Drug trial to go forward for urologist

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK St. Clairsville urologist Rodney Lee Curtis appeared at an evidence suppression hearing Thursday. The evidence was ruled admissible and his trial will go forward Jan. 25

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The trial of Dr. Rodney Lee Curtis, St. Clairsville urologist, remains set for Jan. 25 after an evidence suppression hearing Thursday, wherein Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato ruled evidence gained from a search of Curtis’ home admissible.

Curtis, 64, of St. Clairsville, faces three counts of drug trafficking and two counts of possession of drugs. The crimes allegedly took place April 26. Investigators said they occurred outside the scope of his medical practice, and there is no evidence his practice facilitated the crimes. However, the alleged drug transactions took place at his residence, resulting in a forfeiture specification on the property.

Curtis currently works with two local hospitals.

The Thursday hearing included lengthy recordings from an informant utilized by the Belmont County Major Crimes Unit in an attempt to make controlled drug buys from Curtis. Curtis’ defense attorney, Aaron Miller, challenged the credibility of the informant, adding that the information gathered during those occurrences contributed to the search by law enforcement of Curtis’ home.

Fregiato ruled that law enforcement had sufficient reason to execute the search.

“Requiring police to present underlying facts and circumstances does not mean police must be experts in the minutia of probable cause theory. Courts have consistently stressed flexibility and common sense when evaluating the information presented by police,” Fregiato said.

“We deal with probabilities in this kind of situation,” he said. “They are the the factual and practical considerations of everything upon which reasonable and prudent men and women, not legal technicians, act. … Reliable information obtained through credible informants suffices to establish probable cause. There must be a substantial basis for believing the source of the hearsay to be credible, and that there is a factual basis for the information furnished. The officer who prepared the affidavit and the reviewing county court judge who issued the arrest warrant based on that affidavit were not relying merely upon hearsay of the confidential informant.”

Fregiato said the investigation included verified and controlled telephone conversations and buys.

“That’s upon which the officer relied. That’s upon which the county court judge relied. There were numerous safeguards in place to make certain, it almost made it irrelevant whether the confidential informant was reliable or dependable,” Fregiato said. “Safeguards, multiple ones, were in place.”