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DEA's Illegal Move Lets Smuggler Go Free

Because a drug-runner was GPS-tracked illegally, 150lbs of weed can't be used in evidence—and he dodges 20 years in jail.

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The DEA provided a lucky escape for its target.
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By May Wilkerson

05/24/12

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An illegal move by the Drug Enforcement Administration means a major drug smuggler will likely escape the long arm of the law. Robert Lee, a 49-year-old ex-convict transporting marijuana from Chicago, was pulled over on September 2, 2011 by Kentucky State Troopers for "driving without a seatbelt"—which constitutes probable cause. But the DEA had been following Lee with the help of a GPS tracking device they placed in his car—illegally. "In this case, the DEA agents had their fishing poles out to catch Lee," wrote Judge Amul Thapar, who is presiding over the case. "Admittedly, the agents did not intend to break the law. But, they installed a GPS device on Lee's car without a warrant in the hope that something might turn up." And something did—a whopping 150 pounds of marijuana were found in his vehicle by drug dogs. Lee's criminal record means he could have spent up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted. But since the evidence in the case  was obtained without a warrant, it can not be used in the trial, meaning the case will likely be dismissed. "Unfortunately, my client will have to spend at least another month in custody," says Lee's attorney, possibly shrugging. "But, this turned out good for him."

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