A federal judge in Portland has suppressed drug evidence that a Maine State Police trooper accused of racial profiling obtained during a traffic stop more than two years ago.
The decision from U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen marked the second time in 13 months that drugs Cpl. John Darcy obtained during stops of Black drivers and passengers had been tossed out of federal court or led to a case’s dismissal.
The decision to suppress evidence could lead to the dismissal of charges stemming from the June 26, 2019, traffic stop in which Darcy pulled over a vehicle on I-95, about six miles north of the York toll plaza.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Tuesday that it is reviewing Torresen’s suppression order and had no comment on whether the charge would be dismissed.
Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Maine State Police, also said the agency is reviewing “the ruling and the supporting investigation documentation.
“It would be inappropriate for us to provide a statement without such a review,” she said.
Darcy pulled over the vehicle, driven by a Black driver with a Black female passenger, because it allegedly was going just 45 mph, because it crossed out of the lane and into the breakdown lane at least three times, and because it was late at night.
But Torresen found that video from Darcy’s dashboard camera contradicted the trooper’s testimony at a suppression hearing held last month. She found that the video did not show the vehicle crossing from the right lane over the fog line and going into the breakdown lane, as Darcy testified.
Torresen also cast doubt on Darcy’s claim that the vehicle was traveling 45 mph, based on the time that elapsed between Darcy’s call to a dispatcher to run the license plate number and his pulling the vehicle over.
The traffic stop came six minutes after that call to the dispatcher, and it happened about 6 miles north of where Darcy first spotted the minivan, meaning the vehicle was likely traveling about 60 mph, the judge wrote.
“These reasonable inferences further undermine Darcy’s claim that he pulled the vehicle over in part because it was traveling forty-five miles per hour,” Torresen said.
Even if the car was going 45 mph, as Darcy claimed, that is the lowest legal speed limit on the interstate, the judge noted. She also rejected the trooper’s contention that his decision to stop the car was due to the late hour, 10:24 p.m.
In the August 2019 stop on Interstate 95 northbound in York, Darcy was recorded talking to another trooper on a cruiser microphone saying that the motorist “looks like a thug” because “he’s wearing a wifebeater” and “he’s got dreads,” according to court documents.
A “wifebeater” is a reference to a sleeveless undershirt.
Darcy told the other trooper he was not racially profiling the driver.
“I hate when people try to make it seem like that’s what it is,” Darcy said. “I care about where people are from, and the way they seem, you know what I mean? Do they seem like they can be involved in drug dealing or gangs or something? I don’t give a [expletive] if someone’s Black or white.”
Federal prosecutors dismissed the charges in the case stemming from the August 2019 stop after a motion to suppress the drug evidence was filed.
The Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case stemming from the June 2019 stop, arguing that the evidence should be suppressed.
“This case is just one example of the racial profiling that is pervasive in Maine and across the country,” Emma Bond, legal director of the ACLU of Maine, said Tuesday. “The Maine Legislature has approved a law that requires law enforcement officers to collect demographic data about every stop they make. We need data to understand the scope of the problem, so that we can tailor appropriate solutions. It is incumbent on Maine law enforcement agencies to wholeheartedly support and implement this law.”
The ACLU defines racial profiling as the discriminatory practice of “targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.”
In July, the Maine State Police’s Office of Professional Standards, in consultation with the attorney general’s office, examined more than 1,000 of Trooper John Darcy’s traffic stops and found no evidence or patterns of racial profiling, according to Moss.