AUBURN — A Lewiston man charged in a hit-and-run crash that left a pedestrian seriously injured is seeking to have a judge toss out evidence in the felony case.

Brad Johnson Lewiston Police Department photo

A judge listened in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Monday to arguments for and against a motion by Brad Johnson, 41, who is seeking to have kept out of his trial any evidence gathered by police after they located his damaged pickup truck parked at his Auburn business, an auto body shop.

Johnson’s attorneys wrote in a motion that “since the initial warrantless search was not supported by probable cause, and because no exception to the warrant requirement existed at the time of the search, the court should suppress all the evidence from the warrantless search and all derivative evidence and statements gathered by law enforcement.”

Assistant District Attorney Molly Butler Bailey countered in a court memorandum that actions taken by police were “completely constitutional.”

The lot where Johnson’s truck was parked was “in no way barred or limited to the public and, thus, (the officer) was not required to get a search warrant.”

Johnson is charged with criminal operating under the influence, falsifying evidence and leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury or death.

Lewiston Police Lt. Trevor Campbell testified Monday that police had been on the lookout for a Gray Toyota Tundra pickup truck with damage to the right front. That description was based on pieces of the vehicle that were left at the scene of the impact with a pedestrian on Route 196 (Lisbon Street) near the Alfred A. Plourde Parkway overpass.

Campbell said Monday that he had narrowed his search to two registered owners in the Lewiston area of that type of truck built in 2014 or later; one was Johnson. On Oct. 28, 2019, Campbell first went to Johnson’s home, then to his business on Riverside Drive in Auburn, arriving there after dark, he testified Monday.

He said he parked across the street and could see vehicles parked beside the business’ building “extremely” close to the road.

Campbell spotted a truck that matched the description of the suspect vehicle, its back end facing the street. He moved to the front of the truck and noticed damage consistent with the crash, he said.

He summoned to the scene one of the initial investigators of the crash.

Campbell said there was neither fencing nor a gate to keep the public at bay. There were no signs describing the lot as private property and forbidding entry.

“Was there any indication that the owner of the property was trying to keep people out,” Bailey asked.

“No,” Campbell said.

He said he notified the lead police detective in the case who had requested photographs be taken of the truck, business and lot.

A police corporal who came to the address said the truck “definitely fit the vehicle that had been at the scene” of the hit-and-run; he then took photographs of the truck and parts that sat in the bed of the truck, Campbell said.

He said neither he nor the officer who took photos touched the truck.

Because Johnson owned a body shop, Campbell said he was concerned about the possibility of evidence being destroyed.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Verne Paradie, Campbell said he considered the lot on which the truck was parked to be public.

Campbell said he hadn’t been given a registration to look for or told the truck he was looking for had been parked in that lot.

He said he didn’t believe he had probable cause for a search warrant based on his observation from the street, before he saw the truck’s damage.

Campbell also couldn’t see the parts sitting in the back of the pickup until he went onto the lot, he said.

Under cross-examination by Paradie, Campbell said he didn’t consider going onto the property and taking pictures to constitute a “search.”

Justice Roland A. Cole asked whether there was lighting in the lot.

Campbell said it was dark.

“It’s an interesting issue,” Cole said. He said he would read the attorney’s legal briefs before making a decision.

Jason Stratton, 31, of Lewiston had been walking along the side of Lisbon Street in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2019 when he was struck from behind by a vehicle that left the scene.

He lay on the side of the street bleeding for more than an hour before police found him.

The impact shattered his pelvis, broke his arm and ankle, severely damaged his legs, and caused other injuries that led to kidney failure, pneumonia and near death.

He was taken to a Lewiston hospital for emergency treatment, then doctors placed him in a medically induced coma and attempted to raise his blood pressure enough to begin reconstructive surgery on his legs and pelvis.

He was transferred to a Boston hospital in November 2019 where his condition began to improve and he was brought out of the induced coma.

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