A 71-year-old Woodstock man has been busted by a new drug crimes unit for allegedly possessing a small amount of marijuana, prompting an Ulster County legislator to say the unit should be going after gangs instead of "aging hippies."
Dennis "Day" Yusko, 71, a peace activist known for his involvement in Woodstock's Rainbow Tribe and the artists' cooperative Woodstock Earth, was arrested at his home at 5 Tannery Brook Road on June 6 following a two-week investigation into suspected drug sales, according to Detective Lt. Timothy Matthews of the Kingston Police Department.
Matthews is one of the leaders of the county's new Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team, or URGENT.
Matthews said an undercover operative working with the Woodstock Police Department bought marijuana at Yusko's home several times during the investigation, though Mat-thews did not say whether the drugs were bought from Yusko or from another possible suspect in the case.
Matthews said Yusko's address is the same as that of Woodstock Earth, a co-op for local artists. Yusko, a coordinator for Woodstock Earth, but could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Ulster County Legislator Brian Shapiro, a Democrat who lives in Woodstock, said Yusko is a well-known and beloved local resident who should not have been targeted by URGENT.
"He's well loved by the community," Shapiro said. "I support the URGENT team to address what it's meant for - gang activity, especially in Midtown (Kingston), not for aging hippies in Woodstock.
Matthews said URGENT targets people who sell drugs, regardless of their age or their standing in a community.
"If someone is selling marijuana, whether it is an elderly hippie or a young kid, it is something we would go after," he said.
Matthews conceded, however, that police received some incorrect information and expected to find larger amounts of drugs in Yusko's home when they entered it.
Shapiro was angry not only about the arrest but the way it was executed.
"They busted him with 2 grams of marijuana and came in with shotguns, the whole deal," he said.
Matthews confirmed the arresting officers found only 2 grams of marijuana but said there also were items that suggested drug were being sold in the home.
"He had stuff like scales and packaging and growing lights that went along with the sale of marijuana," the detective lieutenant said. "The evidence showed it was obviously a selling operation."
Matthews also confirmed that Yusko was "put down on the floor," but he said the suspect was not tackled.
Matthews said it is police policy, for safety reasons, for officers to order people to the ground while executing a search warrant.
Matthews said Yusko was charged with selling marijuana and criminal nuisance, both misdemeanors, and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation. He is to appear in Woodstock Town Court on July 25.
Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)
Katie Young, Freeman Staff
June 28, 2007
Copyright: 2007 Daily Freeman