Two men charged and detained for nearly a month after a raid on an Old Goucher corner store were released Wednesday after lab tests found 29 pounds of alleged fentanyl and morphine that authorities seized weren’t actually fentanyl or morphine at all.
Prosecutors dropped narcotics possession and other charges against Ahmed Alraohani, 49, and Sharif Shaibi, 22, on Wednesday, court records show. Defense attorney Alex Leikus, who represented Alraohani, told Baltimore Fishbowl he and John Hammann, Shaibi’s attorney, learned from a prosecutor in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office on Tuesday that preliminary lab results on the alleged narcotics came back negative for drugs. Their clients were released from pretrial detention after a court hearing yesterday.
“Charges were dropped because the stuff wasn’t drugs,” Leikus said. “My client was almost 50 years old, he had no record, he was working at the store, and he just gets arrested.”
Police raided the store on Dec. 5 and had told news outlets they recovered more than 16 pounds of fentanyl and another 13 pounds or so of morphine from Charles Village Discount, located at the corner of N. Charles and E. 22nd streets. Alraohani and Shaibi had been using the corner mart as a front to move narcotics, according to police.
Search and Seizure warrant executed at location and large amount of the highly dangerous drug, Fentanyl (suspected), recovered. @BaltimorePolice and @BaltimoreFire still on scene. https://t.co/e056wcAjTc
— T.J. Smith (@TJSmithSocial) December 5, 2017
Police did recover large amounts of powder — it’s unclear exactly what at this point — as well as other paraphernalia. A statement of charges given to The Sun‘s Kevin Rector said they found “glass vials, plastic tubes, small containers, gelatin capsules, ziplock bags, and false bottomed containers, under circumstances which reasonably indicate an intention to use the controlled paraphernalia for purposes of illegally administering a controlled substance.”
Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Melba Saunders confirmed that lab results indicated the seized powders were not controlled dangerous substances. Asked for details on what the powders were, she deferred to city police.
Police chief spokesman T.J. Smith said on a phone call that they’re still pursuing the case.
“We believe that there is still illegal activity that we’re following up on,” he said.
Alraohani and Shaibi, who live in Northeast Baltimore’s Hamilton Hills neighborhood, were detained for nearly a month without bail due to the nature of the charges.
Under a rule change to Maryland’s cash bail system that took effect last summer, judges are required to impose the “least onerous” conditions possible on defendants who aren’t considered a flight risk or danger to their community, rather than set bail as they see fit. However, those determined by a judge to be “dangerous” can be held without bail.
Leikus supports the rule change, but said the language allows judges to arbitrarily detain defendants if the charges imply danger. The wording was poorly applied for Alraohani, he said.
“They weren’t going anywhere. They’re American citizens. They have a family. They’re not running,” Leikus said of Alraohani and Shaibi. “Who determines who’s dangerous? The automatic finding of no bail…it’s not fair.”
This story has been updated with comment from the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.