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CAMDEN – When a parole officer came to his door in April 2013, Kelvin Reyes allowed a search team to check his home for a wanted relative, a court ruling said Monday.

But after looking through the first and second floors, an investigator opened a door to the basement stairs — and Reyes’ cooperation ended, the decision said.

“He suddenly withdrew his consent to the search and insisted (the parole officer) would need a search warrant to proceed downstairs,” it noted.

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The reason for Reyes’ concern: The basement held more than 300 marijuana plants, according to an appeals court that upheld the Camden man’s conviction on a drug-distribution charge.

Reyes. 39, pleaded guilty and received a 10-year prison term in October 2014 after Superior Court Judge Gwendolyn Blue denied his motion to suppress evidence.

He was released in October 2016, but continued to fight the conviction.

According to the ruling, parole officer Anthony Bruno testified Reyes’ home “reeked of burnt marijuana.”

“Reyes admitted he had recently smoked marijuana, but Bruno assured Reyes that his purpose was to find the fugitive,” the ruling said.

At a suppression hearing, Reyes argued the search of his basement was unlawful because he had withdrawn consent. He presented a witness who said the stairs took a 90-degree turn, so the marijuana could only be seen by someone who descended “at least halfway down.”

Bruno asserted another officer, parole Sgt. Dave Brooks, became aware of the marijuana-growing operation when he briefly opened the basement door before Reyes’ objection.

The appellate panel backed Blue, who determined Brooks “detected the presence of marijuana plants before (Reyes) withdrew his consent.”

The two-judge panel said Brooks “did not need to see the plants to conclude a grow facility was present.”

It contended Brooks’ observation “could well have been based on the glow of the bright lights that illuminated the basement to mimic sunlight and on the detectable odor of 307 marijuana plants.”

The ruling said officers conducted a “protective sweep” of the basement despite the lack of consent to confirm no one was hiding there.

Officers then obtained a search warrant and seized the marijuana plants.

Jim Walsh; (856) 486-2646; jwalsh@gannettnj.com

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