Drug Defendants Escape Charges On Technicality

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Two men arrested last July after landing a plane in Litchfield with an alleged 64 pounds of marijuana on board have walked away from felony drug charges here on a legal technicality.

Charges of possession of cannabis over 5000 grams, a Class 1 felony, were dropped against Jonathan Eymann, 33, of Goleta, CA, and Gary Lyons, 53, of Ventura, CA.

After a hearing on March 24, an order was issued on June 16 to suppress all evidence in the case because certification had lapsed on the police dog that alerted on the alleged drugs.  Charges were dropped on July 2.

"The dog was trained.  They just didn't have the certificate in hand," according to Montgomery County State's Attorney Chris Matoush.

According to Litchfield Police Department Chief Lee Jarman, police dogs had previously been certified by their trainers, but a law changed last year requiring the handler to obtain the necessary paperwork.

The plane was the second in four months last year to be seized in Litchfield after the federal Department of Homeland Security alerted local authorities of a possible cross-country drug run.  The plane touched down at Litchfield Municipal Airport just before midnight on Saturday, July 20, 2013, and Eymann and Lyons were stopped in an airport courtesy car in route to a local hotel.

The police dog allegedly alerted on a small amount of marijuana in luggage belonging to Eymann and on several thousand dollars in cash located on Lyons, the plane's pilot.  Back at the airport, the dog again alerted on the 1979 Cessna 182 plane, where police said they found two large suitcases and a small backpack with just over 64 pounds of marijuana vacuum sealed in one-pound bags as well as a loaded firearm.

After the arrests Eymann and Lyons were both transported to Springfield to be charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office, but on July 22, 2013, were brought back to Montgomery County to be charged under state statute where sentencing guidelines are more stringent.

Sharon Paul, speaking for the US Attorney's Office, could not confirm or deny whether federal charges will be filed.

Four months before Eymann and Lyons were arrested, Litchfield seized a plane and an alleged 39 pounds of marijuana on March 9, 2013, after a similar tip from the Department of Homeland Security.  Those suspects fled the scene but police later arrested Phillip Russell, 56, and his son, Adam Russell, 29, both of Edinboro, PA, on warrants.

Both have pending Class 1 felony charges in Montgomery County of possession of cannabis over 5000 grams and both have pre-trial hearings set for 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.

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