The trial of a Sierra Vista man indicted in 2019 on multiple drug charges after cocaine was found in the car he was driving and more cocaine was discovered buried under a tree in his girlfriend’s yard will take place in September, now that the Arizona Court of Appeals has declined to get involved in some pretrial disputes.
Nathaniel Lee Rainer is charged with 17 felonies stemming from evidence seized during a traffic stop by a Sierra Vista police officer in August 2019 and searches at two local residences. The charges allege Rainer was involved in the transportation of cocaine for sale as well as possession of cocaine for sale.
Rainer, 41, is also charged with four counts of weapons misconduct for allegedly possessing four handguns while a prohibited possessor. He has remained out of custody since posting a $30,000 surety bond in January 2020.
In April 2021, defense attorney Jacob Amaru challenged the legality of a warrantless search of the vehicle Rainer was driving at the time of the traffic stop. He also filed a motion to suppress the evidence -cocaine, a scale, and other drug paraphernalia- dug up at the home of Rainer’s girlfriend.
The girlfriend’s house was previously searched after detectives obtained a court-approved search warrant, but a subsequent search -without a warrant- was conducted when a detective listening to one of Rainer’s jail calls with a relative came to suspect there was drugs buried at the girlfriend’s property.
Judge Laura Cardinal denied the defense motions to suppress the evidence, but put the prosecution on hold last December to allow Amaru time to challenge those rulings to the Arizona Court of Appeals. In early March, a three-judge appellate panel declined to accept jurisdiction of the case.
The appellate court ruling has no reasoning for the judges’ decision, but it does not prevent Rainer from renewing the same arguments on appeal if convicted at trial.
Rainer’s time to petition the Arizona Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Cardinal’s rulings expired in early April, after which the judge lifted the stay to move the case forward to trial.
Cardinal announced during a May 9 pretrial conference that any additional motions must be filed by the end of next month. Another pretrial conference will be held in July, with jury selection slated to begin Sept. 22.
The trial is estimated to last six days, with Daniel Akers of the Cochise County Attorney’s Office serving as prosecutor for the State of Arizona.
Public records show Rainer was cited by police in January of this year with two misdemeanors for resisting arrest and obstruction of a government operation. Those new charges, which are outstanding, do not appear to have impacted his pretrial release status or his bond conditions.