AUGUSTA, Maine — An attorney for a Presque Isle man found guilty of a felony drug offense nearly two years ago is appealing his conviction, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that the pills he allegedly provided to an informant were in fact oxycodone, a narcotic.
Alan Harding, an attorney for Charles Libby, also argued before the state supreme court on May 11 that there was not enough evidence to prove that his client was guilty of unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs, the felony for which he was found guilty after a jury trial.
According to court documents, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency used a confidential informant who then went to a residence where Libby was staying in September 2015 to purchase three 30 milligram tablets of oxycodone from Libby.
The three pills were then put into an evidence locker at the Presque Isle Police Department, which the MDEA agent locked with a key that he then took with him.
Two days later, the pills were taken by the same agent to the MDEA office in Houlton for processing, where they again were placed in an evidence locker. Later, the pills were transferred to an MDEA storage facility in Augusta.
In his argument before the Law Court, Harding focused on the period between Sept. 18 and Sept. 21, 2015, when he contended that the chain of custody in the evidence was broken. During that time, even though the evidence was in a locked booking room at the Presque Isle Police Department, it was accessible to Presque Isle Police Department officers and officers from other departments with permission.
But Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins noted that existing case law allows for “minor interruptions” in the chain of custody and would not impact its admissibility. He said that the evidence established that “it was more probable than not” that the three pills that the agent put in on Sept. 18 were the same pills he took out on Sept. 21.
Harding also argued that the state should have been required to present a chemical analysis of the pills Libby sold to the informant in order to prove that they were oxycodone.
Collins told the justices that several people, including a pharmacist, two MDEA agents and the informant, who was a recovering addict, identified the pills as oxycodone during Libby’s trial.
Collins pointed out that an already existing legal precedent, State vs. Bernard, allows that “other direct and circumstantial evidence can establish beyond a reasonable doubt the identity of drugs.”
He told the court justices that the testimony introduced by the state to identify the oxycodone at trial was “more than sufficient.”
Collins also shot down Harding’s argument that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Libby was guilty of the felony crime. He discussed several text messages between the informant and Libby pertaining to the drug sale, including specifics about how many pills were requested and the address to Libby’s residence.
The justices are expected to issue a decision in a few weeks.