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United States v. Jones

December 12, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF
v.
CHESNEY JONES, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

On May 23, 2007, Defendant Chesney Jones was charged by Indictment with drug offenses. On August 24, 2007, Jones filed a motion to suppress evidence and to sever her trial from co-defendant Lance Harper's trial. (doc. 43). Jones's motion focuses on: (1) the affidavit used to secure a search warrant for her vehicle and a motel room, (2) the search of Jones's cellular phone, and (3) Jones's statements on the day of her arrest. On November 6, 2007, we held a hearing on the motion. We will deny the motion.

II. Background

Defendants Chesney Jones and Lance Harper were indicted under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), 18 U.S.C. § 2, and 21 U.S.C. § 846, for possession and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute fifty grams or more of crack cocaine and five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride. (doc. 1). Jones's indictment stemmed from her arrest on May 16, 2007, on a state parole violation warrant after she exited a room at a Motel 6 in York County, Pennsylvania, carrying a black bag.

After arresting Jones, DEA Special Agent Keith Kierzkowski advised Jones of her Miranda rights by reading a card that he kept around his neck. Jones waived her Miranda rights and agreed to speak with the agents. After doing so, Jones told the agents that they would be interested in the contents of a bag located under a bed in Room 129 of the motel. Jones showed Kierzkowski where the bag was supposedly located, but it was not there. Jones also told Kierzkowski that marijuana and crack cocaine were in the motel room and belonged to her.

Jones was transported to Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP") barracks by PSP Troopers Overcash and Todaro. Jones did not ask to speak with an attorney while she was transported or at any other time. At PSP headquarters, Jones agreed to access her cell phone and demonstrated how to retrieve information from it. Jones also explained the significance of the telephone numbers and the individuals' names in the phone. Later that day, Jones was transported to DEA offices in Harrisburg and again advised of her Miranda rights.

After stating that she wished to cooperate, Jones, at the direction of the DEA, met with Lance Harper at the Motel 6 and in a car. During her meeting with Harper, Jones attempted to warn Harper of the investigation.

While Jones was in DEA custody, PSP Trooper Todd J. Rudy applied for a search warrant for the motel room as well as the car parked near the room. After obtaining the warrant, officers searched the hotel room and the vehicle and recovered crack cocaine, marijuana, cash, and cellular phones.

III. Discussion

A. Search of the Cellular Phone

Jones argues that law enforcement officials violated her Fourth Amendment rights by searching her cellular phone without a warrant and obtaining the contents of various text messages. (doc. 44, p. 7). Jones argues that evidence from the phone, including text messages and other telephone numbers, should be suppressed. Id.

In addition to claiming that the search was conducted without a warrant, Jones also argues that the search could not be viewed as a search incident to arrest because her arrest and processing by law enforcement officials occurred "long before the phone was searched." Id. at 9. The lapse of this unspecified amount of time, according to Jones, triggered the warrant requirement as the search was no longer incident to arrest or conducted pursuant to routine booking procedures. Id.

The Government concedes that agents did not have a search warrant, but argues that Jones consented to a search of the phone. Jones "initiated contact with the DEA for the purpose of cooperating and bettering her situation." (doc. 64, pp. 4-5). As a result, "Jones agreed to access her cell phone and showed the agents how to download and to retrieve the information and explained ...


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