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Attorney seeks suppression of evidence against Vaughn Clark

A judge will decide whether the evidence can stand against Clark, who faces several drug-related charges following a bust last October.

DILLINGHAM:  At an evidentiary hearing Friday in Dillingham, criminal defense attorney Cynthia Strout asked that the evidence collected against her client, Vaughn Clark, 39, of Dillingham, be suppressed.

Clark was arrested on October 14, after authorities said they had received information that he had been dealing drugs. He was contacted downtown at what may or may not have been a stop of his vehicle. After a search warrant was obtained, authorities allege Clark was found to be in possession of four syringes filled with liquid black tar heroin, two Methadone pills, crystal meth, as well as drug paraphernalia.

Strout argued that authorities had not had reasonable suspicion to make what she said amounted to a stop of Clark’s vehicle. In an additional motion, she also argued that the search warrant was “improvidently” granted.

Both defense arguments are based primarily on the informant in the case. A woman on felony probation was reported to her probation officer when the substance abuse treatment center Jake’s Place became aware that she was under the influence of drugs. She tested positive for heroin use, and told her adult probation officer Rex Spofford that she had bought the heroin from, and used it with, Vaughn Clark. That tip led to a series of moves by Dillingham Police, Alaska State Troopers, and two WAANT investigators ultimately resulting in Clark’s stop and the later request for a search warrant.

According to Strout, the informant meets the definition of being from the “criminal milieu,” and police, she argued, were required to take additional steps to corroborate her information before acting on it. Strout said they failed to do so.

Strout pointed out another discrepancy in the narration of the officers involved. Around 4 p.m. on October 14, Spofford noticed the car Clark was in at the high school, and reported its location. Former WAANT investigator Wyatt Derner and Dillingham Police officer Bill Bauer recalled Spofford saying he saw a “hand-to-hand” drug deal go down while the car was in front of the school, which triggered their intent to stop the car minutes later. But Spofford testified he did not recall saying anything about a drug deal, and said he would not have been able to see those details from his location at the courthouse across the parking lot.

Assistant district attorney Beth Oates argued that the informant was a “citizen informant,” not of the “criminal milieu”, and that the police had “ample reliable information that Clark was dealing drugs” to establish the reasonable suspicion standard. “The imminence and seriousness of the alleged crimes were such that Clark presented a threat to the public sufficient to warrant the stop of the vehicle,” she wrote in a brief opposing the defense arguments.

Vaughn Clark has been in custody since his October arrest. He was in the court room for the three hour hearing Friday in Dillingham, which was presided over by Judge Pat Douglass. Just a year ago, Douglass tossed evidence against Clark in another drug case, which was ultimately dismissed.

If the evidence against Clark is suppressed, this case is expected to be dismissed as well. A ruling is anticipated within the month.