Judge won't throw out evidence in pain pill probe

By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The way their lawyer described it, Gail Owens and Charles MacGeorge were in their hotel room at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi when police with guns drawn kicked in the door without a warrant and found more than 374 pain pills.

The lawyer, Joe Holloman, asked U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to throw out the evidence gathered on Dec. 1, 2010, based on arguments that the search of room 508 was improper.

Ozerden ruled last week that the search was legal and refused to suppress the evidence.

“Ms. Owen suffers from a number of chronic health problems and is prescribed pain medications, including oxycodone,” Holloman wrote in court records. She suffers from lupus, seven herniated discs in her spine and other conditions, he said.

Prosecutors describe it differently.

The government claims Gulfport police arrested a known drug dealer with 10 Oxycontin pills that day. He “stated that he had just purchased the ten pills from defendant Gail Owens who was staying at the Hard Rock Casino on the fifth floor,” according to the court files.

Working with police, the man called Owens and asked to buy five more pills, court records said. She allegedly agreed to sell them to him even though she was concerned about why he wasn’t in custody after being arrested.

Prosecutors said that established an “independent basis for probable cause for the issuance and execution of the search warrant.” Court records said hotel staff let police into the room and the officers secured it, but waited for the warrant to be signed before searching it.

“Kicking down the door was hardly necessary and though defendants make much of the fact that guns were drawn, it is irrelevant to this discussion,” prosecutors wrote in court records. “Entering the hotel room of known drug dealers without weapons drawn does not seem prudent.”

Trial is set for May 14. MacGeorge and Owens have pleaded not guilty. Three others are charged in the case.

Holloman didn’t immediately respond to messages on Sunday.