A disbarred lawyer who lost an appeal to have his meth convictions thrown out expressed no bitterness at the ruling. Instead, Rand Csehy took the opportunity to thank the judge and district attorney who intervened in his “out-of-control life.”
The state Court of Appeals ruled Friday that, although a judge improperly ordered Csehy to submit to a urine test in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, there was probable cause to issue a warrant for subsequent blood tests that formed the basis for his conviction.
Csehy, who was a Fulton County drug prosecutor before he entered private practice as a criminal defense lawyer, was sentenced to six years of probation in 2015 after a bench trial before Cobb County Superior Court Judge A. Gregory Poole.
That was the same year Csehy, 47, was stripped of his law license by the Georgia Supreme Court.
The opinion upholding Csehy’s conviction was written by Judge Elizabeth Gobeil with the concurrence of Judge Charlie Bethel and Presiding Judge John Ellington.
In an email, Csehy said he had not yet read the decision but thanked his attorney, Atlanta solo Daniel Kane, “for being a zealous advocate and a devoted, selfless friend who refused to abandon me even when I no doubt deserved it.”
Csehy also thanked his ex-wife, attorney Gayle Abramson, for her support.
Csehy said he had decided that, no matter the outcome of the appeal, he wanted to issue a statement.
“I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for the damage I caused to my family, friends, clients and the legal community at large,” Csehy said. “I awake every day with the knowledge that I hurt and betrayed those who loved me and put their faith in me. On the other hand, I am grateful to Judge [Adele] Grubbs, the court and the district attorney for intervening in my out-of-control life which has resulted in me cleaning up, becoming a better father and, I hope, a better person.
“This decision changes nothing insofar as I am concerned with regard to how I intend to live the rest of my life—and hopefully earn each day that I’ve been given,” Csehy said.
Apprised of Csehy’s comments, Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said he was pleasantly surprised.
“One of the things this job has taught me is that a lot of time decent people do some bad things, often because of substance issues,” Reynolds said.
“It looks like Rand wrestled with some demons, and I hope he turns his life around and becomes a viable member of society,” he said.
As detailed in the appellate order and prior reporting by the Daily Report, Csehy first ran afoul of the law in 2012 when he was arrested by Atlanta police and charged with possession of ecstasy and meth, as well as possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Csehy pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years’ probation in 2014.
He was under investigation by the State Bar of Georgia that year when he appeared in Cobb Superior Court to represent a criminal defendant.
Prior to the trial, now-Senior Judge Grubbs “observed that Csehy was unable to stand without leaning on something, he was sweating profusely, and his eyes were bloodshot,” the appellate court reported.
Grubbs ordered Csehy to go with a deputy to have a urine test, cutting off his protestations and saying, “You need to go with the deputy.”
Later that day, Grubbs again called Csehy to the bench and said his urine tested positive for cocaine and meth.
Csehy said the test must be wrong, but Grubbs said he was “in no shape to try a case” and sentenced him to five days in jail for contempt of court.
The next day, Reynolds got a warrant for Csehy’s blood. The application noted the urine test results and Grubbs’ comments. It included an affidavit from a Cobb prosecutor who had been on an elevator with Csehy the day before and noted that he “had a flushed face and watery eyes that [were] unusually wide open.”
Csehy was taken from his jail cell to a hospital for a blood draw, which came back positive for meth.
Reynolds indicted Csehy for possession of meth and a cocaine metabolite. He was granted bond, on the condition that he submit to random drug tests.
Over the course of the next few months, Csehy’s blood tested positive for meth four times. Reynolds dropped the original charges and instead indicted him for four counts of possession of meth.
Csehy’s lawyer, Kane, argued that the tests should be suppressed because they all stemmed from Grubbs’ court-ordered urine test, which he said violated his Fourth Amendment rights and were thus “fruits of the poisonous tree.”
Following a hearing, Poole declined to suppress the test, even though he found that “Csehy did not consent to the urine test and that the warrantless test was not justified by exigent circumstances,” the opinion said.
“Nevertheless, the court concluded that the urine test did not violate Csehy’s Fourth Amendment rights,” Gobeil wrote.
She quoted Poole’s ruling that Grubbs had “‘acted within the inherent powers of the judiciary. The test was not sought to further a criminal investigation; rather, it was to determine whether the conduct of defendant before the court violated the rules of the court and impeded the administration of justice.’”
Poole “further found that even in the absence of the results of the urine test, probable cause supported the issuance of the search warrant for Csehy’s blood.”
Csehy agreed to a “stipulated bench trial” on two counts, during which he and the prosecution agreed on the facts of the case but which allowed him to retain his right to appeal.
Poole found Csehy guilty on both counts and sentenced him to six years of probation.
In upholding the convictions, Gobeil first took up the Fourth Amendment claims.
“[T]he State argues that a judge seeking to preserve order, administer justice, or control the conduct of the court’s officers and proceedings has the inherent authority to order a Fourth Amendment search even in the absence of a warrant or any of the well-established exceptions to the warrant requirement,” she wrote.
But, while there are instances when a warrant may not be required, “a court may not order a warrantless Fourth Amendment search that does not otherwise fall within one of the well-established exceptions to the warrant requirement,” Gobeil wrote.
“[G]iven the trial court’s unchallenged finding that the search did not fall within an exception to the warrant requirement, we find that Csehy’s court-ordered urine test constituted an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment.
As to the validity of the warrant authorizing the blood test, Gobeil said the supporting affidavit “could be described as somewhat thin.”
Nonetheless, she said, “the affidavit demonstrated that Csehy was exhibiting a wide range and number of symptoms, all of which were consistent with the use of illegal substances.”
“Applying the deferential standard of review owed a magistrate’s findings of probable cause, we find that these circumstances, taken together with the number and range of Csehy’s physical manifestations suggestive of drug use as set forth in the affidavit … we must conclude that the magistrate had a substantial basis for finding probable cause in this case.”