A New York man arrested on Dec. 23 in one of the biggest drug busts in recent Capitol Police history had his case dismissed in January, when the government failed to produce a witness.
Police found 60 blue oxycodone pills, along with drug paraphernalia and cash, during a search-and-arrest initiated two days before Christmas — in broad daylight on an empty Capitol campus — when the man drove up to the South Barricade in a gray Honda Civic. Dennis A. Silva, 25, was charged with possession with intent to distribute what appeared to be prescription narcotics, a felony punishable with up to 30 years in prison. At a preliminary hearing on Jan. 16, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Little appeared in the courtroom on behalf of the prosecution, but the government was not ready with a witness, according to court documents. D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Frederick Sullivan granted a motion from Silva's attorney to dismiss the case for want of prosecution.
According to sources familiar with the case, the Capitol Police officer who responded to the scene was not notified by the department of the court date. Documents show it was rescheduled, after initially being set for Jan. 13.
But Silva is not off the hook, as it appears charges could be refiled.
Capitol Police referred questions about the case to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which was reportedly involved in the investigation. DEA Special Agent Laura Harris, of the D.C. division, did not provide further information.
"The investigation is continuing in this matter and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has no comment at this time," spokesman Bill Miller wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call.
The drug bust was something of a fluke.
Silva attracted the attention of Capitol Police Officer Alexander Rys shortly before 1 p.m., when he drove his Civic past an "Authorized Personnel Only" sign at the South Barricade of the Capitol. Rys approached the vehicle, bearing Florida plates, and asked Silva whether he saw the signs before entering the area.
Silva said he "thought it was a no photo sign," according to the officer's sworn statement.
Seeing no congressional parking sticker, Rys asked Silva for his license. Silva handed over an expired New York State motorcycle learners permit, and he was placed under arrest after a search revealed his New York driver's license was suspended and he had no valid permit.
During the arrest, Rys discovered two small blue plastic bags in Silva's second layer of pants. One bag contained pills of different colors and the other contained two white pills. Silva told the officer the pills were his prescribed medication, but allegedly could not tell him the names of the pills. According to the report, a field test conducted on one of the pills tested positive for MDMA, also known as Molly or Ecstasy.
Police confiscated the vehicle until a search warrant could be obtained "due to the large quantity of drug paraphernalia, pills and cash that were found in the vehicle," the report states. Inside a black and blue backpack, police found 60 blue pills, determined to be oxycodone.
One of the lawmakers leading the charge against prescription drug abuse on the Hill, Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., said the arrest is one example of a "national epidemic."
"The number of people dying from overdoses has now exceeded the number of people that die from automobile accidents in this country," Keating said. "In my home state of Massachusetts, it's approaching three people every single day."
Keating partnered with Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., co-founder of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, in the 113th Congress to introduce a bill that would require the Food and Drug Administration to refuse to approve any new pharmaceuticals that use formulas resistant to tampering. He said the measure would "put one tool in the toolbox so that people can't melt or crush those drugs."
Keating, who prosecuted crimes as district attorney for 12 years prior to joining Congress in 2011, suspects the Capitol drug bust was probably dismissed without prejudice so prosecutors could bring it up again with more evidence. He was not familiar with the specific details of the incident.
"As with any case, you have to have the evidence to deal with it," he said.
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