown said Friday he asked for the external investigation of his department earlier this year and had advance warning of Thursday's raid.

No one had been charged by late Friday as a result of the investigation.

Stuckey, who is in his late 40s and still lives in South Alabama, resigned in March amid allegations of misconduct. As part of his duties with Prichard, he was a member of a multi-agency Drug Enforcement Administration task force in Mobile. DEA officials dismissed him from the task force in February.

Court documents show that Stuckey and four other Prichard officers under his command served a state search warrant at a home on Mack Street on May 22, 1999. A man there, Fred Lambert, told the officers that "he picked up a kilo ... from Frankie" at a home on George Street.

The same five officers immediately got another warrant to search the George Street residence where Miller was living.

The officers seized about two kilos of powder and crack cocaine, as well as more than $16,000 cash and equipment used to convert powder cocaine into crack, according to a DEA report dated more than three weeks later and signed by Stuckey. No one was home during the search.

Stuckey found some of the drugs himself and eventually handled almost all of the evidence, according to court documents.

Miller was indicted about three months after the search, along with Lambert and a third man, Landris "Big Main" Dates. Dates pleaded guilty in October, and Lambert did the same in November.

Complications in Miller's case first arose when prosecutors discovered that his lawyer, Bob Clark, also represented Stuckey. Foster's office asked for Clark's dismissal due to a conflict of interest, saying that Stuckey, as the primary officer in the case, likely would have to testify in Miller's trial.

Prosecutors decided they would not call Stuckey to the stand after Clark told them Stuckey would exercise his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, court documents show.

Clark eventually handed over Miller's defense to another Mobile lawyer, Dom Soto.

Clark, who still represents Stuckey, said his client committed no crime or misconduct while on the force.

The Department of Justice investigation surrounding Stuckey became public in a Mobile Register story in April.

Soto soon filed a motion to suppress all evidence in the Miller case that Stuckey had handled, alleging that investigators never had probable cause to obtain the search warrant for the George Street home.

The warrant, Soto contended, was invalid because the affidavit supporting it "does not contain any information about the informant's Lambert'sİ veracity or reliability," according to an order issued by U.S. District Judge Charles Butler.

Butler heard arguments from Soto and Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Griffin on June 22. Soto repeated his demands that the government tell the defense details of the Stuckey investigation.

Griffin told Butler the issue was irrelevant because Stuckey was not going to testify and because no other officers were involved in the Justice Department investigation.

Butler granted the motion on June 23.

Prosecutors have told the Register that a case against Miller would be hindered without the drug evidence and Stuckey's testimony. They said they are continuing to investigate Miller but would not reveal whether any new charges against him are imminent.

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