After five years in jail for meth,
attorney attempts new legal ploy

A local attorney who served five years in state prison for his part in a large-scale methamphetamine ring is hoping to use two recent state and federal supreme court cases to overturn his 2004 conviction.

Robert P. Moran, 56, who practiced in Rome, appeared before County Court Judge John S. Balzano Tuesday to argue that the GPS tracker used by law enforcers without a warrant during his case violated his Constitutional protection against unreasonable searches.

Moran’s argument relies on a New York State Supreme Court decision from 2009, and a U.S. Supreme Court decision from January, both of which ruled that using a GPS tracker requires a warrant.

"When those rulings came down, he realized it vindicated his position," said Moran’s attorney, Mark Curley. "You can ask that the law be retroactively applied to your case."

Authorities had been investigating Moran and several other individuals as part of a methamphetamine distribution ring from June to Aug. 2003. Moran was accused of flying to Arizona and returning to Rome with the drugs. More than a pound of methamphetamine, worth $50,000, was located when police raided his Lee residence and law offices on Black River Boulevard on Aug. 17, 2003.

Moran pleaded guilty to third-degree possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony, on April 27, 2004. He was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison, but a change in the Rockefeller-era drug laws in 2009 reduced his sentence to only six years. Moran was released early for good behavior in October 2009.

Moran also faced federal charges related to the methamphetamine ring. Curley said they are seeking to dismiss only the state charges from Moran’s record. The federal charges and sentence would remain.

At the heart of the new argument is the fact that law enforcers secretly tracked Moran’s movements by planting a GPS device on his car. They tracked a trip from New York to Connecticut on July 29 and 30, 2003. The investigators did not use a warrant.

"The issue of whether placing a global positioning system tracking device on someone’s car really hadn’t been decided by the courts," during Moran’s case in 2004, said Curley. GPS tracking was still a new technology. Moran motioned during his case to suppress the GPS evidence, but County Court Judge Michael E. Daley denied the motion at the time.

Assistant District Attorney Steven Cox is arguing against Moran’s case. Judge Balzano reserved his decision on the matter to a later date. Curley said it may take several months for Judge Balzano to reach a decision.