State court denies Tamaqua man's appeal of conviction
A Tamaqua man lost his appeal from a sentence imposed after a jury convicted him of drug charges when a panel of judges of the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the sentence
George J. Bonetsky, 35, of 214 Brown St., was found guilty by a jury on Sept. 12, 2011, of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance (methamphetamine), and possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. He was sentenced by Judge Cyrus Palmer Dolbin to serve six to 23 months in the county prison plus an additional 12 months on probation.
Bonetsky challenged the court's denial of his suppression motion as he claims his encounter with Tamaqua police was illegal as the arresting officer, Sgt. Richard Weaver, did not have reasonable suspicion that he was involved in criminal activity.
The evidence presented at the trial showed on Nov. 3, 2010, Weaver was on routine patrol and near a storage facilty in a secluded area near Washington and Rose streets, he observed a pickup truck parked in one of the bays, its lights were on and the engine running but it had no been washed and no one was outside of the vehicle to operate the wash.
Weaver approached the vehicle and saw someone seated inside and when he knocked on the window a man whom Weaver identified as Bonetsky got out of the truck. He noticed the man holding a huge wad of cash in his hand. Asked what he was doing Bonetsky replied he was washing his truck.
Weaver asked permission to examine the truck, noticing buldges in Bonetsky's pants pockes and feared it could be a weapon and ordered him to empty his pockets. After first claiming he didn't have anything in his pockets he pulled a handfull of bills and found 12 small bags of crystalline substance which were clinched in a closed fist. Weaver suspected the substance was either methamphetamine or cocaine. Bonetsky was taken to the police station and booked.
The higher court ruled the sole issue the defendant presented for the court's review was whether Judge Dolbin erred in denying his suppression motion that he was subjected to an unreasonable seizure by police.
The court ruled in this case it began as a mere encounter when the police officer approached the truck on foot and once he noticed the defendant holding a large wad of cash in his hands and asked permission to search the truck which the defendant freely consented, while denying having anything illegal.
The decision of the higher court was that the trial court made a factual finding that the officer never demanded to search the truck but merely asked permission and that the defendant was free during the entire encounter to get in his vehicle and leave the car wash.