The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 3, 2008

Drug charges fail the smell test

Powdery substance likely deodorant; suspect released

MANKATO — A Shakopee man arrested for drug possession after Lake Crystal police found 6 grams of a white powdery substance in his car was released from jail Wednesday.

It turns out it was likely just deodorant hidden in that deodorant container after all.

Cornelius F. Salonis, 31, was arrested for driving while intoxicated on Aug. 3 in Lake Crystal. He had been in jail since then because the officers who made the stop reported finding cocaine in the car.

A field test showed the substance, which was found in a deodorant container, was cocaine, said Richard Hillesheim, Salonis’ attorney. A more extensive Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension test, which was returned late last month, showed there were no illegal substances in the powder.

“We got the test results back, and it was deodorant,” Hillesheim said.

Salonis was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 15. Instead, after getting the BCA test results, prosecutors dismissed the felony drug charges Wednesday and allowed Salonis to plead guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.

He was sentenced to a year in jail. All but 90 days of the jail sentence was stayed, so Salonis was released. He’d already served 60 days and 30 days was taken off the sentence for good behavior.

“He didn’t suffer terribly,” Hillesheim said.

Salonis had told the officers he didn’t know why the deodorant container was in the car, and that he wasn’t aware of any drugs, Hillesheim said. Salonis had borrowed the car from someone else.

Pat McDermott, assistant Blue Earth County attorney, said it’s rare for someone to be arrested for drug possession, then have the substance turn out to be something else. He said he didn’t know if the drug test was done incorrectly or if the test was faulty.

The test did not show what the powder actually was, just that it wasn’t an illegal substance, said McDermott, who has been a prosecutor for 18 years.

“In all the years I have done this, this has only happened one other time,” he said.

Salonis could not be reached for comment.

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