By Brian Lazenby
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A federal judge on Thursday let a defendant withdraw his previous guilty plea after viewing a video of a traffic stop that a defense lawyer claims shows a former Chattanooga police officer planting drugs.
Defense lawyer Ashley Ownby claims that former Chattanooga Police Officer Lawrence Goodine planted crack cocaine on his client, Leslie Allen.
"It is obvious from the video that officer Goodine planted drugs during the stop," he said.
U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice allowed Mr. Allen to withdraw a previous guilty plea for conspiracy to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine and being a felon in possession of a handgun.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Poole said charges of possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute and possessing a gun in furtherance of drug trafficking that authorities had agreed to dismiss in exchange for Mr. Allen's guilty plea are now back in.
Mr. Poole said Mr. Allen confessed to having the drugs before he knew Mr. Goodine had been accused in Hamilton County Criminal Court with stealing during traffic stops.
"I think he learned an officer in his case was arrested and he saw it as an opportunity to get out of this," Mr. Poole said. "The charges against Mr. Goodine are taking money from drug dealers, not planting stuff."
Mr. Goodine testified during the hearing that he did not plant anything on Mr. Allen.
"I did not plant crack cocaine, sir," he said.
Mr. Goodine denied any impropriety during the August 2006 traffic stop and answered all questions until Mr. Ownby asked about the officer's testimony in Hamilton County court, where Mr. Goodine is charged. At that point he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Mr. Poole conceded that the video shows that a bag of crack cocaine "moves," but he said it is impossible to tell where it came from.
Mr. Allen testified that officers used a Taser on him and placed him in handcuffs before a bag containing about 11 grams of crack cocaine was tossed beneath the right, rear wheel of a Cadillac in which he was a passenger.
He said he confessed and pleaded guilty after a previous attorney told him he could not win at trial because he is a "high-ranking gang member" and because of his criminal record.
Mr. Poole said Mr. Allen is a leader of the Athens Park Bloods street gang.
Officials said prosecutors can use Mr. Allen's confession and previous guilty plea against him if the case goes to trial.
Judge Mattice said he will be filing a new motion deadline and trial date in the case.
Copyright 2007 Chattanooga Times Free Press
Former Tenn. officer accused of planting crack