Seized trash allowed into meth-lab case

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AUBURN – Evidence police seized from Louis Rubino Jr.’s porch will be allowed at his trial, a judge ruled Monday.

Rubino, charged with operating a methamphetamine lab at his Lewiston apartment, had hoped that evidence and other items taken from his home would be thrown out of his court case. Police secured a search warrant for his home based, in part, on findings from his trash.

He had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” when he put garbage bags on his second-floor porch, Rubino’s lawyer, Verne Paradie Jr., argued Monday.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Ellen Gorman disagreed.

Because his apartment door and doorbell could only be reached by the porch, it was used for “normal, everyday” access, she said. Anyone seeking him had an “implied invitation” to use the porch. A garbage bag sitting on the porch near the door was “in plain view” of police as they walked to Rubino’s door, she said.

When Lewiston Police Officer Matthew Cashman looked down at the garbage bag, he saw a can poking out of the top. The can had a hole punched in the bottom. By training, he knew what that meant.

Cashman had gone to the apartment building Jan. 25 believing Rubino had built a meth lab there. When he saw the can, he thought Rubino likely used the ether inside the can to extract ephedrine from ground cold tablets. He “absolutely had probable cause” to pick up the can, Justice Gorman said. In doing so, he revealed a bag containing pseudoephedrine cold tablets, Cashman testified during Monday’s hearing.

On the porch he turned to Maine Drug Enforcement Agent Terrence McCormick, who was standing next to him. McCormick testified that Cashman “told me we needed to get out of there.”

Cashman said he could see mist rising from the garbage, like breath on a cold day. The finding led to the evacuation of tenants from the apartment building. Ingredients used in the making of meth are volatile and can be dangerous, Cashman testified.

Rubino also was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. His 3-year-old daughter was taken to the hospital for evaluation. Meth manufacturing can create toxic fumes.

Cashman testified that other apartment dwellers had complained of sore throats and respiratory problems. They also said they heard explosions coming from Rubino’s apartment.

He was also charged with:

• unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs;

• conspiracy to traffic in scheduled drugs;

• unlawful possession of scheduled drugs; and

• reckless conduct.

Paradie said he plans to argue at another court hearing Tuesday that police made promises to his client in exchange for his cooperation. He hopes Gorman will not allow statements Rubino made to police to be used at trial.


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