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Narcotics agents testify in tavern case

September 14, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - During a Board of License Commissioners for Washington County hearing Wednesday, Meda's Tavern Manager Melvin Staley was confronted with police accounts of at least five drug deals that happened in or around the East Franklin Street bar this summer.

Meda's Tavern faces charges that Staley allowed the bar to be used for drug use or drug deals and that the bar failed to maintain peace and quiet for the neighborhood, said John Salvatore, attorney for the liquor board.

Salvatore said the three-member board will decide within 30 days whether to fine Meda's Tavern, suspend its liquor license or revoke its liquor license based on the testimony Wednesday from Washington County Narcotics Task Force agents, Hagerstown Police Department Chief Arthur Smith and Staley.

"I've done everything I can" to stop the drug activity, Staley told the board, saying that he paid someone to inform him and "get the kingpin and all his cronies."

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After the hearing, Smith said, "I find that hard to believe. He never called us." Smith said the bar, which was closed at least two years ago on similar charges, is "not cooperative" with police.

Staley said he's kicked out about 50 suspicious customers in the last three months. He also installed video cameras to act as a deterrent, he said.

Agents testified that they used a confidential police informant on May 12, June 2, June 9 and twice on June 16 to make controlled buys of crack cocaine and marijuana. Agents testified that no one has been charged in connection with any of the sales, which are part of an ongoing undercover investigation.

In August, when the bar was closed as a result of a past liquor board ruling, "zero" drug deals or arrests were made in the East Franklin Street area, Agent David Fortson testified.

Agent Todd Webster showed the board and Staley video and audio footage of a June 2 deal at the bar. After watching the tape, Staley's attorney, Michael J. Schaefer, said "that didn't show anything of illegal nature, nor were any words spoken leading to the transaction."

Webster said the informant counted out the money and asked about tasting the drugs.

Fortson testified that one of the deals he supervised occurred "on the bar stools." On another occasion, a dealer stuffed plastic bags of crack in a cup that he carried on a tray with a slice of pizza, he testified.

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