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September 9, 2013

Justices vacate Montreal woman's smuggling conviction

Retrial possible in drug case

PLATTSBURGH — The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to vacate a Montreal woman’s conviction of smuggling as much as $2.1 million in drugs.

Tara Haynes, 35, was arrested in June 2011 at the Champlain Port of Entry after authorities allegedly found Ecstasy, methamphetamine and a drug called Foxy Methoxy in 21 clear, vacuum-sealed bags hidden in the gas tank of the rental car she was driving.

In late 2011, a federal court trial jury convicted Haynes of possession with attempt to distribute a controlled substance and attempted importation of a controlled substance.

She was sentenced to almost 16 years in prison.

Attorney Marc Fernich submitted the appeal to the Second Circuit of the federal Court of Appeals in New York City.

“It’s being brought down for further proceedings to determine whether they’re going to retry the case or not,” said Lake Placid attorney Brian Barrett, who served as Haynes’s counsel for the three-day trial, which was decided by a jury of 11 women and one man.

“I had made numerous objections at trial ... to the procedures of evidence, and, although my objections were overruled by the lower court, the Circuit Court ultimately opined that there were a number of errors which merited for the conviction to be vacated.”

Barrett objected when one of the federal agents testified about seeing drugs in the vehicle and then gave information regarding the mechanics of the car, Barrett said.

He argued that only an expert witness should be required to speak to the specifics of the vehicle, but U.S. Circuit Court Judge Mae A. D’Agostino allowed the testimony.

Haynes has been in jail since her arrest, Barrett said.

Email Felicia Krieg: fkrieg@pressrepublican.comTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg

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