DA wants to reargue overturned drug conviction

By Ed Lewis - [email protected]
Parrish -

WILKES-BARRE — An attorney for a man whose drug trafficking conviction was recently overturned by a state appellate court is seeking his release from prison.

Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on a request by Public Defender Jonathan Blum to release 32-year-old Braemar Parrish.

But District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Friday her office will request to re-argue Parrish’s case.

The state Superior Court on May 9 overturned a jury’s verdict that convicted Parrish on several felony counts of drug trafficking after a trial in January 2016. Parrish was sentenced to three to six years in state prison.

He was arrested by Kingston police during a traffic stop on Market Street 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 was on the front passenger seat.

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

The driver of the vehicle, Pernell Riddick, 29, of Bethlehem, 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.

Blum appealed Parrish’s conviction to the Superior Court, which overturned the jury’s verdict and sentence in a 15-page ruling.

The appellate court found 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.

A felony weapons charge, firearms not to be possessed by a convict, against Parrish was held in abeyance — or made inactive — until the Superior Court issued the ruling. Blum is also seeking a court order to have Parrish found not guilty on the firearm offense as the appellate court ruled the handguns were located out of Parrish’s reach.

“A reading of the Superior Court’s unanimous opinion makes it clear that the issue of possession has been decided in (Parrish’s) favor, and that principles of law make it improper to try (Parrish) on the bifurcated charge,” Blum wrote in his motion.

Parrish is being held on a state parole violation due to the drug trafficking conviction.

Court records say Parrish, of Allentown, was sentenced for his role in a January 2003 homicide in that city. 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.


By Ed Lewis

[email protected]