Drug case gets tossed, but Bradenton man remains jailed for assault

David Nichols remains in jail on $150,000 bond following a November 2019 arrest for assault with a deadly weapon after dragging another man under his truck.

But he has one less legal issue to worry about as charges in a March 2019 drug and tampering case against him were dropped by the state attorney’s office due to an improper search of his vehicle.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports, a deputy stopped Nichols for failing to stop at a stop sign March 27, 2019.

Nichols, 57, of Bradenton, and the passenger exited a pickup truck, and the deputy observed a “white rolled-up cigarette joint” on the passenger floorboard.

The deputy stated that, based on his training and experience, he “recognized it to be consistent with possible narcotics.” The deputy asked Nichols what it was and he replied it was a “rollie cigarette.”

The deputy told Nichols to break up the cigarette to show it was tobacco and Nichols responded by crumpling it.

In an arrest affidavit, the deputy said he recognized marijuana in the crumpled pieces. The substance tested positive for marijuana and Nichol’s reportedly told a deputy that it was “only a little marijuana.”

That testing and statement by Nichols precipitated a search of his vehicle and yielded 28.31 grams of methamphetamine, three marijuana cigarettes and five buprenorphine pills — a schedule 3 narcotic.

Nichols was charged with possession of a controlled substance, trafficking in amphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, tampering/destroying physical evidence and possession of cannabis not more than 20 grams.

On July 8, 2019, the first three charges were dropped.

At Nichols’ discovery deposition, the deputy stated he didn’t see or smell any marijuana or any other narcotics prior to the crumpled cigarette.

A Dec. 3, 2019, decline memo from the SAO stated, “In Carr v. State, 353 So.2d 958 (2nd DCA 1978), the 2nd District ruled a search on similar facts was improper.”

In that case, two suspected marijuana cigarettes inside a truck were seized, but the law enforcement officer could not actually see or smell marijuana because their ends were twisted shut.

“Given the above facts and circumstances, the state will nolle pros (not prosecute) the case” against Nichols.

The charges of possession of cannabis and tampering/destroying physical evidence were dropped.

Nichols is charged with aggravated battery and leaving the scene of a crash with bodily injury following a verbal altercation that turned violent the night of Nov. 18.

He stands accused of hitting and dragging 61-year-old Fred Gilliland underneath his vehicle for nearly a block.

Police reported that Gilliland sustained severe life-threatening injuries, including several open fractures and significant head trauma.

A verbal dispute ensued outside a residence between Gilliland and Nichols. As Gilliland left on foot, walking southbound on 101st Street West, police said Nichols struck him with his vehicle.

Gilliland is still being treated at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

According to Gilliland’s longtime friend, James “Wyre” Lee, he remains hospitalized at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

“He’s hanging in,” Lee said. “He’s in the burn unit, where he’s being treated for all the road rash. He goes in for debridements every day or two.”

Lee said that fundraisers are being planned to help support Gilliland.

Nichols is set for a Jan. 9 case management conference at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.