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Dave Roepke, Published December 27 2010

Where Are They Now?: Drug conviction sticks for former Dragon

About this series

The holidays are when we remember years gone by and the memories they bring, both good and bad. Every day until Dec. 31, Forum writers will revisit stories from the past and the lives of those who told them.

After a Cass County jury acquitted him on a murder charge in April 2007, Deandre Buchanan said he was relishing his freedom after being released from jail.

“Just to get out of there, just to walk outside without any handcuffs or chains or anything like that, it’s just kind of like getting my life back and getting another opportunity to do the things I need to do,” Buchanan told The Forum at the time.

The murder count the ex-member of the Minnesota State University Moorhead basketball team faced stemmed from a fatal shooting he argued was an accident. It was the second time Buchanan faced a felony in Fargo-Moorhead and avoided conviction.

He’d been charged with 16 felonies in 2004, linked to an armed home invasion in Moorhead. The charges were dropped months later when witnesses changed their statements.

After the Cass County jury acquittal, he said he was returning to his hometown of Madison, Wis., and his profile on Facebook lists Madison as where he’s now living.

Back home in Wisconsin, the arrests of Buchanan in Moorhead and Fargo had a role in his conviction for felony marijuana delivery.

According to court records, Buchanan pleaded no contest to possessing THC with intent to deliver on June 26, 2009, receiving two years of probation for the “I” felony – the lowest-level felony in Wisconsin.

Buchanan, 27, didn’t return messages seeking comment, but his appeal of the case shows a police search that discovered the marijuana in his vehicle on March 4, 2009, was performed in part due to the arrests for which he was cleared in the Fargo area.

In the appeal of the conviction affirmed on Aug. 10 by the state’s Court of Appeals, Buchanan argued that the state trooper who arrested him in the March 4, 2009, traffic stop should not have been able to use his arrest record in Moorhead and Fargo as part of his justification for conducting a search of Buchanan’s car.

The trooper didn’t have access to records showing if the arrests had produced convictions, according to appellate court records.

“This is essentially a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ situation,” said the defense attorney for Buchanan, Tyler Wickman.

The trooper testified in a suppression hearing that he was concerned about Buchanan possibly being armed because he’d been arrested for murder, armed robbery and false imprisonment. He also said that Buchanan acted nervous, had an earlier Wisconsin drug charge pending and had appeared to put something under the car’s seat.

In response to arguments made by Buchanan’s attorney, an assistant attorney general argued that the arrests were part of the reason the trooper had ample reason to suspect there might have been a firearm in Buchanan’s vehicle.

“It was a ‘make sure you don’t get shot first and ask questions later’ situation,” Thomas Balistreri said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535