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U.S. v. DIXON

December 12, 2000

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
V.
CURTIS MARSHALL DIXON, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katz, Senior District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Curtis Marshall Dixon is charged in a three-count superseding indictment with two counts of possession of cocaine base ("crack") with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Now before the court is the defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence seized during the execution of two search warrants. Upon consideration of the submission of the parties, and after a hearing on December 11, 2000, the court ruled from the bench that the evidence would not be suppressed. The court now writes briefly to supplement that ruling.

I. Findings of Fact

A. Contents of the Probable Cause Affidavits*fn1

1. March 11, 1999, Warrant Affidavit

According to Philadelphia Police Officer Brunswick's affidavit supporting the first warrant, he undertook a surveillance of 2135 Spencer Street on March 10, 1999, after received "numerous complaints" regarding the sale of narcotics at that location. Almost as soon he began the surveillance, Officer Brunswick observed a male knock on the door of 2135 Spencer Street, enter the house, and then exit a minute later. Over the course of a half hour, the officer observed two more males engage in the same behavior. The last of these visitors, later identified as John Ricketts. approached the house walking north on the 6000 block of Norwood Street. As Mr. Ricketts left the house and began walking south on the 6000 block of Norwood, Officer Brunswick observed Mr. Ricketts looking at what appeared to the officer to be clear plastic vials. Back up officers notified by Officer Brunswick found Mr. Ricketts smoking what appeared to be cocaine base. At the suppression hearing, testimony established that Mr. Ricketts was apprehended within a several minutes after leaving 2135 Spencer. The officers searched him and confiscated a pipe, a marijuana cigarette, and a plastic vial containing a substance that field-tested positive for cocaine base. The affidavit concluded with the statement that "[y]our affiant has approx. 11 years narc. experience based on the above actions. I request a daytime search warrant be approved." The testimony at the suppression hearing was consistent with the information set forth in the affidavit.

Evidence submitted at the suppression hearing also established that Mr. Ricketts testified to the grand jury that he did not buy drugs from 2135 Spencer on March 10, but not whether he told the officers this at the time he was searched. In addition, Officer Brunswick and other police witnesses testified at the hearing that the complaints of drug sales regarding 2135 Spencer Street were all made orally and that there were no written records of these complaints. The court finds this testimony credible.

2. April 21, 1999, Warrant Affidavit

Officer Brunswick was also the author of the probable cause affidavit for the April 21, 1999, warrant. In this affidavit, Officer Brunswick stated that there had been complaints regarding the sale of narcotics at 2135 Spencer Street. Testimony at the hearing established that these reports were made orally, there was no record of them, and that the reports were received after the location was searched in March. Officer Henderson arranged for a confidential informant to undertake a controlled buy at that location. On April 21, 1999, at approximately 8:30 a.m., the confidential informant was checked for narcotics, paraphernalia, and money and then given $20.00 in pre-recorded buy money. Officer Brunswick observed the confidential informant enter 2135 Spencer and exit a minute later. The informant returned to the officers with a vial containing an off-white chunky substance, explaining that he or she had obtained the vial in 2135 Spencer Street from a male named Curt in exchange for $20.00. The substance field tested positive for cocaine base. The affidavit also stated that the confidential informant had been used by the officers on two occasions in the past that had lead to arrests on drug charges. The affidavit again concluded with a statement of the officer's eleven years of experience in narcotics and his request, based on the above information, that a warrant be issued.

The court finds that the testimony submitted at the suppression hearing supported the information set forth in the probable cause affidavit.

B. The Execution of the Warrants

Philadelphia police officers executed the warrant issued on March 11, 1999, on the same day. Upon arriving at 2135 Spencer Street, the officers saw Mr. Dixon standing on the front porch. As the officers approached the porch, Mr. Dixon retreated into the house and shut the door. The officers announced that they were police and that they had a search warrant. After receiving no response to their announcement, the officers forced open the door. The officers found Mr. Dixon on the second floor of the house, flushing the toilet while seated fully clothed on it. Also in the house were two other males and two females. The officers seized items including drug paraphernalia, two firearms, money, cocaine and cocaine base.

The April 21, 1999, warrant was also executed on the same day it was issued. Again, the officers knocked on the door and announced that they were police officers and that they had a search warrant. After receiving no response, the officers knocked down Mr. Dixon's door. The officers seized items including drug paraphernalia, money, and cocaine base. The prerecorded $20.00 used by the confidential informant was found in a pair of jeans hanging over a bedroom door.

Mr. Dixon disputes that the officers knocked on his door and announced their presence before forcibly entering the house on both occasions. Upon consideration of the demeanor of the witnesses at the suppression hearing, as well as the content of their ...


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