A judge Monday spared an unemployed Buffalo man who was carrying nearly $7,000 in cash when arrested at the Buffalo airport a possible life term for drug possession.
The judge Monday also barred prosecutors from using three ounces of cocaine allegedly seized from him as evidence.
Erie County Judge John V. Rogowski suppressed the crucial cocaine evidence in the case against Gregory W. Clark, 47, of Humboldt Parkway, ruling his "bizarre behavior in staring straight ahead" and ignoring police trying to get him to open the car late on Sept. 3, 1996, didn't justify his arrest.
Rogowski ruled officers of the Points of Entry Task Force -- manned by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Buffalo and Cheektowaga police and the district attorney's office -- initially were justified in forcing their way into the car because of fears a handgun was hidden under the front seat.
But the judge agreed with Leigh E. Anderson, Clark's attorney, that once the officers determined there was no weapon, they "lost all further reason to questions or detain" him that day.
Rogowski ruled Clark, charged with criminal possession of drugs, still can be prosecuted on the non-criminal violation of marijuana possession also lodged against him that night when officers found he had a bag of marijuana in his pants pocket.
Erie County prosecutors said they will appeal the Rogowski pretrial ruling, but Ms. Anderson said she is "confident" the state's higher courts will uphold Rogowski's ruling.
Ms. Anderson said Clark was driving the luxury car of a woman friend that police apparently had under surveillance because of tips the woman had a .32-caliber handgun under her front seat and was coming to the airport to pick up her son.
Neither Clark, who was allowed to remain free on bail, nor Ms. Anderson would comment on why the man had almost $7,000 cash during the airport arrest.