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Judge says police unfairly ensnared addict

A judge has dismissed drug trafficking charges against a St. Petersburg man, saying police engaged in "outrageous" conduct to entrap the man into purchasing large amounts of morphine sulfate. Gregory D. Casler, 37, was accused of conspiracy to traffic in morphine and trafficking in morphine, both first-degree felonies.

But his attorney, Denis M. de Vlaming, accused St. Petersburg police of inducing Casler to buy a large quantity of morphine after a paid police informant supplied Casler with enough of the drug to addict him.

In a decision released Friday, Circuit Judge R. Grable Stoutamire agreed that police acted improperly.

Stoutamire pointed out that although Casler was known to be addicted to less powerful drugs, police had never suspected him of trafficking in morphine before his arrest in April 1987.

Only after their informant sold Casler his first sample of the potent morphine at a price well below street value did police become eager to "make a trafficking case" against Casler, Stoutamire wrote.

Casler became addicted to the drug "by virtue of being supplied with the morphine by the police agent," Stoutamire said.

Police then took advantage of Casler's desire for more of the drug by ensnaring him into an undercover operation aimed at encouraging him to buy larger amounts of morphine sulfate, he said.

"The undercover agent refused to sell (Casler) a small amount of the drug and even threatened to sell the entire quantity of the difficult-to-obtain substance in another geographic area, thus inducing Casler to buy a quantity of the drug large enough to qualify for a trafficking charge," Stoutamire wrote.

This, he concluded, "is outrageous police behavior."

Assistant State Attorney Richard A. Ripplinger said his office is

considering appealing Stoutamire's decision.

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