Alleged Chinese marijuana trafficker seeks to suppress evidence

Thu, 06/20/2024 - 4:00pm

    A January 911 call led to the discovery of a marijuana growing operation in Whitefield. On Jan 9, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Dep. Owen Beattie arrived at 34 Clover Lane on a 911 call which resulted in a hang-up before a dispatcher responded. Beattie checked on the possible emergency situation. The exchange between Beattie and Xianming Ye was captured on Beattie’s body camera. The exchange lasted 29 minutes and 18 seconds, according to court documents.   

    Beattie approached the home’s sliding glass door, and observed Ye inside. Beattie knocked, and gestured Ye to open the door. He entered the home and began questioning Ye about the 911 call. Ye responded he didn’t speak English. Beattie began questioning him using Google translation on his phone. Court documents reported “Ye said, ‘no’ in English to Beattie’s questions including a request to come into his home.”

    Six minutes into the questioning, Beattie asked Ye for his phone. Ye complied. It was later determined Ye accidentally called 911. Beattie remained, and began questioning why Ye was in the home. He also took pictures through Ye’s kitchen window when Ye went to obtain his driver’s license at Beattie’s request.
     
    In court documents, Ye’s attorney Matthew Morgan contends all questions not related to the 911 call violated Ye’s Constitutional rights. “At this point, Beattie was no longer asking routine questions in determining the 911 calls’ nature, but rather investigating other potential offenses. After asking for his phone and driver’s license, he never reads Ye his Miranda rights, tells him he is free to go back inside or he doesn’t have to answer any further questions.”
     
    Court documents allege via the body camera video that while waiting for dispatch to run Ye’s information, Beattie starts pointing toward covered bags on the porch and asks, “What’s in the bags?” At this point, dispatch relays information to Beattie that no warrants or other issues pertain to Ye.
     
    At 12 minutes into the video, Ye is asked multiple times “How many marijuana plants is he growing?” The deputy directs Ye via hand gestures to open the bags. According to court documents, Beattie claims the bags are filled with cut marijuana leaves and finds approximately 40 fertilizer bags in a subsequent search. 
     
    In the suppression  request, Morgan wrote Ye’s Fourth and Sixth Amendment Constitutional rights were violated. “Tangible evidence obtained directly or indirectly as a result of a violation cannot be introduced over an objection introduced into evidence in a criminal case against a person whose rights have been violated,” the lawyer wrote. “ Physical and tangible materials obtained either during or as a result of an unlawful invasion is barred by the exclusionary rule.”  Morgan claims not reading Ye his Miranda rights violated his Sixth Amendment protection.
     
    Morgan alleges Ye’s Fourth amendment rights were violated when Beattie took photos of bags on the porch. “The bags were found on Ye’s partially closed porch covered by other items within the home’s curtilage. This is entitled to Fourth Amendment protection and a central component to the sanctity of a man’s home and privacies.”
     
    LCSO first learned of a possible illegal marijuana operation on Dec. 21, 2023. Det. Sgt. Ronald E. Rollins received information about a possible illegal marijuana operation at several Whitefield locations. In his court affidavit, Rollins reported conversations with several neighbors who spoke about “suspicions” at 34 Clover Lane. “Neighbors seeing vehicles coming and going late at night with only a short visit. A lack of seeing normal things like mowing the lawn or checking the mail. Neighbors also reported concerns about marijuana growing,” wrote Rollins. 
     
    He checked the 34 Clover Lane address with the Office of Marijuana Policy and Department of Agriculture and Homeland Security to see whether Ye, 62, or another inhabitant, Hongxia Kuang, had a license to grow marijuana. Rollins discovered neither had a license.
     
    The Clover Lane address was one of three locations involved in a Jan. 10 LCSO raid in Whitefield and Chelsea. Following the Jan. 10 search, Ye was later arrested in February for cultivating more than 500 marijuana plants, a Class B crime. He will be arraigned in Lincoln County Unified Criminal Court on Aug. 5. On May 14, Ye, 62, with a previous address of Brooklyn, New York, filed a motion through his legal representation to suppress the evidence. No court date for the suppression hearing has been set, according to court clerks.