Appeals court overturns major Ecstasy smuggling conviction

ALBANY – A federal appeals court has thrown out the drug conviction of a Canadian woman arrested in 2011 for allegedly trying to smuggle 72,000 Ecstasy pills into the U.S. through the Champlain border crossing.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals says the trial judge failed to investigate potential juror misconduct and improperly allowed a federal agent’s testimony that Tara Haynes “realized” there were sealed bags of Ecstasy in the gas tank of her rental car.

Defense attorney Brian Barrett, of Lake Placid, said the 35-year-old – a single mother of two small children from suburban Montreal, who worked for a phone company – was “a blind mule” used by smugglers.

The appeals court also criticized authorities for keeping Haynes shackled during her trial in Albany, though she had no criminal history.

She had been sentenced to almost 16 years in prison.