East Grand Forks man sentenced for dealing painkillers
For want of a driver’s license last year, Leonardo Mario Luna today received a jail sentence for possessing pain pills to deal.
Luna, 59, was sentenced Monday to 60 months in prison, with 45 months suspended, after pleading guilty to planning to peddle 563 pills of Hydrocodone found hidden in the door of his pickup when he was stopped last May in Grand Forks.
Grand Forks County Sheriff’s deputies had been waiting for Luna because a confidential informant had tipped them off the East Grand Forks man was returning from Texas last May with the painkillers and had promised via cell phone to sell 20 pills to the informant.
Luna was spotted on Interstate 29 by Buxton by a deputy on surveillance and a half-hour later was stopped at 2100 Demers Ave. in Grand Forks after deputies learned his driver’s license was suspended.
Luna also was wanted on a warrant out of California, according to court documents.
Luna told deputies he had been visiting his mother in Texas “for Mother’s Day,” even though it was two weeks after Mother’s Day, arousing suspicion, deputies said in court documents.
Luna’s attorney, Alex Reichert, argued last fall in court that deputies illegally searched his pickup truck.
Despite a trained drug dog not “indicating” any drugs in the 1999 Ford pickup, “deputies proceeded to take apart Mr. Luna’s pickup for an hour and 50 minutes,” Reichert argued in September in a motion to suppress the pills and Luna’s statements about them at his arrest May 22.
Searchers took out the bed-liner in the truck’s box, took out the ignition panel and opened up, finally, the passenger-side panel on a door.
That made it an unreasonable search under constitutional standards, going beyond Luna’s initial “general consent,” to a search of his vehicle, Reichert argued, citing court precedents that such consent does not allow law enforcement to destroy or damage property during a search.
But state District Judge Sonja Clapp rejected the claim in January, saying Luna gave consent, never withdrew it and acted suspiciously during the search, giving deputies reason to expand their search.
And the search actually took only an hour and didn’t damage the Ford, Clapp ruled.
Deputies said Luna acted nervous whenever they were looking at the passenger side of his pickup, so they concentrated there.
Noticing something funny in some trim on the passenger side panel, Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Schneider looked closer and inside the panel found a baggie with 563 Hydrocodone pills.
Luna then admitted the pills were his, deputies said, according to court documents.
Luna will serve 15 months, less the 321 days he has already spent in jail since his arrest; he will be on supervised probation for 30 months once he’s served his jail time.
He faced up to 10 years on the Class A felony count of possessing Hydrocodone with the intent to deliver. A similar count involving 27 pills of morphine found on him when he was booked into jail last year was dismissed as part of the plea agreement he reached in February.