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United States v. Sampson

March 31, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
EARL SAMPSON, LEANIKA Z. JOHNSON, SEAN BEST, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

ORDER

BACKGROUND

On September 27, 2008, a grand jury sitting in the Middle District of Pennsylvania returned an indictment charging defendants Earl Sampson, Leanika Z. Johnson, and Sean Best, along with several other co-defendants, with various drug trafficking offenses. All three have pled not guilty to the charges.

On January 8, 2008, Sampson filed a "Motion to Suppress Evidence and for Return of Property." (Rec. Doc. No. 302.) On February 5, 2008, Johnson filed a "Motion to Suppress Evidence." (Rec. Doc. No. 338.) On February 6, 2007, Best filed a motion to join in defendant Johnson's motion to suppress. (Rec. Doc. No. 339.)

Opposing and reply briefs have filed for both motions and they are ripe for disposition. Because both motions raise substantially similar issues and because the challenged search warrants rely on the same affidavit, we will analyze the motions together. For the following reasons, we will deny both motions.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

On October 1, 2007, a search warrant was obtained for 725 High Street, Williamsport, Pennsylvania. On October 3, 2007, a search warrant was obtained for 608 McMinn Avenue, Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The affidavits in support of probable cause for each of these warrants are substantially the same, aside from the fact that the affidavit for 608 McMinn Avenue contains three additional paragraphs pertaining specifically to that residence (Rec. Doc. No. 338-2, ¶¶ 38-40.) In the search warrant affidavit, the affiant relied on the information of five confidential informants. (Id. ¶ 9.) The affiant states that he is familiar with all five confidential informants and that "[a]ll five confidential informants have provided information in the past that has proved reliable and has been corroborated by independent sources." (Id.)

The affidavit further states that 723 High Street and 725 High Street are a duplex. (Id. ¶ 18.) On March 23, 2007, Confidential Informant # 2 purchased cocaine from Leanika Johnson at 723 High Street. (Id. ¶ 19.) On April 11, 2007, Confidential Informant # 1 conducted a "controlled purchase" of crack cocaine from Leanika Johnson and Sean Best at 723 High Street. (Id. ¶ 20.) On May 9 and 23, 2007, Confidential Informant # 5 purchased crack cocaine from a co-defendant at 725 High Street. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) On May 31, 2007, Confidential Informant # 2 purchased crack cocaine from a co-defendant and Earl Sampson at 725 High Street. (Id. ¶ 23.) On August 1, 2007, Confidential Informant # 4 purchased crack cocaine from defendant Sampson and a co-defendant at 725 High Street. (Id. ¶ 24.) Furthermore, Confidential Informants # 1-4 stated that the occupants of 723 and 725 High Street have created a passageway in the attic of the two units in order to provide easy access to drugs on either side of the complex. (Id. ¶ 28.) Furthermore, the informants stated that defendant Sampson resides at 725 High Street. (Id. ¶ 30.)

The affidavit further states that 608 McMinn Avenue is the residence of Leanika Johnson and Sean Best. (Rec. Doc. No. 338-2, ¶ 38.) It states that on October 3, 2007, Confidential Informant # 4 stated that on September 30, 2007, Best traveled to Philadelphia to obtain cocaine. (Id. ¶ 40.) Finally, it states that Best returned to Williamsport on October 1, 2007 and was storing the cocaine at 608 McMinn Avenue. (Id.)

On October 2, 2008, the search warrant was executed at 725 High Street.

According to an inventory of the search, officers recovered $538.00 in cash, two papers regarding debt obligations, a television, computer hard drive, and a cellular telephone. Furthermore, Sampson alleges that other items were seized but not inventoried, such as a gold necklace, a vehicle, and stereo equipment. (Rec. Doc. No. 292, at 2.) Sampson also alleges that he was not provided with a copy of the search warrant at the time of the search. (Rec. Doc. No. 292, at 6.) The search warrant for 608 McMinn Avenue was also executed on October 3, 2008, resulting in the seizure of substances alleged to be crack cocaine and cocaine, a scale, as well as various documents. (Rec. Doc. No. 338-4.)

DISCUSSION

As we mentioned, both defendants raise substantially the same challenge to the search warrants. Specifically, they both take issue with the single statement of the affiant that the confidential informants had provided reliable information in the past and argue that this is insufficient to establish the reliability of the information provided by informants. (Rec. Doc. No. 292, at 3-4; Rec. Doc. No. 343, at 6-10.) Additionally, defendant Johnson argues that the affidavit was based on stale information. (Rec. Doc. No. 343, at 5.) Finally, defendant Sampson argues that the information should be suppressed because he was not provided with a copy of the search warrant at the time of the search. (Rec. Doc. No. 292, at 6.)

The Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Additionally, the Fourth Amendment states that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and ...


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