After being held without bond for three months, Moshood Alatishe, a Nigerian who U.S. Park Police said was a major supplier of heroin, has been released from jail because a drug testing laboratory found no evidence of narcotics in the powder seized during a raid at his Shaw area home.
When Alatishe and eight others were arrrested on May 23, park police said they found more than eight ounces of heroin worth over $450,000 in his bedroom.
The police said the drug was "of unusually high purity," according to a field test they conducted. It was the key evidence on which U.S. Magistrate Jean F. Dwyer decided to hold Alatishe in preventive detention.
But according to a memorandum issued yesterday by U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene, a test by the Drug Enforcement Administration laboratory found "no trace" of narcotics in the powder. Greene said he released Alatishe as soon as he received the lab report last Thursday.
Yesterday, the judge criticized the DEA for not announcing the test results sooner. Greene said the results of the testing were not sent to the U.S. attorney's office for more than a month "apparently because of a typing backlog at the DEA."
In his memo yesterday, Greene also ruled that police violated the law on executing search warrants and said the powder could not be introduced as evidence anyway even if it were heroin.
Two officers testified they knocked loudly and identified themselves before forcing open two doors at Alatishe's row house at 221 R St. NW.
However, the defendant's son, Tobbey, and a friend, John Shipman, said they heard no such knock or announcement.
At a hearing Monday, Alatishe's lawyer, Charles A. Halleck, introduced an article from The Washington Post of May 24 that quoted park police Lt. Hugh Irwin as saying, "We got in there so fast that no one had a chance to do anything. We ripped off the barred door, popped the second door and ran in."
On the witness stand, Irwin did not dispute the quotation but said it "did not describe everything that occurred."
Greene said the article and the error in the field test "undermined" the credibility of the police testimony.
Police also seized a pistol and $4,300 in cash. Under Greene's order, none of it can now be used used as evidence. Alatishe, 46, has owned a commercial cleaning business here, Halleck said.
So far, federal prosecutors have dropped charges against six of the nine persons arrested in the case. Late yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Tapp said he would take "a serious look at Greene's opinion to see if there is a viable charge to go forward."