A Mankato man, whose case was moved to federal court after he challenged a drug search in Blue Earth County District Court, has pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

A sentencing date has not been set for 30-year-old Marcus Devon Smith, said David Anderson, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in Minnesota. Smith is facing a maximum of 10 years in prison and U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim will decide the amount of time Smith will serve in federal prison at the time of sentencing.

Smith has been in federal custody since May, which is when the federal firearms charge was filed against him. The charge stems from Smith’s arrest in Mankato on Nov. 4, 2007, for felony drug possession charges.

About nine ounces of cocaine and three handguns were allegedly found in Smith’s apartment in the 1200 block of Eastport Drive on the day of his arrest, the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force reported. Agents with the task force searched his apartment after receiving a tip that Smith had a large amount of crack cocaine and was packaging it.

Smith was charged with drug possession and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Questions were later raised about the information provided by the informant who tipped off the task force. Smith’s attorney, Kasius Benson, also questioned how the information was used by the task force to obtain the warrant.

About two months after Benson filed a motion to dismiss the evidence from the search, Smith’s case was moved from Blue Earth County to federal court. Only the firearms charge was filed, however.

Once the case was moved, Benson also challenged the search evidence in federal court. He argued that drug agents didn’t tell the Blue Earth County judge who signed the search warrant that Smith had been in an argument with the informant the night before the informant went to police.

Another witness also testified that the informant, a female, admitted she hadn’t been at Smith’s house the day she claimed the drugs were there. Benson also said the search warrant should have included information about the informant’s criminal history.

Tunheim ruled in December that the evidence found during the search would be admissible. Smith entered his guilty plea during a 26-minute hearing before Tunheim last month.

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