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Dogpatch Tavern owner acquitted

March 03, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Dogpatch Tavern owner Donald Lee Eavey Jr. on Tuesday was acquitted on two charges of permitting drug activity at his U.S. 40 bar.

Eavey, 49, of Heather Drive in Huyetts, had been charged with maintaining or keeping a common nuisance for use in administering cocaine and marijuana after an August 2003 search of the bar resulted in eight drug arrests.

Testimony came from an undercover police informant, a Washington County Narcotics Task Force agent, Eavey's estranged wife, Eavey and some regular customers at the bar on U.S. 40 near the Frederick County, Md., line.

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A jury of eight men and four women deliberated for a little more than 30 minutes before returning with the two not-guilty verdicts Tuesday afternoon.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III instructed the jury that finding Eavey guilty of the charges would mean they believed Eavey, who has owned the bar since December 1998, had knowledge that drug use and dealings occurred in his establishment and allowed the activity to continue during August 2003 when an undercover police investigation ensued.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson on Tuesday called to the stand a confidential police informant, who testified that he bought cocaine three times last summer from a man who he said lived above the tavern.

The informant testified that he saw patrons smoking marijuana on the first-floor balcony of the porch during one of his visits. He testified that Eavey was sitting 15 feet from the smokers at the time.

Eavey later testified that he never saw anyone use drugs at the bar and had no knowledge of drug activity there.

Regular customers testified that Eavey frequently scanned the establishment for trouble and had no tolerance for drugs.

"For him today to say 'I never smelled it, I never saw it' ... well, it's incredible and it should not be believed," Wilson said.

Eavey's estranged wife, Judy Eavey, who said she helped finance the purchase of the bar with her house's mortgage, testified that while she worked at the bar she had on at least one occasion kicked down a bathroom door on the suspicion that drugs were being used inside. She testified that she has wiped cocaine off the back of a sink on at least one occasion.

Donald Eavey testified he knocked down a bathroom door once on a similar hunch and discovered three women behind it, but found no suspicious activity.

Judy Eavey, who said her marriage to Eavey dissolved in January 2002, testified that she went to the drug task force in October 2002 to inform them of drug activity at the bar.

John Salvatore, Donald Eavey's defense attorney, told jurors that a bar owner cannot be expected to be everywhere at once. He said a search of any other local bar on a weekend night might yield the same number of drug arrests.

"I know there's a war on drugs, but there's not a war on business people," he said.

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