Superior Court overturns drug conviction stemming from Kingston stop

By Ed Lewis - [email protected]
Parrish -

Where he was sitting when police found a cache of drugs and two handguns was significant for a man whose conviction has been overturned on appeal.

Braemar Parrish, 32, was a passenger in a Lincoln stopped on Market Street in Kingston for having excessive window tint on April 7, 2014.

During the stop, police noted Parrish, who stands 5 feet 11 inches and weighs 270 pounds, was seated in the rear behind the driver’s seat while a duffel bag filled with 250 heroin packets, loose heroin, packaged bags of methamphetamine, two scales and packaging materials were found on the front passenger seat.

Police also found a loaded .40-caliber handgun under the front passenger seat and a .45-caliber handgun in the console.

Parrish, of Allentown, was convicted by a Luzerne County jury on several felony counts of drug trafficking and two counts of illegally possessing a firearm after a trial before Judge Tina Polachek Gartley in January 2016.

Polachek Gartley sentenced Parrish to three to six years in state prison in March 2016. The judge also upheld the conviction and denied Parrish a new trial on a direct appeal.

Parrish, through the county Public Defender’s Office, challenged the conviction and sentencing with the state Superior Court, claiming there was insufficient evidence and misleading expert testimony during the trial.

Parrish claimed he did not know the duffel bag was filled with heroin and meth and was not aware there were two handguns inside the vehicle.

A three-member panel of the Superior Court sided with Parrish’s argument by overturning his conviction and sentence in a 15-page ruling issued May 9.

A police officer testified that he saw the Lincoln rocking back and forth before he approached the vehicle. When the officer made contact with driver Pernell Riddick, 29, of Bethlehem, he noted he was leaning toward the front passenger seat and Parrish was seated behind the driver’s seat.

The appellate court found that it would have been impossible, due to Parrish’s body size, to climb from the front seat to the rear seat in the short time it took the officer to reach the vehicle.

“Following our review of the evidence, we fail to see how the jury could reasonably infer that (Parrish) had knowledge of the contraband in the black bag located in the front row of the vehicle, let alone exercise dominion and control over its contents,” the Superior Court wrote, noting a witness testified Parrish was not carrying a bag when he entered the Lincoln.

The appellate court further noted a handgun in the vehicle’s console and another gun under the front passenger seat were not in direct reach of Parrish.

Court records say Parrish is serving a state prison term for a January 2003 homicide in Allentown. He has been released on parole several times only to be recommitted to prison for violations, according to records from the state Department of Corrections.

Parrish was on parole when Kingston police conducted the traffic stop in April 2014.

Riddick pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and a single count of firearms not to be carried without a license. He was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison.


By Ed Lewis

[email protected]