MIDDLEFIELD -- It began as a simple traffic stop in Middlefield, and it quickly turned ugly as police searched a van based on information from an informant they admitted was "untrustworthy."
It was last October when Daniel Stovall, of Perry, was pulled over for going over the center line, although police dashcam video doesn't show that he did.
Within minutes, Middlefield police brought in Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland and his drug-sniffing dog, Midge. The K-9 searched the van and didn't find any drugs. Police wound up arresting Stovall for not having a driver's license. It's a minor misdemeanor.
"You can't arrest someone for not having a valid drivers license," said Jim Flaiz, the Geauga County Prosecutor.
Stovall called his arrest more than excessive. "I didn't pose any threat to the officers," he said.
Stovall was handcuffed, placed in the back of a squad car, and taken to the Geauga County jail, where sheriff's deputies and police had a difference of opinion about whether Stovall should be incarcerated for a minor misdemeanor.
Deputies refused to put Stovall behind bars, which the prosecutor says was the right decision.
While all this was happening, Middlefield Police Chief Arnold Stanko drove Stovall's van to a public location at the police station, where it was left unsecured for about an hour and a half.
"Leaving the vehicle unsecured is a huge evidentiary issue and that was not known by my office," Flaiz said.
Police searched the van again and, this time, they say they found some cocaine, which Stovall says had to be planted.
Police were relying on information from Stovall's co-worker whom he once slept with. The informant has a lengthy criminal record.
During a recent hearing, Chief Joseph Tucholski admitted in court that the source was "untrustworthy." Stovall says his co-worker had access to the van on the day of his arrest and also on the day before.
Tucholski was a lieutenant at the time of the arrest. He is seen on dashcam doing a pat-down search of Stovall and he is also the one who handcuffed Stovall. He intially denied making the arrest when questioned by Channel 3 News Investigator Tom Meyer.
When asked how he could arrest someone based on information from a suspect source, Tucholski refused to comment. He also said he was merely following Chief Stanko's orders.
Geauga County Judge David L. Fuhry decided to suppress the evidence this month for a number of reasons. He cited the use of an untrustworthy source, the unsecured van, and the failure of the K-9 to detect any drugs.
Flaiz said he had no choice but to dismiss drug charges against Stovall.
Tuholski admitted to Channel 3 News that police made mistakes and said the type of mistakes they made "happen all the time around the country."
He insists that police didn't act maliciously. Stovall says it's been an eight-month ordeal and he's been struggling to get his life back in order.
Chief Tucholski declined to apologize to Stovall.
Stovall believes his civil rights were violated and says police need to be held accountable for their actions.