Drug Charges Thrown Out For Foursome On Way To Bonaroo

Monday, January 14, 2008

Drug charges that had been brought after a stop of a car on its way to the Bonaroo Festival at Manchester, Tn., last June were thrown out on Monday.

County officers said a vehicle with a loosely-tied green Vermont tag was stopped because one of the occupants did not have a seatbelt on.

Defense attorney Ryan Hanzelik told Judge Rebecca Stern that the seatbelt law applies to front-seat passengers. After an hour and a half hearing, prosecutors agreed.

Judge Stern then dismissed the charges against Daniel and Ryan Staples, Amber Robbins and Tracy Lynn Byers.

They were charged after officers found about three pounds of marijuana in the trunk of the vehicle.

Deputy Henry Ritter said he was at the Williams Street exit of I-24 when he saw the vehicle go by and said it appeared the tag might come off. He said he asked another officer, Michael Thompson, to catch up with it and give the driver "a friendly reminder."

Deputy Thompson said he noticed a rear passenger looking back at him and not having his seatbelt on.

Officers said the driver, Daniel Staples, first gave the name of Matthew Staples. They said they began searching the vehicle after getting permission from the driver. Officers said as they opened the truck, Ryan Staples began throwing up by the side of the road.

Three of the defendants testified that it was Ryan Staples, not the driver, who was asked for permission for the search.

Ms. Byers said, "We had heard stories that all through Tennessee they were pulling over cars with out-of-state plates."

Defense attorneys questioned officers on whether they were targeting youths on the way to Bonaroo. The officers denied the allegation.

Other defense attorneys were Steven Brown, Steve Goldstein and Mike Acuff.

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