A judge has denied a defense motion that sought to suppress evidence collected during a search that recovered stolen barrels of Wild Turkey and stolen bottles of rare Pappy Van Winkle.
The defendant, Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger, cannot assert a constitutional challenge to the admission of evidence collected by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office through a lawful warrant, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate wrote in an opinion and order issued Tuesday.
Curtsinger’s “reasonable expectation of privacy was not violated because officers observed, in plain view, bourbon barrels” on his property from an area in which Curtsinger had no claim of privacy, the judge wrote.
Because the officers didn’t violate Curtsinger’s Fourth Amendment rights, Wingate denied the defense motion to suppress evidence collected in the search. Had the judge ruled in favor of the defense, that evidence could have been excluded from trial.
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In March 2015, investigators with the sheriff’s office went to a forested area behind Curtsinger’s house after receiving a tip that five missing Wild Turkey bourbon barrels could be seen from that vantage point. Initially, investigators didn’t see any barrels, but later, from another spot in the woods, they saw what appeared to be bourbon barrels visible under plastic tarps behind an outbuilding on Curtsinger’s property.
The officers obtained a search warrant to search the house and other buildings on the property for bourbon barrels and other items related to the alleged theft.
To challenge the validity of the search, Curtsinger would have to show that he had a privacy interest in the unmaintained, forested area behind his property, the judge wrote.
He ruled that Curtsinger “never used the land, nor enclosed the land, nor attempted to prevent outside observation. ... The officers were located in an area in which the defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy and plainly saw the barrels on the property from that vantage point.”
No trial date has been scheduled for Curtsinger. He and eight other people were indicted in 2015 on charges of operating a criminal syndicate that trafficked in bourbon and anabolic steroids. Prosecutors say the syndicate was involved in the theft of rare Pappy Van Winkle from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort and Wild Turkey in Anderson County
Last year, Curtsinger’s wife, Julie, entered an Alford plea to possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance (anabolic steroid). An Alford plea means she did not admit wrongdoing but accepted that there is sufficient evidence against her for a conviction.