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United States v. Gadsden

March 24, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge


Before the court are four motions made by Defendants Brian Gadsden and Reginald Gadsden. Defendants seek a bill of particulars, discovery, and to suppress certain evidence. For the reasons that follow, the motions will be denied.

I. Background

A. Facts

All-star Autos is a car shop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania owned by Gensi and Angelica Matos. On the morning of October 19, 2007, Ms. Matos made a complaint to a station manager of a local post office. The report indicated that the shop had been cased by at least two black men on October 18. The men had been inside the shop multiple times, inquiring about a package that had been delivered to the shop that day via the United States Postal Service. They were very intent on retrieving the package. One of the men brandished a gun and made a statement to the effect that they would "get the mailman on the route" or start "tracking the package." They said that they would return the following day, October 19.

There were additional people suspected of casing the shop. Among the vehicles identified as having been used to case the shop were a dark brown or maroon Jeep Cherokee, a grey four-door Chrysler, a red four-door sedan possibly a Volvo, and a white minivan.

The post office station manager contacted the United States Postal Inspection Service to investigate the complaint. On the morning of October 19, 2007, the Postal Inspection Service contacted the Harrisburg Police Department to coordinate an investigation. Postal Inspector Joseph Corrado was assigned to the case, along with another Postal Inspector. Detective Victor Rivera and two additional Harrisburg Police Detectives were also assigned to the case. All officers were apprised of the substance of the complaint. The officers decided to begin their investigation at All-star Autos.

They drove in two separate vehicles, with the Postal Inspectors in Corrado's unmarked Chevrolet Blazer and the Detectives in Rivera's unmarked Chevrolet Caprice Classic. When the vehicles pulled into the parking lot in front of All-star Autos, Detective Rivera and Postal Inspector Corrado, independently of one another, became suspicious of the car parked across the street from the store. They saw a burgundy four-door Saturn sedan that was somewhat akin to the description of the cars in the complaint. They saw two black men in or around the car; one man was outside the vehicle, looking at the police vehicles and the store. One man was inside the burgundy sedan in the passenger seat. The person in the passenger seat, according to Detective Rivera, slunk down in his seat. The man outside the car, upon seeing the vehicles pull in to the parking lot, walked to the driver's side, entered the car, and drove off. The officers in the two vehicles conferred for a matter of seconds before they began pursuing the burgundy sedan. They suspected that the men might have been involved in the events giving rise to the complaint made that morning.

Detective Rivera called for assistance in making a traffic stop of the burgundy Saturn. A number of Harrisburg police officers and police cars effected the traffic stop in the 1800 block of Derry Street. Once Defendants were outside of the Saturn, the officers conducted a pat-down search and requested that Defendants show identification. Defendants maintain that the officers did not pat them down and request identification, but instead reached into their pockets and grabbed their identification cards. Upon production of identification, the officers separated Defendants and placed them in two different police vehicles. They stayed in the vehicles for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, Detective Rivera and Postal Inspector Corrado returned in Corrado's Blazer to All-star Autos. They informed the Matoses that they had detained two individuals in connection with their complaint from that morning. They asked Ms. Matos to accompany them to the site of the stop to identify the individuals.*fn1 She sat in a rear seat in the Blazer and rode with them to the scene.

Defendants were taken out of the police cars, either one by one or at the same time. During the identification, a police officer stood next to and held the arm of each Defendant. There were numerous additional officers on the scene, including detectives and patrol persons. There were police lights with their rotating blue and red lights activated. The block of Derry Street was closed to traffic. The Blazer drove slowly past, approximately thirty feet from where Defendants stood. Ms. Matos identified Defendants as two of the individuals who had been in and around her store the previous day, watching it and asking about the package delivered.

Upon the identification, Defendants were arrested and taken to the Harrisburg Police Station. They were placed in separate cells and held for about six hours. Detective Rivera came to Brian Gadsden's cell to take him to a different room for questioning. In the interview room were Brian, Detective Rivera, Postal Inspector Corrado, and another Postal Inspector. Brian testified that he did not receive Miranda warnings before the officers began to question him. Detective Rivera testified that he verbally apprised Brian of his Miranda rights, asked Brian if he understood his rights, and Brian confirmed that he did. Postal Inspector Corrado's testimony corroborates Detective Rivera's. The officers questioned Brian for some time, until Brian invoked his right to an attorney. The same sequence of events occurred with Reginald Gadsden.

B. Procedural History

On January 16, 2008, the United States filed an indictment against Defendants. They pled not guilty during their initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Smyser on February 12, 2008. Tom Thornton, of the Federal Public Defender, was appointed as counsel for Brian Gadsden. William Fetterhoff was appointed as counsel for Reginald Gadsden. On February 22, 2008, Defendants filed a joint motion for a bill of particulars (Doc. 38), a joint motion for discovery (Doc. 40),*fn2 and a joint motion to suppress certain evidence (Doc. 42), along with supporting briefs for all. On March 4, 2008, Defendants filed a joint motion to suppress additional evidence, and a brief in support thereof. (Doc. 58.) The ...

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