Elko Man Convicted; Stashed Drugs in Squad Car

ELKO, Nev. (AP) - An Elko man who stashed $40,000 worth of methamphetamine under the front seat of a rookie police officer's patrol car has been convicted of drug charges.

Already in prison on unrelated drug charges, Matthew James Ritter faces an additional 10 years to life when sentenced at a later date.

An Elko County jury convicted him Thursday.

Ritter, 29, was arrested March 12, 2006. During the pat-down, then-rookie officer Michael Marshowsky failed to detect a large baggie that contained more than three-quarters of a pound of meth.

The handcuffed Ritter somehow was able to remove the bag from his pants and kick it under the front seat of Marshowsky's squad car as he was being taken to jail.

At the jail, Ritter started a confrontation with the jailer, which prompted Marshowsky to stop his routine inspection of his vehicle and go to the jailer's aid, authorities said.

Marshowsky didn't resume the search of his car and the meth was not found until the next day.

That night, authorities said Ritter was spotted at the Elko Police Department's secure parking lot, apparently looking to retrieve the drugs from the car.

DNA evidence found on the baggie was marginally linked to Ritter - but not enough to say with certainty he had handled the bag, authorities said.

However, it was not consistent with any of the five officers or two maintenance workers who had access to the cruiser. No other prisoners were transported in the car between Ritter's initial arrest on a warrant and the discovery of the dope, authorities said.

During his closing argument, defense attorney Victor Buritsky said Marshowsky's failure to find the drugs when he frisked Ritter was unacceptable.

"My client is not Harry Houdini or even Harry Potter," he said.

But Deputy District Attorney Troy Jordan, in his rebuttal, reminded jurors Ritter was the only person transported in the patrol car.

The jury returned a verdict within an hour of getting the case.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)