The Washington State Supreme Court this week overturned the 2006 cocaine conviction of a man linked to one of the largest cash seizures in the county's recent history.
In a 7-2 decision, justices reversed the conviction of Gilberto Ibarra-Cisneros, who was arrested as a result of calling a cellphone seized during the search of a Walla Walla home where police found more than $400,000 in cash.
The majority ruling by the court agreed that evidence used to convict Ibarra-Cisneros should be suppressed "as the fruit of the unlawful use of (the) cellphone which was seized during the search."
The cellphone belonged to Ibarra-Cisneros' brother, Adrian Ibarra-Raya, who was arrested early on the morning of July 14, 2006, when Walla Walla Police officers went to a home on St. John Street for a complaint of suspicious activity.
Ibarra-Raya, who was 22 at the time, and another man were stopped as they tried to leave the back door of the home and a search warrant was obtained after an officer performing a "security sweep" of the house saw what appeared to be marijuana on a kitchen counter.
Police subsequently discovered $401,333.44 in cash, much of it packed in vacuum-sealed bags, in the house.
Ibarra-Cisneros, who is now 33, was arrested after police who answered Ibarra-Raya's cellphone during the search arranged a meeting at a local grocery store with one of the callers. Officers waiting at the store saw a pickup truck arrive, then followed it to the Blue Mountain Mall where they confronted Ibarra-Cisneros, who had been in the truck and had gotten out. Police found a small parcel of white powder next to Ibarra-Cisneros' feet that tested positive for cocaine, which led to his being charged and later convicted of possession of the drug.
Ibarra-Raya was also convicted of drug possession in connection with marijuana and cocaine found in the home, but his conviction was overturned by the state court of appeals in 2008. The court, however, upheld Ibarra-Cisneros' conviction and that decision was appealed to the state Supreme Court by his attorney, Janelle Carman of Walla Walla.
Following their convictions in late 2006, both Ibarra-Raya and Ibarra-Cisneros were sentenced in December to serve 180 days in jail with credit for the 143 days they had been jailed since their arrests. After finishing their sentences, both were turned over to immigration authorities who deported them to Mexico, their native country.
Carman said Thursday that for Ibarra-Cisneros the decision will clear his record and allow him to apply for permission to re-enter the United States.
"We are certainly pleased with the decision and we think it's the right one," she said.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318.