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United States v. Davis

July 16, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
SHAHKWON DAVIS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

At issue in this criminal prosecution is whether evidence seized from Defendant Shahkwon Davis's apartment should be suppressed due to alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant has moved to suppress the evidence seized from his apartment on the grounds that (1) a warrantless entry into his apartment was illegal and tainted a subsequently-acquired search warrant, and (2) the search warrant itself was invalid because it was not supported by probable cause. (Dkt. Entry 37.) This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3231. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to suppress will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On January 17, 2006, a federal grand jury in this District returned an eight-count indictment against Defendant. (Dkt. Entry 1.) Specifically, Defendant was charged with three counts of distribution of cocaine, one count of distribution of cocaine and cocaine base, and one count of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, all in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); one count of possession with the intent to distribute five (5) grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(iii); one count of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); and one count of criminal forfeiture of proceeds from drug distribution activities, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853. (Id.)

On July 14, 2006, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized as the Result of Illegal Search. (Dkt. Entry 37.) Defendant also filed a supporting brief. (Dkt. Entry 38.) The Government filed a response on July 31, 2006. (Dkt. Entry 40.) An evidentiary hearing was conducted on May 3, 2007. The Government filed a supplemental letter brief on May 11, 2007. (Dkt. Entry 54.)

B. Findings of Fact

1. On October 18, 2005, Thomas Davis, a narcotics detective with the Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office ("LCDAO"), was contacted by a confidential informant ("CI") and learned that the CI could purchase cocaine from a black male known as "Shawn" or "Sean." (Suppression Hr'g Tr., May 3, 2007, Dkt. Entry 55, at 13, 15.) The CI reported that Shawn resided at 814 East Locust Street, Scranton, Pennsylvania ("the Premises"). (Id. at 15; Aff. of Probable Cause, Search Warrant of Dec. 29, 2005 ("Aff. of Probable Cause"), GX-2, ¶ 2.)*fn1 The CI also related that Shawn owned a firearm, shoulder holster, and bulletproof vest.

(Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 2.) Shawn is the Defendant.

2. The CI had provided reliable information to Detective Davis in the past that resulted in numerous arrests and convictions of individuals engaged in the trafficking of controlled substances. (Id.)

3. Detective Davis has participated in hundreds of narcotics investigations. (Hr'g Tr. 13.) He has received extensive training relevant to narcotics investigations, including instruction from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Pennsylvania State Police, and Northeast Counterdrug Training Center. (Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 1.)

4. On October 18, 2005, Detective Davis set up a controlled purchase of cocaine from Defendant. The CI telephoned Defendant in the presence of Detective Davis and arranged to purchase an "eight-ball" of cocaine, or approximately 3.5 grams. (Hr'g Tr. 16.) The CI and Defendant agreed to meet at the Convenient Mart, located in the 1800 block of Pittston Avenue, Scranton, Pennsylvania, which is less than one mile from the Premises. (Id. at 16, 34.) Detective Davis provided the CI with $200 to purchase the cocaine. (Id. at 16.)*fn2

5. Before the CI contacted Defendant, LCDAO detectives established surveillance at the Premises. (Id. at 15.) Shortly after the call was placed, the detectives observed a Cadillac arriving at the Premises. (Id. at 17.) The driver, a black male dressed in full camouflage and later identified as the Defendant, exited the Cadillac and entered the Premises. (Id.) After a few minutes inside, Defendant exited the Premises and drove away in the Cadillac. (Id.) The detectives followed the Defendant to the Convenient Mart. (Id.)

6. Defendant arrived at the Convenient Mart, where the CI was waiting. (Id. at 18.) The CI entered the Cadillac and purchased approximately 2.8 grams of cocaine. (Id. at 18-19.)

