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Defense fights to have meth-related charges dropped

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Breaking up the biggest local methamphetamine ring ever and putting its members behind bars has posed few problems for the Shenandoah County commonwealth's attorney's office.

The case of Edinburg resident Joseph Daniel Foltz, 27, the last remaining defendant to be prosecuted among the first wave of men arrested last fall, however, remains on the Circuit Court docket as his attorneys fight what they believe is a violation of the law by the commonwealth.

According to a July 27 motion by Harrisonburg attorneys John Adams and Walter Green to dismiss the three meth-related charges Foltz is facing, two of four police interrogation tapes provided to them -- after months of trying to obtain the recordings -- were altered "so that the probative content has been eliminated" and the other two tapes were withheld altogether. Those actions violate a court order and Virginia Supreme Court rule, the motion states.

An expert provided a report to Adams and Green on July 9, a month after the commonwealth turned over the two tapes, which are from June and September of 2008. The expert found that approximately 20 minutes -- more than half -- of the audio and video content in one disk had been "purposefully cut" out and cannot be reviewed, the motion states.

The second disk could not be reviewed because it is inaudible.

"In short, the disk has no sound," the motion states.

Adams and Green conclude by stating that if all of their client's statements to police are not received, the charges should be dropped.

Commonwealth's Attorney Albert T. Mitchell said there have been some technical problems with getting the tapes made and then copied into the correct format for the defense. Despite that, he doesn't foresee the charges getting dismissed and anticipates that a plea agreement will be negotiated by the time Foltz returns to court Sept. 16.

"I think we'll be able to satisfactorily comply with the discovery order [for evidence]," Mitchell said.

Former Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Amy Tisinger submitted a statement of general information about the meth operation that details the involvement of most of the people who have been arrested. Foltz was never considered to be a "major" player in the ring, but he was closely involved with one of those men, Brad Strawderman.

Foltz would purchase Sudafed and get a half gram of meth in return from Strawderman, usually making the trade at George's Chicken LLC.

"Mr. Foltz advised that they would do an exchange just about every day," the document states. "Mr. Foltz advised that he started purchasing pills in approximately November 2007 and continued through at least July 2008.

When Foltz stole anhydrous ammonia from George's to help make meth, another co-defendant would stand watch, and if someone came, that man texted Foltz "5-0," Tisinger has said in court.

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