MINNEAPOLIS - A judge dealt a potentially fatal blow to a drug case against two prosecutors, declaring invalid a search warrant that turned up evidence of cocaine use in their home.
Friday's order from Ramsey County District Judge Edward Cleary also threw out statements that Julius Nolen made about drugs found in their southwest Minneapolis home during the search.
Cleary ruled that the tips investigators got from an informant in November were insufficient to support the search warrant.
Investigators didn't disclose then that the "concerned citizen" who tipped them off was Gary Buckner, an eight-time felon who was facing seven or more potential felony charges when he gave the information.
Julius Nolen, 45, was an assistant Hennepin County attorney; his wife, Laura Nolen, 41, is an assistant Minneapolis city attorney. He resigned; she has been on paid administrative leave.
Richard Enga, who represented Julius Nolen, said there was a reckless disregard of the truth in submitting the affidavit to support the search.
"You need to be honest with the judge about the source of the information and in this case, they weren't," he said.
Enga said he believes part of the reason was that the targets were prosecutors.
Laura Nolen's attorney, Robert Paule, agreed. If the Nolens had been "Joe Citizens" like other first-time offenders facing the same drug charge, he said, they would get treatment and have no record of a conviction.
The Nolens were charged in November with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and a gross misdemeanor charge of child endangerment because children were present in the home.
The case was prosecuted by Scott County and assigned to a Ramsey County judge to avoid any conflicts of interest with Hennepin County.
Scott County Attorney Pat Ciliberto said he will decide whether to appeal.
But Paule said that with the evidence suppressed, there is no case to go forward.
According to court documents, Buckner told authorities he had seen Laura Nolen use cocaine a number of times and worried for her children.
Scott County Detective Cory Skorczewski, who prepared the search warrant, indicated "he didn't know" why he didn't tell the judge about Buckner's background but believed Buckner was coming forward with the information "for the goodness of his heart."
Cleary said the search application relied on stale information and also failed to establish a connection between Laura Nolen's alleged casual drug use and any drug dealing at the home. The order said plastic bags that tested positive for marijuana were found in searches of the Nolens' garbage. That information was used to support the actual search of the home.