7. Detective Davis and the CI arranged another controlled purchase from Defendant on November 15, 2005. (Id. at 20.) The CI called Defendant in Detective Davis's presence, and Defendant agreed to sell $300 of cocaine to the CI. (Id.) The CI was to meet Defendant at the Convenient Mart. (Id.)

8. Before the telephone call was placed, detectives were dispatched to the Premises. From their vantage point outside, the detectives could see through the front door window and observed a set of stairs leading to the second floor. After the phone call, the detectives observed Defendant and an unknown male walking down the stairs and exiting the Premises. (Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 3.) Defendant and the unknown male departed in the same Cadillac that Defendant was seen driving during the first transaction. (Hr'g Tr. 20.) The detectives followed the Cadillac to the Convenient Mart. (Id.)

9. Defendant arrived at the Convenient Mart and entered the CI's vehicle. (Id. at 21.) The CI purchased $300 of cocaine and cocaine base from Defendant. (Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 3.)

10. Detective Davis and the CI arranged a third controlled purchase of cocaine from Defendant on December 21, 2005. The CI's initial attempt to contact Defendant was unsuccessful. (Hr'g Tr. 22) However, the CI eventually received a telephone call from Defendant, who told the CI to meet Defendant at the Convenient Mart. (Id. at 22-23.)

11. Detectives were once again dispatched to the Premises to conduct surveillance. (Id. at 23.) After Defendant called the CI, the detectives observed a Toyota Scion, driven by Defendant, arrive at the Premises. (Id.) Defendant, wearing blue jeans and a long black leather jacket, entered the Premises, exited a few minutes later, and then drove the Toyota Scion to the Convenient Mart as he was followed by detectives. (Id. at 23-24; Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 4.)

12. Defendant arrived at the Convenient Mart, where he was met shortly thereafter by the CI. (Hr'g Tr. 24) The detectives witnessed Defendant, wearing the long black leather jacket, enter the CI's vehicle. (Id.) The CI purchased approximately four (4) grams of cocaine for $300. (Id. at 25; Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 4.)

13. Also on December 21, 2005, Detective Davis met with the owner of the Premises to gather intelligence about the Premises. The Premises is a two-story apartment building with a single apartment on each floor. The first floor apartment is occupied by a female and her two children. (Hr'g Tr. 26; Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 5.) Other than the fact that they both occupy apartments at the Premises, there is no connection between Defendant and the female occupying the first floor apartment. (Hr'g Tr. 63.)

14. Detective Davis learned that Defendant resided in the second floor apartment. (Id. at 26; Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 5.) The second floor apartment, however, was not actually rented to Defendant, but instead he moved in with the lessee, Amy Bellas. (Hr'g Tr. 26.) Ms. Bellas subsequently moved out of the apartment, and Defendant continued to reside there -- alone -- and paid rent to the owner each month in the form of a Convenient Mart money order. (Id. at 26-27.) The name on each money order was "Shahkwon Davis." (Id. at 27; Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 5.)

15. Defendant's apartment may be accessed only through the front door of the Premises and then by ascending a flight of stairs to the second floor. (Hr'g Tr. 27; Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 5.) In connection with the November 15, 2005 controlled purchase, the detectives stationed at the Premises observed Defendant and the unknown male walking down this flight of stairs and out the front door on their way to the Convenient Mart. (Hr'g Tr. 27; Aff. of Probable Cause ¶ 3.)

16. Using the information acquired from the three controlled purchases and the interview with the owner of the Premises, on December 21, 2005, Detective Davis applied for a warrant to search Defendant's apartment, the Cadillac, the Toyota Scion, and Defendant's person. (Hr'g Tr. 28; GX-4.) In the affidavit of probable cause, Detective Davis indicated that he was contacted by the CI with information regarding Defendant, described each controlled purchase of drugs from Defendant, noted the observations of the detectives surveilling the Premises, and summarized the interview with the owner of the Premises. (GX-4.)

17. Additionally, Detective Davis mentioned the information received from the CI that Defendant owned a firearm, shoulder ...


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