October 21, 2005, 8:39 AM EDT
WEST HAVEN, Conn. -- It might have been the biggest pot bust in West Haven history, but the case against three Vietnamese immigrants has fallen apart because of questions about a search.
The three were arrested in December 2003 after officers allegedly found $4 million worth of marijuana growing in their homes.
But prosecutors on Thursday dismissed all charges against Meng Le, 51, and accepted pleas to reduced charges from Thu Dang, 43, and her husband, Tam Ha, 31.
Milford Superior Court Judge John J. Ronan said police testimony raised serious questions about whether Dang and Le consented to have their homes searched.
Police testified that they asked to search the homes because of anonymous 911 calls alleging that Dang was stealing electricity in her basement. West Haven Detective David Howard said Dang allowed officers inside.
But Ha's defense attorney, Dan Lyons, said there were questions about whether the calls were grounds to ask for a search and whether Dang, who needs an interpreter, understood the officers.
And Le's attorney said it was a contradiction for officers to seek search warrants if they had already received consent to search the homes.
Howard testified that he had consent forms but never asked Dang and Le to sign them.
"It challenged the concept of common sense to say we had consent but we got warrants," said attorney Hugh Keefe. "Their own testimony was blatantly contradictory and, frankly, difficult to believe."
Dang and Ha each pleaded guilty Thursday to a single charge of possession of more than four ounces of marijuana. Dang was given a five-year suspended sentence and Ha was sentenced to a year in jail.
The three originally faced 18 drug-related charges, including two counts each of operating a drug factory. Officers say they found 43 plants and sophisticated growing equipment in the home