Review of drug cases underway in light of investigator’s alleged theft of drugs

Kaney

The arrest of a narcotics investigator accused of stealing confiscated drugs could impact drug prosecutions, according to defense attorneys.

 

District Attorney Natalie Paine said they are trying to determine whether any pending cases are affected. She declined further comment because she is prosecuting former sheriff investigator Patrick Kaney and cannot comment on evidence in a pending case.

Kaney was arrested and fired this month after he was accused of stealing oxycodone pills that another Richmond County Sheriff”s investigator had placed in an evidence locker. According to a search warrant affidavit, opened evidence bags were found in Kaney’s sheriff and personal vehicles.

Kaney, 33, is charged with possession of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence, and violation of the oath of office. He is free on $45,000 bond. Drug rehabilitation is a condition of his bond.

Prosecuting cases in which Kaney was involved will be difficult, defense attorney Pete Theodocion said. What Kaney is accused of doing is not as bad as an officer being accused of planting drugs, but it’s an embarrassment for the prosecution, Theodocion said.

In his experience, Theodocion said, attorneys representing clients in drug cases can anticipate cases being dismissed – or more lenient plea deals being extended – because prosecutors will not want to call Kaney as a witness.

Defense attorney Greg Leopard agreed. In Richmond County, jurors dislike narcotics officers in general, and Kaney gives them more reason to distrust the investigators, he said, adding that it’s an issue of credibility.

Already prosecutors are sweetening deals, although they are not giving away cases, Leopard said. He thinks the degree of Kaney’s involvement in a case makes the difference.

In 2007 when the FBI was investigating the narcotics unit and several investigators resigned – although only one officer was prosecuted for lying to a FBI agent – drug charges against 128 people were dismissed, according to court records. There were 559 guilty pleas in drug cases that year, with more than 400 receiving probation sentences.

 

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

 

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