Defendant seeks to throw out evidence

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AUBURN – A Lewiston man charged with trafficking in methamphetamine is seeking to throw out evidence police gathered by going through his garbage.

Louis Rubino Jr. was at Androscoggin County Superior Court Wednesday dressed in jail clothes and shackled at his wrists and ankles. A hearing on his motion to suppress evidence was continued to give more time for both sides to prepare their cases.

Rubino is scheduled to stand trial later this month on five counts stemming from a January raid on his Sabattus Street apartment where police reportedly found a meth lab.

Rubino’s lawyer, Verne Paradie Jr., said Wednesday after a meeting in judge’s chambers that evidence police gathered in the case against his client should not be allowed at trial.

Paradie said police went through several garbage bags Rubino kept on his porch. In the bags, they found starter fluid and empty boxes of cold medicine. Based on that discovery, police were able to get a warrant for Rubino’s arrest. Statements he made to police were used to secure a warrant to search his apartment, Paradie said.

“If you put your garbage on the side of the road, you have no expectation of privacy,” Paradie said. But the bags were on Rubino’s porch where he had a “reasonable expectation” that nobody else would have access to them, Paradie said.

“It’s the fruit of the poisonous tree,” he said. Anything the police learned as a result of an improper search should not be allowed in court, he said.

When police searched Rubino’s apartment, they found 94 milligrams of methamphetamine, or less than one-tenth of a gram, Paradie said. He plans to hire a chemist to calculate whether that amount is enough to prove Rubino was making the drug.

Paradie said his client’s fate hangs on the outcome of his motion to suppress the evidence police found in Rubino’s garbage.

“This is the whole case,” Paradie said. “Without the search warrant, there is no case.”

A spokesman from the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s office could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Rubino’s girlfriend and the mother of their 3-year-old daughter apparently reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, according to court records. Her case was not scheduled for trial.

Donna Marie Pagnani, 23, had been awaiting trial on five counts similar to those lodged against Rubino, including trafficking charges. Her lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, declined to comment on the case.

The two cases had been joined to go to trial together.

Their daughter had been placed in state custody. Pagnani was free on bail. Rubino is being held at Androscoggin County Jail.

Police evacuated people from the couple’s building during the January 25 raid. Some of them, including the couple’s daughter, were transported to the hospital, for observation. The making of methamphetamine, a central nervous system stimulant that is considered even more addicting than crack, can create toxic gases.

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