Judge Jean Dandona found, at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing on Thursday, January 7, that there was probable cause to believe defense attorney Alan Karow committed two felonies involving drugs, and enough evidence to hold a trial. The felony charges are transportation of heroin and possession of heroin.
Deputy District Attorney Margaret O’Mally threw the book at Karow: In addition to the felony counts that were the subject of the prelim, she charged Karow with lesser counts of being under the influence of heroin, possession of narcotics paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance (lorazepam) without a prescription, driving under the influence of drugs, and driving while addicted.
At the time of his arrest, the defendant had already been under surveillance for a couple of weeks, according to Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Detective Neil Gowing, and a number of officers had been monitoring his activity in the hours before he was taken into custody. Gowing, the first and only witness to testify in the short preliminary hearing, said he and Det. Brad Welch followed Karow by car after an alleged hand-to-hand drug purchase from dealer Dean Mull, at Mull’s residence off 9th Street in Carpinteria.
Mull reportedly walked down his driveway, made the drug exchange, and went back into his residence. Gowing and Welch followed Karow for about three blocks before Karow pulled over to the curb. The officers parked behind the defendant’s car and approached it from both sides, during which time Karow appeared to be looking down. “Once we got to the vehicle he had seen us and seemed startled,” said Gowing, who proceeded to explain that he eventually hit the passenger’s side window as a distraction, allowing Welch to stop Karow, who was revving his engine and “frantically trying to put the car in drive.” When asked to put his hands up, Karow did not do so, and had to be physically removed from his vehicle, Gowing testified. Karow’s attorney, Robert Landheer, in his questioning, suggested the detectives were too rash and startled Karow, and did not give him enough time to respond to their requests.
In his testimony, Gowing explained that when he and his fellow detective approached the vehicle, Karow had tin foil in his lap, a lighter in one hand, and a straw in the other — tools that are part of a drug use method that Gowing stated to be “generally specific to heroin.” The detective also confirmed that he saw a clear plastic bindle containing heroin. Once Det. Welsh pulled him from the car, Karow was asked about the quantity of drugs he purchased, and he replied that he bought one gram. Later, a closer examination showed the bindle of black tar heroin allegedly in Karow’s possession was untied (a sign that it had been used), and the tin foil had burn marks on the bottom, also suggesting drug use.
Prescription pills were found in Karow’s jacket pocket, Gowing said, but he didn’t elaborate. Karow was then taken into custody, where he was interviewed at the Carpinteria Sheriff’s Station by Welch and Gowing, and consented to a search of his home — a search that turned up no more drugs.
Karow, who has been out on bail since December 22, 2008, is next scheduled to appear in court February 25.