Surry County man freed, appeal successful

By Terri Flagg -

DOBSON — An overturned conviction has freed a Pilot Mountain man after more than a year in jail.

John Lee Styers, 60, of, Scooter Trail, was facing multiple drug and theft charges in June 2015. His attorney filed a motion to suppress evidence, and when that was denied, he pleaded guilty on June 10, 2015.

Those charges were felonious possession of stolen goods, misdemeanor possession of stolen goods, attempt to traffic methamphetamine, one count each of possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine and marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He had been imprisoned for consecutive terms of one year and seven months to one year eleven months followed by eight to ten months, with a projected release date of July 20, 2017, according to information found of the N.C. Department of Public Safety website.

Styers appealed the suppression denial, arguing that a search warrant that led to law enforcement’s discovery of evidence was “overbroad and not supported by probable cause,” as stated in the unpublished N.C. Court of Appeals opinion filed July 19.

Background information included in that document indicates that deputies first searched Styers’ home with consent after receiving information that he was in possession of stolen goods or property.

After finding two items on the property that had been previously reported stolen, including a Harley Davidson motorcycle, the officers obtained a search warrant to find Harley Davidson jacket and chaps that had been reported stolen along with the vehicle as well as “books, records, receipts, notes, ledgers, and other papers relating to the stolen motorcycle” inside the residence.

While executing that search warrant, the officers found a tin box under the defendant’s pillow, inside of which they discovered quantities of prohibited controlled substances.

The Court of Appeals did not find sufficient probable cause for the officers to search the residence for paperwork associated with the motorcycle.

“Because the portion of the warrant for papers related to the motorcycle was not valid, the trial court should have suppressed the evidence that was uncovered during the execution of that warrant,” the opinion states, including the tin can and the controlled substances it contained.

“No other object listed on the search warrant would have plausibly been stored in a small tin can.”

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of the motion to suppress with respect to the paperwork, and vacated the corresponding judgments.

The higher court did find sufficient probable cause to search the premises for the chaps and motorcycle jacket.


Styers appeared in Superior Court on Aug. 29 for a resentencing hearing on the charges of felony possession of stolen goods misdemeanor possession of stolen goods.

The order, which was signed by Presiding Judge A. Moses Massey, indicated that “The state had chosen not to recharge the defendant with any of the drug-related charges which were the subject of the reversal.”

The defendant was given an active eight- to 10-month sentence on the felony charge and 45 days for the misdemeanor, to be served concurrently.

He was given credit for time served in the N.C. Department of Corrections and the county jail and so Monday was found to have satisfied that judgment.

A spokesperson from the county jail confirmed that Styers was released from custody that day shortly before 6 p.m.

By Terri Flagg

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

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