He Confessed, So Why Did His Conviction Get Tossed?

He Confessed, So Why Did His Conviction Get Tossed?

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It all started with a traffic stop in May 2014. State police pulled over a driver for speeding on Interstate 81 in Jefferson County.

That driver, 57 year old Ricky Gates of Great Bend, happened to have bags in the backseat.  

According to court documents, the trooper asked him what was inside.

First he said "clothing." It didn't add up, so the suspicious trooper continued to question Gates, who kept changing his story. Gates then said he had "toys" in the bags. Finally, he settled on "bicycles."

Eventually, Gates admitted he had 30,000 untaxed cigarettes in the bags and was arrested. He pleaded guilty in 2015.

End of story, right? Wrong.

A state appellate court reversed Gates' conviction.

"The trooper asked too many questions," said John Cirando, the attorney who handled the appeal. "The appellate division indicated that they way it flowed was incorrect under the law."

The court said because of the way the trooper questioned Gates, the cigarette evidence should be tossed. Without that evidence, there's no case. No case, no conviction.

"A lot of the police officers that have read this decision don't know what they can and can't do now. I believe that they're very concerned about how to handle these situations because this case really does muddy the waters," said Jefferson County District Attorney Kristyna Mills.

I asked state police for a comment. A spokesperson had this to say: “The court has issued its decision, and we respect the decision of the court.”

The case has been kicked back to Jefferson County Court. The district attorney's office wants to appeal the decision.

See the entire appellate court decision

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