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A lawyer for Timothy Barclift argued, on appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, that police stopped the New York man primarily because of an anonymous tip he traveled by bus frequently and paid with cash.
The lawyer for a New York man convicted of being caught by police with nearly 300 grams of cocaine as he got off a bus in Augusta argued Tuesday before the state’s highest court that authorities didn’t have a legal justification for searching him.
Timothy Barclift’s lawyer, Rory McNamara, said police stopped his client only on the basis of an anonymous tip that suggested he traveled to Maine often, had dealt drugs there in the past, and paid for his bus tickets in cash. That’s not enough for police to justify stopping him, McNamara said, and that traveling by bus and paying cash is neither suspicious nor illegal behavior.
McNamara further argued Tuesday before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that police also improperly opened the doors of the SUV he was in without probable cause, after which a drug-sniffing dog found cocaine in Barclift’s backpack.
Barclift, 47, was found guilty of furnishing drugs in Augusta in 2021 and sentenced to five years, 182 days in prison with all but three years of that suspended, with two years probation. He is currently at Maine State Prison, according to state records.
Barclift appealed his conviction to the state’s highest court, which heard oral arguments in the appeal Tuesday.
McNamara argued, on Barclift’s behalf, that the justifications used for searching his client mean that nearly anyone could be stopped by police including “everyone who travels on that bus,” including tourists coming to Augusta or family members who travel by bus to see loved ones.
Barclift, who was in the rap music business, told police after he was arrested that he didn’t come to Maine with the intention of selling the cocaine. He said, on a video interview played at his trial, he came to party and get high with friends and share the cocaine with them, and work with developing rap artists in the state.
Prosecutor Katie Sibley, assistant attorney general, said police had “reasonable articulable suspicion,” which is all they needed to initially stop and question Barclift. Police not only received an anonymous tip that Barclift traveled regularly from New York to Maine for short trips, by bus and paying cash, and that he dealt drugs while he was in Maine, Sibley said, but they had also corroborated that information with Concord Trailways. Trained drug enforcement officers recognized that frequent and short bus trips, paid for in cash, were indicative of a pattern of behavior that indicated he was trafficking drugs, Sibley said.
Sibley said the tipster provided detailed information, that police confirmed to be accurate, about Barclift and his trips between New York and Maine, and also said he was dealing drugs on those trips. She said police take the same actions when they receive information that someone is bringing illegal drugs into Maine by car.
“It’s not just about the bus,” she said.
Justices asked several questions and noted the tipster in the case did not specifically say Barclift was coming to Maine with drugs on a specific day, just that he had in the past.
Police knew when Barclift was arriving in Maine when they arrested him Jan. 22, 2020, because, testimony in his trial indicated, a bus company official had told them he was coming.
Barclift’s appeal to the Supreme Court also claims police improperly opened the doors to the SUV he was getting into at the bus station, without probable cause to search the vehicle. A drug-sniffing dog indicated the presence of drugs, which were later located inside Barclift’s backpack in the vehicle.
At his jury trial Barclift was found guilty of furnishing illegal drugs but not of the more serious charge state prosecutors initially sought, of aggravated trafficking of drugs.
The difference is a trafficking charge reflects an intent to sell drugs in exchange for some form of payment, while furnishing simply indicates the suspect supplied someone with drugs. The aggravated furnishing charge Barclift was convicted of is a Class B crime punishable by a mandatory minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years in prison, while a Class A aggravated trafficking charge could bring up to 30 years in prison.
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