Randolph Drug Bust
Was a Bust?
By Sandy Vondrasek Cooch
State police have not yet released a report on last Friday’s large-scale, highly public—and apparently empty-handed—search of a Randolph Village residence. However, two indignant residents of the Park Street house were ready to give the press their reports of the bust this week.
Renter Sasha Jarvis said this week that she was sitting down to dinner at about 6 p.m. with her five-year-old daughter, her friend Travis Griggs, and his four-year-old daughter (and Jarvis’s niece), when police broke through the door.
"It was so fast, it was pretty scary, with policemen piling in with guns pointing at us, screaming at us to get face down on the floor," she said.
The two youngsters, Jarvis said, were "starting to get hysterical," but she was unable to go to them, as she was repeatedly ordered, at gunpoint, to get on the floor. She is thankful, she said this week, that her 10-year-old son was at her mother’s, and her 17-year-old daughter was out at the time of the raid.
Before breaking into the house, police had already handcuffed the two people they encountered on the porch. Janna Jarvis, Sasha Jarvis’s sister and also a resident of the Park Street house, said she had stepped out on the porch for a cigarette and was talking to a 15-year-old girl, who had stopped by looking for Sasha’s older daughter, when police arrived.
Janna Jarvis, ordered to the porch floor with the teen, said she saw police prepare to break in the door.
"I said, ‘Are you kidding? Two five-year-olds are in there eating dinner—use the doorknob.’"
After they broke in, Janna Jarvis added, she could hear one of the children inside, screaming, "Please don’t shoot my daddy."
"We were frisked, handcuffed, brought on the front porch in plain view of the entire town of Randolph," Sasha Jarvis said.
Janna and Sasha Jarvis, Travis Griggs, and the visiting teen spent the next 90 minutes on the porch, handcuffed and guarded by police, while other officers, including a K-9 unit, searched the house. The two young children were near their respective parents, not cuffed.
It was a highly visible and much-talked-about event in town. Two Randolph police officers and six Orange Country Sheriff’s Dept. deputies assisted state police in executing the warrant, and there were multiple cruisers on scene.
"They totally ransacked the house," Sasha Jarvis said. "They brought the dog in, and then came out, with no explanation and said, ‘The search warrant is on the table and you can contact the court to find other information.’"
Jarvis said she asked about the door, which was "completely broken in," and was told "to nail it shut tonight and you can call (state police) tomorrow."
Sasha Jarvis said the warrant left on her table stated that police had authority to search for cocaine and heroin, and any related paraphernalia, in her residence and vehicles (though she only owns one at present.) She said the warrant also stipulated that the officers could search vehicles belonging to a man, whom Jarvis declined to name. She characterized him as an acquaintance who very occasionally stops by the house to visit.
The Jarvis sisters said this week that police found nothing in the house and insisted that they have nothing to do with drugs.
Sasha Jarvis, who has a full-time job at Berlin Health & Rehabilitation, said, "I don’t even know the difference between cocaine and heroin."
Her sister Janna conceded that they have a large family, know many different people, and have lots of visitors.
"Some that come here must be dealing something—but how are we supposed to know this?" she asked.
The search left their house in shambles, sparked rumors about them, and "traumatized" two young children, the sisters complained.
Janna Jarvis said she told police last Friday, "Children are supposed to look at you as good people. You scared the heck out of them. Now they’re scared of police."
Janna Jarvis did stipulate that one officer that night, RPD Sgt. David Leighton, was courteous and helped to calm her.
Sasha Jarvis said, "I feel angry, humiliated; I feel like I need to set my daughter up for counseling. I’m still in shock—I wake up thinking about them breaking in like that. I’m looking into a lawyer—trying to find somebody who would help me."
Jarvis said she tried to call the court the day after the search, but it was Saturday. She next tried the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept., and was advised that she needed to contact state police, so she traveled to the barracks.
However, it was not open, and she spoke to someone through an intercom phone, who told her she needed to speak to someone on the night shift.
"I left a phone number and they never returned the call," she said Monday afternoon.
"I’m not a criminal," she said. "I did nothing wrong to be treated like some scumbag."
Sasha Jarvis called The Herald Tuesday afternoon to say that she had just received a call from her sister reporting that a police officer—she thought it was from the Sheriff’s Department—had just stopped and frisked her on the sidewalk in Randolph.
When Janna Jarvis asked why she was being searched, the officer told her it was because she "came from that house."
When she pressed him more for his justification for searching her, the officer told her, "You can go," she reported.
On a more positive note, Sasha Jarvis reported that a trooper from the Royalton barracks tried to contact her Monday night, when she was out.
The Herald, unable to contact the officer identified as the proper contact for the incident (Sgt. John Helfant) at the state police barracks Monday, reached barracks commander Lt. William Harkness Tuesday.
Lt. Harkness said details about the search would have to come from Helfant or from Tpr. Tom Powers, the supervising officer and the case officer in this particular investigation.
Neither of those officers were on duty Tuesday as the Herald went to press.
Harkness said he had not been contacted by the Jarvises regarding the search, and he urged them to call him with any concerns or complaints.
He promised to address any issues, adding, "and I will certainly get back to them."
Orange County State’s Atty. Will Porter said Tuesday that he was not aware of this particular search warrant.
He explained that police must receive approval from a judge to obtain and execute a search warrant. The officer must present a "probable cause affidavit," a search warrant application, and a proposed search warrant, stipulating where police may search and listing the items they are seeking.
Officers must show "probable cause" that what they seek might be found in that location. The legal definition of probable cause is open to interpretation, and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and court rulings. State’s Atty. Porter noted that as a threshold, it falls between the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard required for courtroom convictions and the "reasonable and articulable suspicion of wrongdoing" required for some police stops.
The judge reviews and may amend the officer’s request, including the particulars of the time, place, and scope of the warrant.
It is also the judge’s job to ensure that the probable cause standard is reached, Porter said.
Porter said his office is "typically" asked to review "after-hours" search warrant requests before they go to a judge.
That didn’t happen this time, he said, but it can happen that the officer tried but was unable to reach him or his assistant.
Porter noted that a warrant "is no guarantee that you are going to find what you’re looking for." Most area officers, he added, have "a lot of training" in the standards for searches.
He said that officers have 10 days to "return" a warrant to court, at which time the document becomes public.
A court clerk confirmed Tuesday that the warrant had been issued through the Orange District Court, but had not yet been returned.