March 25, 2011 in City

Casto attorney rips actions by police in marijuana case

By The Spokesman-Review
 

PULLMAN – The war of words over Washington State basketball player DeAngelo Casto’s misdemeanor marijuana citation escalated Thursday, with Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins releasing more information concerning the incident at Casto’s residence and Casto’s attorney firing back.

Jenkins confirmed that the police report of the incident indicates Casto was holding a child on his lap when a police officer looked through a window early Tuesday morning and observed Casto at a table with marijuana and rolling papers.

The detail didn’t sit well with Casto’s attorney, Timothy Esser, who already has submitted a motion to suppress evidence collected that night.

“Allegedly there was marijuana in the house,” Esser said in a phone interview. “OK, how many millions of houses have marijuana in them, how many millions of houses do children live there?

“I think trying to link that and making something more out of it is really a cheap shot.”

Later Esser called back to reiterate his disappointment in Jenkins’ comments, adding he wanted to make one statement concerning the allegations of a child on Casto’s lap. “So what,” he said.

Jenkins said the police officer was on a foot patrol because of a “rash of burglaries in the north part of our city” and that he noticed a light on in Casto’s residence and a missing screen.

“He saw that there was lights on and it was obvious people were up, it was late at night,” Jenkins said. “His intention at that time was to contact the resident there to determine if they were a burglary victim that night.”

Instead, according to Jenkins, he observed Casto with the marijuana.

It was the nature of that observation that disturbs Esser.

“Before you start blaming people for criminal conduct, you can expect that the police are required to follow the law,” Esser said.

“I’ve been out there. I can’t imagine how the officer saw anything he claims he saw unless he was trespassing.”

Jenkins said the officer went to the door, Casto answered without the child, and was asked to bring the marijuana to the officer. Casto complied.

It’s that action, Esser said Wednesday, that violated Washington state law and that was included in his motion to suppress the evidence. Washington law requires police officers, when conducting “knock and talks,” to inform the resident that they have the right to refuse consent.

Asked if there were other people in the residence at the time, Jenkins said he was unaware of any.

“That I am not positive about,” he said. “I haven’t talked to the officer specifically about that, but other than DeAngelo and the child, there is no one else that is described in the police report, anyway, as being inside. But I couldn’t say for certain that there was no one else inside.”

According to Esser, the child’s mother was also there.

Jenkins said the officer did not feel the child was in immediate danger, so there was no reason to remove the boy from the premises. However, Child Protective Services was notified, he said, adding his department would “leave it to them to determine if they want to conduct their own investigation into the welfare of the child.”

Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said Thursday afternoon he was aware of many of the aspects of the interaction between Casto and the Pullman police officer when he decided to lift Casto’s basketball suspension Wednesday, including the information there was a child in the residence.

But the level of detail had not been shared, though he, Jenkins and their staff members had met Tuesday in a previously scheduled gathering aimed at improving the relationship between the departments.

“In the conversation there was a reference to DeAngelo’s child being in his apartment,” Moos said, “which makes sense, he’s his dad.

“It was a piece of what we were trying to find out, which was the entire situation.”

And the inability to piece that together bothered Moos.

“They were too many loose ends on this thing,” Moos said, “in my opinion – I was the one who made the call to lift the suspension – there were too many unanswered questions. There wasn’t enough, in my opinion, to punish DeAngelo.”

Moos pointed out the same process had been followed early in the season when sophomore Reggie Moore’s then-dorm room was searched and a small amount of marijuana was seized. The school waited nearly a month until Moore was charged with two marijuana-related misdemeanors before imposing a one-game suspension.

In another incident less than a month ago, Moos said, involving star guard Klay Thompson, the facts were much more clear cut, allowing for an immediate punishment.

“It’s unfortunate we’ve got three to compare,” Moos said.


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