A Win for the Firm: The Densy Carcano Case

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In August of 2015, Densy Carcano was indicted by the federal government on multi-state drug trafficking allegations, conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. The indictment alleged a drug conspiracy dating back to 2003 and including nearly 20 individuals throughout the Southeast. If convicted, Mr. Carcano faced a maximum term of life in prison without the possibility of parole and a minimum term of 10 years.

Mr. Carcano’s involvement was allegedly documented by surveillance cameras at a stash house in South Carolina. On March 28, 2014, a DEA task force officer, who was conducting surveillance on the stash house through a surveillance camera, witnessed Mr. Carcano drive a Honda Ridgeline to the location, stay for a period of time and then leave. The DEA task force officer became suspicious and contacted local law enforcement to follow the vehicle. He also contacted the Sheriff’s office in Commerce, Georgia to be on the look out for the vehicle as it headed south on I-85. Commerce County police pulled over Mr. Carcano’s vehicle for two traffic violations, alleging he was “following too close” and that the vehicle had “tinted windows”.

Upon being pulled over, the Commerce police were unable to locate any drugs inside the vehicle. After an initial search, they requested the K-9 unit “search” the perimeter of the vehicle. According to the K-9 handler, the dog “hit” on the car, which the officers indicated meant there were drugs in the vehicle. Eventually, officers found a hidden compartment in the wheel well of the vehicle. Mr. Carcano was arrested, and both he and the vehicle were taken to the Commerce County Sheriff’s department where Mr. Carcano was questioned and the car was searched again.

Law enforcement eventually accessed the hidden compartment and found a large amount of money. No drugs were ever found and the government was never able determine what the money was for nor able to connect it to drug activity. The government simply jumped to the conclusion that, because he was present at said house, then he must be involved in this trafficking ring.

Upon taking the case, the criminal defense attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt and Stalvey obtained the video, audio and documentation relating to the case.  After an initial review of the case, it was clear that there were some serious problems with the prosecution’s case.

In this case, we requested Giglio material.  Giglio material are documents that would indicate a law enforcement officer involved in the case has had something in the past that might impact his credibility. Without getting lost in the details, the DEA task force officer, monitoring surveillance on March 28, 2014, had a Giglio package that was about two inches thick. He had been involved in a verifiable false statement and an internal cover-up during his tenure as a law enforcement officer.  Shortly after obtaining this, it became clear that something had gone wrong with the surveillance recording at the alleged stash house. With no video of Mr. Carcano’s arrival and departure, the government was going to be required to call the DEA task officer with the questionable record.

Months later, we uncovered that the interstate “stop” involving Mr. Carcano also had serious issues. A van driving in front of Mr. Carcano’s vehicle was being driven by one of the officers from South Carolina that had followed Mr. Carcano. Videotape from Mr. Carcano’s stop confirmed that the van being driven by law enforcement was slowing down, causing Mr. Carcano to “follow too close” and giving the Commerce Deputy Sheriff’s officers a reason to pull over Mr. Carcano’s car. In short, we had evidence that indicated the routine traffic stop was fabricated to create a situation that would give them the ability to stop Mr. Carcano’s vehicle and search it.

After months of digging into the records, we created a Catch 22 for the government. The stop on the interstate was now a problem. The Constitution does not permit law enforcement to fabricate a reason to stop a vehicle so that they can search the vehicle without a warrant. This warrantless search created a bad situation for the government, because their entire case was predicated on that stop and, if the stop was ruled to be improper or unconstitutional, then the entire case, including the cases against some co-defendants, could have unraveled.

The only hope the government had to make the vehicle stop constitutional was to tie the stop to the information obtained from the surveillance. Since the surveillance tape was missing, the government’s only witness to testify about Mr. Carcano’s presence at the stash house was the DEA task force officer who had a terrible history of truth and veracity under oath. In the likely event that Mr. Carcano was successful in having the money found in his vehicle suppressed as evidence, it would be problematic for the Government to use the discovery of the money against other co-defendants.

As we were preparing for what we expected was going to be a successful motions hearing, the Government came forward with a proposal. If Mr. Carcano pled guilty to a lesser drug charge, he would receive time-served as his sentence and be sent back to his home in the Dominican Republic.  It was an offer no one could refuse. The last time we heard from Mr. Carcano he was safely back home.

Any result the lawyer or law firm may have achieved on behalf of clients in other matters does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.

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