An attorney for accused drug dealer Alfredo Ozuna Ahumada will get a chance Oct. 5 to argue that the closed-door proceeding that allowed police to seize Ahumada's bank records violated his client's rights.
Ahumada, 31, of Kennewick, was arrested Feb. 3, 2010, after police got a warrant to search his home and reportedly found $11,200 in cash, seven ounces of methamphetamine, cocaine and five handguns, according to Benton County Superior Court documents. Three of the guns were allegedly stolen during a burglary in Moses Lake.
Ahumada's attorney Bob Thompson told the Herald on Friday that the problem is that the search warrant was based on a secret proceeding called a special inquiry that didn't rely on sworn testimony, but rather on two "confidential informants" who gave information to police during the course of a year before Ahumada's arrest.
Thompson asserts that the special inquiry -- which typically is sealed so that a defendant never gets a chance to see the evidence against him or her -- was flawed and didn't provide probable cause for the arrest, and violated Ahumada's privacy rights by allowing police to subpoena his bank records without his knowledge.
"Our state Supreme Court has held that financial records have privacy," Thompson said.
Thompson also takes issue with the same judge who presided over the special inquiry issuing the search warrant for Ahumada's home.
He said that's against the law, but through collecting evidence in the case learned that Benton County judges don't personally keep track of such conflicts, instead relying on prosecutors or the court clerks to tell them if they have a conflict.
Thompson has challenged the special inquiry process -- which could result in the case against Ahumada being dismissed if a judge agrees that the process was flawed.
All six of the judges sitting on the Benton County Superior Court have recused themselves from Ahumada's case because of Thompson's challenge to the special inquiry process, and the case is being heard by Judge John W. Lohrmann from Walla Walla County Superior Court.
The trial is set for Oct. 16 in Kennewick.
Lohrmann also raised Ahumada's bail from $125,000 to $200,000 to match Ahumada's bail in a more recent case in which he was arrested on suspicion of charging more than $900 on a stolen debit card on June 15.
Ahumada also is charged with possession of meth with intent to deliver in the 2012 case.