Defense argues deputy made illegal stop before arrest

- Accusations of lies and hiding evidence flew in a Tampa courtroom Monday during proceedings surrounding the legality of a drug-related arrest. 

A now-undercover Hillsborough County deputy took the witness stand Monday. He arrested Joel Quinones for having a small amount of marijuana.

Quinones' attorney, Ralph Fernandez said the deputy had no probably cause for pulling his client over before making that arrest.

Fernandez used catnip to demonstrate in court Monday, saying, "we just weighed this. It's 0.9 grams and that's the reason he's here after coming back from Iraq, right?" Fernandez asked the deputy.

The deputy responded, "that's not the reason and that's not the actual evidence, so I'm not going to testify to your catnip, sir."

Fernandez claimed the traffic stop that led to his client's arrest was not legal, adding the deputy had no probably cause - or reason to pull him over. 

Fernandez said Quinones was not speeding or breaking any traffic laws. 

During court, the deputy said something not often heard from someone in his position.

"I have nothing to hide, sir. Sometimes we watch places that are associated with criminal activity. We have active, on-going investigations regarding those places. I was watching one of those places and your client was observed coming from one of those places, so a pre-textual stop is how it came about," the undercover deputy explained.

The deputy admitted he pulled Quinones over because he saw him leaving a smoke shop and assumed he was up to no good. Later, he seemed to want to clarify his statement.

"But the investigation, I was not lying to you, the investigation did not begin until I established the probable cause on him and conducted the traffic stop," the deputy explained.

Fernandez responded, "so now you're modifying the statements spontaneously made that, this was a pre-textual stop? You know what a pre-textual stop is? Find a pretext to stop somebody."

The deputy also told prosecutors there were no text messages involved in this case, but the defense found out that was not true. The deputy then explained he didn't understand what the defense was and the judge believed him, so the deputy will not face any sanctions.

Quinones' legal team is evaluating its next move.

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