City of Bothell to pay $40,000 to marijuana grower for illegal home search
By MATT PHELPS
Bothell Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
January 18, 2013 · Updated 1:54 PM
A Bothell man will receive nearly $40,000 from the City of Bothell in connection with an illegal search of the man's home and seizure of property in 2008 during a raid on an illegal marijuana growing operation.
The city will pay Eric Scott Levine $25,000 for the illegal search and seizure of property from his home and an additional $14,700 to be paid to his attorney for fees accrued during the past five years. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ordered the judgement on Wednesday as a result of a civil lawsuit filed against the Snohomish County and the City of Bothell.
The warrant used to search the home in 2008 was deemed invalid because Bothell Police Det. A. Sean Ungvarsky submitted an unsworn affidavit to the Cascade District Court Commissioner Paul Moon, according to court documents. The Commissioner struck out the words "subscribed and sworn to before" on the affidavit. The Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's office then approved the warrant to search Levine's residence. Bothell police also used an unsworn warrant to obtain electricity records from the Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1, according to court records.
The City of Bothell and Snohomish County have an inter-local agreement establishing a regional drug task force, which was a part of the search and attempted prosecution of Levine.
Levine's attorney, John Muenster, challenged the legality of the warrants under the Fourth Amendment of the state Constitution. As a result, the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office sought to dismiss the case. The prosecutor's reason for dismal was that the "state is unable to overcome challenge to the search warrant that would ultimately result in suppression of evidence."
In October, Ungvarsky argued that he thought he was issuing the warrant under oath because he had not taken an oath.
"No reasonable officer could claim to be unaware of the basic rule," said Pechman in legal documents. "Warrantless search of the home is presumptively unconstitutional."
The city seized more than 30 of Levine's firearms and his home as profits from the operation but both were eventually released to Levine.
The criminal case against Levine was dismissed in 2010.
During the search of the home 70 marijuana plants were seized from the basement. Levine's ex-girlfriend turned him in to Bothell police while reporting him for assault. Levine was arrested on the assault charges and while in jail police searched his home for the marijuana plants.
Levine is currently appealing his conviction on the assault charge.
Contact Bothell Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-425-483-3732 (ext 5050).