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UNITED STATES v. HARRISON

December 8, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
THOMAS HARRISON, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCLURE

 December 8, 1997

 BACKGROUND :

 On August 20, 1997, a grand jury sitting in the Middle District of Pennsylvania returned an indictment charging defendant Thomas Harrison, along with co-defendants Janet E. Bifield, Daniel Bifield, Beverley Davis, William McDermott, Robert L. Sizemore, and Barry Spell with conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h). Succinctly stated, defendants are alleged to have filed state tax returns in California and Ohio, received refund checks, and deposited the money into bank accounts or otherwise distributed the proceeds. Also alleged to have participated in the scheme are inmates at the United States Penitentiary at Allenwood, Union County, Pennsylvania. The indictment also sets forth a forfeiture count.

 Jury selection currently is scheduled for February 2, 1998, with trial to commence as soon as feasible thereafter.

 Before the court is a motion by Thomas Harrison to suppress evidence of telephone conversations between himself and Anthony Pfeffer while Pfeffer was an inmate at USP-Allenwood.

 DISCUSSION :

 Harrison moves to suppress the tapes under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is implicated when the defendant manifests a subjective expectation of privacy which society would accept as reasonable. California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35, 40, 100 L. Ed. 2d 30, 108 S. Ct. 1625 (1988). Courts have been consistent in holding that an inmate does not have an objectively reasonable privacy interest in outbound telephone calls. See United States v. Van Poyck, 77 F.3d 285, 290-291 (9th Cir. 1996). In this instance, however, we are presented with the obverse question: whether a person on the receiving end of a telephone call from an inmate has an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone call.

 We first note that the content of the telephone calls indicates that Harrison knew that he was speaking to an inmate. See Exhibit A to Government's Brief in Opposition to Harrison's Motion to Suppress (transcripts of telephone calls) at 1002 (Pfeffer discussing what he will be doing after coming out or getting out); at 1003 (Harrison and Pfeffer discussing increased security with respect to mail due to events in the "Unabomber" case); at 1012 (discussing warning signal for the expiration of time on the telephone); at 1018-1020 (discussing an attempt by a well-known inmate to escape, including the institutions at which he was incarcerated, and Pfeffer's familiarity with him); at 1021 (discussing chess as a good game "in here"); at 1024 (Pfeffer stating that ice cream is a treat "in here for us", Harrison responding that price was the same as "out here"); at 1030-1032 (discussing conditions under which Pfeffer lived, including a question from Harrison about "Marion," and concluding with a statement by Pfeffer, "Yeah, jailing, trying to make the best of jailing."); at 1044 (discussing "rats" in jail, with Pfeffer referring to "in here"). Based on these few instances (there are many more), we think it evident that Harrison knew that he was speaking to an inmate.

 The primary question, then, is whether society would consider it reasonable for Harrison to have an expectation of privacy in telephone calls from a prison. We conclude that it would not.

 In Van Poyck, the defendant claimed that recordings of telephone conversations from a federal detention center violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit first reiterated the district court's finding that the defendant knew calls were monitored and so had no subjective expectation of privacy. 77 F.3d at 290. Even if the defendant had a subjective expectation of privacy, institutional security concerns render recording of outbound telephone calls reasonable. 77 F.3d at 291 (citing "weight of other authority"). Finally, given the fact that the defendant had been made aware of the recording and used the telephone regardless, he consented to the recording. Id.

 In Angel v. Williams, 12 F.3d 786 (8th Cir. 1993), police officers had been terminated from their employment for using excessive force on a prisoner. A tape recording of the incident was played during an administrative proceeding, after which the officers filed a civil complaint alleging that the taping violated the federal wiretap law, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2521, and brought a claim under, inter alia, 18 U.S.C. § 2520. The Eighth Circuit concluded that, while it appeared that the officers had a subjective expectation of privacy in their communication, the expectation was not objectively reasonable. 12 F.3d at 790. "The singular purpose of a jail is the confinement of known or suspected criminals, and it is more than reasonable to expect that communications made therein between police officers and prisoners would be intercepted." Id.

 The government sets forth the three reasons recited in Van Poyck for finding the tapes admissible, and we agree.

 First, the tapes reflect guarded language on the part of Harrison. For example, Harrison and Pfeffer discuss an incident involving a "pay back" and avoid using last names. Exhibit A at 1041-1043. See esp. id. at 1041 (after being asked a last name, Harrison replies, "Yea, I don't want to say it."). Also, in discussing the sending of magazines to Pfeffer, the two refer only to a letter with directions on how to do so. Id. at 1063. ...


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