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Judge Approves Search In Panasuk Case

District judge David J. Cybulski has ruled that there was probable cause for a search warrant in the case involving John David Panasuk of Bainville.

During a hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 12, the defense sought a motion to prohibit evidence obtained during a search. Panasuk is facing the charges of possession of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The hearing featured testimony from three Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice officers.

The arresting officer noted that Panasuk was stopped for not having trailer plates on May 19, 2021. He said it turned into a drug investigation based on information from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that Panasuk was dealing illegal narcotics on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

“You do that for every traffic stop?” public defender Chris White asked.

The officer answered, “Yes, if I have suspicions.” He said Panasuk seemed nervous during the stop.

The testimony included that there was a female passenger in the vehicle who told tribal officers that Panasuk had passed meth to her in the vehicle.

The vehicle was then driven by the arresting officer to the station because he said there wasn’t a wrecker available. After obtaining a search warrant, the meth was found on May 25 where the female passenger said that she put it.

Some of the evidence tape was cut prior to the search taking place.

During his closing argument, White noted that law enforcement needed a reason to extend the traffic stop for an hour and a half. He said it was an unlawful extension of a stop.

White added, “What purpose is there for evidence tape if it can just be cut open?”

County attorney Frank Piocos noted that there were three individuals in the vehicle that have drug use histories. Law enforcement had probable cause that drugs were in the vehicle.

When making his ruling, Cybulski said to Panasuk, “John, your problem is you’re a frequent flier.”

He added that Panasuk was nervous during the stop and has a history in the drug scene.

“The issue of the evidence tap is for the jury,” Cybulski said.

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