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United States v. Tucker

January 3, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTOINE TUCKER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Antoine Tucker was indicted for trafficking crack cocaine and unlawful possession of firearms. (Dkt. Entry 25.) Defendant has moved to challenge the government's case. First, Tucker wishes to suppress crack cocaine seized from him following his arrest, arguing the warrant for his arrest was invalid. (Def.'s Mot. to Suppress All Physical Evidence, Dkt. Entry 32.) Second, he seeks to suppress allegedly coerced statements made by him following his arrest. (Def.'s Mot. to Suppress Any and All Statements, Dkt. Entry 38.) Finally, Tucker seeks to dismiss the indictment, claiming the government presented evidence to the grand jury it knew or should have known was false. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss the Superceding Indictment, Dkt. Entry 53.) A hearing on the motions was conducted on January 28, 2005. The motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for decision.

Because Tucker's arrest was lawful, the crack cocaine found on Tucker's body will not be suppressed. Nor will this Court suppress statements made by Tucker following his arrest, as he voluntarily offered the statements after being advised of his Miranda rights. Finally, Tucker's indictment will not be dismissed as he fails to substantiate his claim that the government knowingly presented false evidence that influenced the grand jury's decision to indict him.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

1. In September 2002, a confidential informant notified the Scranton Resident Office of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") that Defendant Antoine Tucker was selling illegal drugs out of Apartment H-3, Sheridan Manor, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The apartment was the residence of Rachel Rogers. In exchange for allowing him to sell drugs from the apartment, Tucker paid Rogers money. (Test. of William Langan, Dkt. Entry 63 at 16-17; Test. of Antoine Tucker, Dkt. Entry 63 at 100.)

2. The confidential informant met Tucker soon after he moved to Wilkes-Barre in August 2002. He led the confidential informant to believe he could obtain crack cocaine for her. (Test. of Antoine Tucker, Dkt. Entry 63 at 97, 142.)

3. Special Agent William Langan of the Scranton DEA initiated an investigation of Tucker following the informant's tip. Agent Langan had utilized the confidential informant twice before to identify crack cocaine dealers in the area. He also knew that the confidential informant had a reliable reputation working with the Pittsburgh DEA. The government paid the confidential informant for her assistance. (Test. of William Langan, Dkt. Entry 63 at 16-19.)

4. On September 13, 2002, a task force consisting of agents of the DEA and officers of the Wilkes-Barre police department established a surveillance post outside Apartment H-3. The task force observed many people enter and leave the apartment during the surveillance, a pattern indicative of drug trafficking. (Id. at 20, 26.)

5. Around 2:00 p.m., the task force sent the confidential informant into the apartment to purchase crack cocaine while wearing a hidden recording device. Before sending her into the apartment, the task force confirmed that the informant did not already possess drugs by searching her. Because the task force did not consist of any female officers, however, the search was limited to checking her purse and pockets. (Id. at 20-21, 26.)

6. Inside the apartment, the informant met with Tucker and Christopher Jones, a juvenile who also trafficked in drugs. They discussed purchasing a "ball" of crack cocaine,*fn1 but had difficulty completing the transaction because they lacked a scale for measuring the drugs. During discussions, two unidentified women entered the apartment and purchased "bundles" of "dope" from Tucker.*fn2 (Id. at 21-25.)

7. After being in the apartment for nearly an hour, Agent Langan called the informant's mobile phone and asked her to leave the apartment so he could change the tape in the recording device. Once outside, the informant told Agent Langan that she had not yet purchased any drugs. (Id. at 21-22.)

8. After placing a new tape in the recording device, the informant again entered the apartment to purchase crack cocaine. Tucker was no longer in the apartment when the informant entered. The informant proceeded to purchase an eighth of an ounce of crack cocaine from Jones. (Id. at 22.)

9. The informant transferred the drugs to agents of the task force upon exiting the apartment. The drugs were later confirmed to be crack cocaine. The informant also briefed Agent Langan about what had happened during her two trips inside the apartment. During this debriefing, the informant told Agent Langan that Tucker identified a pistol in the apartment as a BB gun. In truth, Rachel Rogers told the informant about the BB gun. (Id. at 22-25.)

10. Later that day, the informant entered the apartment for a third time. She had again been searched beforehand for drugs by the task force. Agent Langan also gave her a scale for weighing drugs. Tucker was back inside the apartment when the informant entered. The informant purchased an eighth of an ounce of crack cocaine while inside the apartment. (Id. at 27-28.)

11. After leaving the apartment, the informant gave the drugs to task force agents. The drugs were later confirmed to be crack cocaine. She informed the agents that she purchased the crack cocaine from Tucker. The recording of the transaction confirmed that Tucker was present for the weighing and transfer of the crack cocaine. (Id. at 28-29.)

12. On September 17, 2002, Agent Langan sought a search warrant for Apartment H-3 and arrest warrants for Tucker and Jones from Chief Magistrate Judge Thomas Blewitt of this Court. In his supporting affidavit, Agent Langan explained the confidential informant's history with the DEA and indicated she received payment for her assistance. The affidavit included the confidential informant's observations inside the apartment and the task force's observations outside the apartment. The affidavit also mentioned that another confidential source within the Wilkes-Barre police department stated that Tucker distributed drugs from the apartment. Magistrate Judge Blewitt approved the search and arrest warrants. (Exhibits in Supp. of Mot. to Suppress All Physical Evidence, Dkt. Entry 33, Ex. B.)

13. On September 20, 2002, members of the task force went to Apartment H-3 to execute the search warrant and arrest Tucker and Jones. Tucker was standing in front of Apartment H-3 with another man named Walter Georges when the task force arrived. Georges immediately took flight upon seeing members of the task force. Tucker submitted to the task force and was handcuffed and patted down. (Test. of William Langan, Dkt. Entry 63 at 30-32.)

14. Tucker was told to follow members of the task force into the apartment so they could execute the search warrant. Tucker resisted being brought into the apartment, denying any association with it. While being led up the stairways into the apartment, Tucker kicked backwards against the officer following him. Members of the task force subdued Tucker using a choke hold and dragged him into the apartment. (Test. of Joseph Coffay, Dkt. Entry 63 at 60-62.)

15. Inside the apartment, Tucker was placed on the floor of the living room with Jones and Georges, who had been quickly apprehended. Officer Coffay of the Wilkes-Barre police office advised the group of their Miranda rights. (Id. at 63.)

16. Tucker was later strip-searched in the back bedroom of the apartment. During this search, a bag containing 3.1 grams of crack cocaine was found hidden between his buttocks. Tucker attempted to persuade the officers that the drugs were for personal use ...


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