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April 24, 2007 - Press Democrat (CA)

Man Fights To Clear Name After Drug Raid

Petaluma Police, DEA Stormed Mill Valley Home On Wrong ID

By Lori A. Carter, The Press Democrat

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

For Carl Keane, the day of his arrest started out like any other morning.

While getting ready Dec. 19 for his job as a haberdasher at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco, the 49-year-old Keane heard a horrendous noise downstairs in his Mill Valley home.

"We thought it was a home invasion ... or maybe the water heater exploding," he said.

As Keane's longtime girlfriend ran to call 911, a cadre of armed men burst through the front door, wearing bullet-proof vests and shouting, "Where are your weapons?"

Federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, accompanied by Petaluma police officers and Marin County sheriff's deputies, were raiding the couple's home.

Keane was arrested on felony drug trafficking charges in what proved to be a case of mistaken identity based on a single witness, a Petaluma mail drop owner.

Sonoma County prosecutors dropped the charges last month after the same witness, during follow-up investigation, failed to identify Keane.

The DEA and the District Attorney's Office say the case was handled properly. But after spending hundreds of hours and $17,000 trying to clear his name, Keane is angry. He said police acted recklessly, arresting him based on shoddy evidence.

"I'm still baffled that I was arrested without possessing anything. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone," Keane said. "The DEA shouldn't be allowed to get away with going into someone's home with automatic weapons when they didn't do their homework."

Still unclear is how Keane's name and address became connected to a drug deal. His lawyer, John LemMon, thinks it may be identity theft or maybe just bad luck.

This is how the investigation unfolded, according to Petaluma, DEA and New Jersey police reports:

On Nov. 29, a man tried to mail a package from the Mail Depot in Petaluma. The shop owner, Maureen McGuigan, became suspicious when the sender didn't want to give a phone number in case the package was returned.

McGuigan later opened the parcel and discovered three bricks of marijuana totaling almost 6 pounds. She notified Petaluma police, who called the DEA, which began an investigation.

The addressee was a [redacted] in Bricktown, N.J., and the return address was that of C. Keane, with Keane's address in Mill Valley.

When DEA agents showed McGuigan Keane's state ID card, she confirmed he was the C. Keane who mailed the package of marijuana.

The DEA sent the package to New Jersey, where police arrested [redacted], who accepted the parcel. They say they aren't related to Carl Keane. Charges are pending against the couple.

In California, DEA Agent Seth McMullen obtained a search warrant for Keane's house, based largely on what he called the Mail Depot owner's "positive identification."

Neither agents nor a drug-sniffing dog turned up any indication of drugs, drug use or drug sales, according to DEA reports. Seized in the raid were a phone bill, bank deposit slips and health care paperwork.

"The last time I smoked pot I was listening to 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,' and it was new," Keane said, referring to the 1968 song.

Still, Keane was arrested, booked, charged and arraigned, accused of heading a "narcotics trafficking organization."

But when McGuigan was asked again to identify the man who sent the marijuana parcel -- this time in a more standard, six-photo lineup -- she failed to pick out Keane.

"They thought they had a big pot case," LemMon said. "But they raided his house and came away empty-handed. It was all based on a one-photo lineup, which is highly suggestive."

Prosecutors conceded there wasn't enough evidence to prove Keane had committed any crimes and dismissed the case March 13 "in the interest of justice."

DEA spokeswoman Agent Casey McEnry said no other arrests were made in the case, but she refused to say whether the DEA was continuing to investigate Keane or anyone else.

Christine Cook, a Sonoma County assistant district attorney, defended the decision to charge Keane, saying prosecutors believed, based on agents' statements, crime reports, witness statements and the photo identification, that the evidence could prove Keane was guilty.

She said follow-up investigation "revealed that the prosecutor could no longer prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, so the case was dismissed and that was the right thing to do."

An expert in eyewitness identifications contacted by The Press Democrat said the Keane investigation was badly flawed.

Psychologist Robert Shomer, who has testified in more than 400 trials, said the original single-photo identification of Keane at the Mail Depot was "totally inappropriate."

"Had they done a six-pack (lineup) right away, which is what they should have done, they might have gotten a good identification," he said.

Shomer also took issue with prosecutors for filing felony charges against someone with scant evidence beyond the one-photo identification and a matching address.

"The prosecutors, in my opinion, do not exercise sufficient quality control in these types of cases," he said. "Eyewitness identification-only cases are not very common. Normally, you have corroborating evidence."

Santa Rosa defense attorney Geoffrey Dunham also found problems with using a one-photo identification to pin a major criminal case on Keane.

"A poorly trained orangutan can explain to you the problem with a single-person identification," he said. "When it's all they've got, and it's clearly all they've got, for them to file on it indicates a disturbing lack of professionalism."

McEnry declined to discuss criticism of the single-photo lineup, saying only that Sonoma County Judge Robert Boyd authorized the search warrant and Keane's house was the address listed.

"Based on our investigation, we had sufficient probable cause," she said.

Despite the dismissal, Keane remains bitter.

"There was a lot of incompetence," he said. "These guys could have done a modicum of detective work and found out that I have no criminal history, no registered weapons in my name. Some real basic surveillance would have shown in a couple days that all I do day in, day out is go to work."

Keane's attorney said he plans to file a petition seeking a judge's finding of "factual innocence" for Keane and a certificate of identity theft so Keane can legally clear his name.

"He needs to be able to get on with his life," LemMon said.

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