Appeal Decision on Illegal Search

On November 1st 2012 the Tompkins County Sheriff's office obtained an illegal search warrant to search my private home residence following an alleged assault that occurred outside my home. I was in no way affiliated with the person's involved in the alleged assault and the suspects did not have any control over my property at the time of the issuance of the warrant. I was an innocent third party who fell victim to a Judge issuing an overreaching search warrant based upon information that did not create any nexus between the crime the police were investigating and my private home residence.

As a result of that search warrant my home was searched on November 1st 2012. The police did not find any of the items they were looking for on their search warrant, but did allegedly discover marijuana in my private home residence.

On April 17th 2013 I was indicted on a felony possession of Marijuana charge, a class D Felony in New York State for allegedly possessing Marijuana at the time of the search.

I retained law firm Holmberg, Galbraith and Miller and worked directly with Scott Miller and Luke Fenchel on my case. In the fall of 2013, under threat of trial, we submitted an Omnibus Motion to suppress the evidence related to my charges on the basis of an illegal search warrant. The district attorney then replied, and we also had a follow up argument to this motion. The judge held onto this motion for 3 months before ruling against us and setting a date for trial this March 2014.

After going over the facts and evidence in my case it is the opinion of myself, Scott Miller, Luke Fenchel and the other partners in their law firm as well as other's I have consulted in the legal field that this search was illegal and a gross violation of my constitutional right to privacy.

Additionally, if I am sentenced to probation I am in jeopardy of losing my job and my ability to play in my band the Gunpoets. Given these facts of consideration I am forced to appeal this decision.

We are able to go forward with my case if I can come up with an additional retainer of $5,000. I have already raised $6,000 in legal fees to bring the case this far. I had to borrow from friends and sell many of my possessions including most of my music studio gear, instruments, tools and had a yard sale to help raise funds for my initial retainer. I managed to come up with the retainer the first time around, but the thought of having to try and raise this kind of money again is very daunting.

In order to avoid a lengthy and costly criminal trial, and to begin putting this incident behind me I appeared in court on March 7th 2014 and pleaded guilty to felony possession of marijuana under a plea agreement that stated that the judge would not sentence me to anything more than the recommendation of the probation department's pre-sentencing investigation.

On Monday March 10th I attended Drug and Alcohol Counseling to voluntarily begin treatment for Marijuana. This is a precaution in case my case does not win at appeal I will be able to complete treatment and have the felony sealed off of my record at the completion of the probation department's recommendation.

I am reaching out to you, my friends and family for financial assistance in this fight to appeal the Judge's decision. If I do not appeal the decision and I am sentenced to probation I will very likely lose my job, and not be permitted to play in my band or continue DJing. If I win the appeal the case will be dismissed and this chapter of my life can finally come to a close.

I am alleged to have committed a crime, but my friends and family know that I am not a criminal. I am a valued member of the community who has worked for years on making Ithaca a better place. While working for Castaways and now Silky Jones, I have hosted dozens of benefits for individuals, local and national nonprofits and raised tens of thousands of dollars for those in need. I worked to host events to help people fight illness and injustice. My band The Gunpoets continues to unite the community with uplifting music with a positive message.

In a nation that is increasingly in favor of decriminalizing marijuana there is further injustice here. On the cusp of national marijuana reform, a 5 year probation sentence as a result of an illegal search warrant is particularly unjust.

The last year and a half has been a very trying time for me and my family. As a person with only a high school education my employment opportunities are limited, and I've been living hand to mouth, with no health insurance for my entire adult life. I've had many financial struggles but have managed to stay employed because of my expertise in nightlife, music bookings, and bartending. To be mandated by probation to change my livelihood would be catastrophic to me. To lose my ability to play in my band would be one of the most traumatic outcomes of this entire experience.

I appreciate any assistance you could offer me in my fight against improper police and judicial procedure and for my right to privacy in my own home.
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Eliot E Rich 
Ithaca, NY
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