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United States v. Price

July 24, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
HAROLD D. PRICE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Currently before the Court is the MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE filed by Defendant, Harold D. Price (Document No. 41).

On May 2, 2008, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the suppression motion at which all parties were represented by counsel who presented and argued the issues skillfully and effectively. Leslie K. Price, the wife of the Defendant, and Trooper Timothy M. Callahan of the Pennsylvania State Police testified on behalf of the government. The Defendant did not testify nor did he call any witnesses on his behalf.

At the conclusion of the suppression hearing, the Court ordered that the record would remain open until May 19, 2008, in order that Defendant could determine if additional State Troopers would be called to testify. On May 19, 2008, counsel for Defendant notified the Court that no additional witnesses would be called, and the record was closed at that time. The Court ordered that counsel for Defendant, if so desired, could file a post-hearing brief on or before June 16, 2008, with the government's response due on or before June 30, 2008. Counsel for defendant requested three (3) extensions of time in which to file his post-hearing brief, which requests were granted. The post-hearing briefs were timely filed after the extensions and the matter is now ripe for disposition.

Based on the testimony and evidence presented at the suppression hearing and the applicable law, the Court enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d):

FINDINGS OF FACT

The facts surrounding the search on May 3, 2007 are basically not contested. On May 3, 2007, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Timothy Callahan responded to a 911 call regarding an "active domestic" dispute at 15 Lee Avenue, Grove City, Pennsylvania. When Trooper Callahan arrived at the scene, he observed the Defendant, Harold Price, and his friend playing basketball in the driveway of the residence. The Defendant approached Trooper Callahan's vehicle and asked what was going on. Trooper Callahan responded, "I don't know. You tell me. Where's your wife?" (Transcript at 63). Defendant responded that she had walked off.

At about this same time, Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Harmond Silloway arrived at the scene. Trooper Callahan directed Corporal Silloway to try to find "the victim." Within minutes, Corporal Silloway returned to the residence with Mrs. Price, who had a swollen lip, and blood could be seen on her lip and on the right side of her shirt. The decision was immediately made to place the Defendant under arrest for domestic violence because there was an injury. The Defendant was placed in handcuffs and placed in the rear of a patrol car. After being arrested, Defendant remained on the scene for only a few minutes and then was transported by Corporal Silloway and Pennsylvania State Trooper Dan Brennan, another trooper who had arrived at the scene, to the Mercer State Police Barracks for processing. (Id. at 66.)

Trooper Callahan remained on the scene to proceed with the domestic investigation. He interviewed the victim, Leslie K. Price, and asked her to fill out a victim statement. While filing out the victim statement, Mrs. Price told Trooper Callahan that she was scared because her husband was "connected." Trooper Callahan responded that he knew that the Defendant was a known drug dealer in the Grove City area, and that "today is the day, if you want to do anything. And [he] asked her, you now, it's how you want to proceed with this. . . . Is there any illegal guns, drugs, anything like that? And that's when she started to explain . . . about the gun." (Id. at 70.) Mrs. Price told Trooper Callahan that she recently had observed the Defendant with a semi-automatic handgun in the residence, but that she was uncertain where he kept it.

Trooper Callahan then asked Mrs. Price for consent to search the residence, the detached garage, and the GMC Suburban. She provided verbal consent for the search. Thereafter, Trooper Callahan discovered and seized three (3) semi-automatic firearms, approximately three (3) pounds of marijuana, marijuana smoking devices, two (2) digital scales, and a small amount of cocaine. Mrs. Price denied ownership of the three (3) firearms.

The first firearm was found in a Ziploc plastic bag under the mattress in the marital bedroom. Mrs. Price confirmed that the Defendant had threatened to kill her with that firearm approximately one (1) week prior to the date of his arrest.

Next, Trooper Callahan, along with Trooper Brad Wagner who had arrived at the scene with Trooper Brennan, proceeded to the garage area, which had drawn his suspicions because he had noticed that the windows were blacked out. Mrs. Price accompanied him to the garage. While looking around the garage, Trooper Callahan noticed stairs leading to some sort of attic. At the top of the stairs, there was another door with two locks on it. The troopers asked Mrs. Price if she had keys to this area, and she told them that she did not have a key to the area. Mrs. Price also told the troopers "that she didn't like to go up there, or I didn't want to go up there, um, for the fact that Harold smoked marijuana up there, and I didn't want to be around that." (Id. at 53.)*fn1 Mrs. Price thereafter gave her permission for the officers to forcibly remove the locks. The door was thereafter forced open and the troopers entered the area. In the ceiling of the loft area the second firearm was found, along with marijuana, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia. After the troopers found the marijuana, Mrs. Price signed a written consent form for the search of the "residence and structure at 15 Lee Ave." to be searched for "contraband, drugs, guns." See Waiver of Rights and Consent to Search, Govt. Exh. 4.

After completing the search of the loft area, the troopers searched the GMC Suburban truck and found the third firearm, hidden under the cup holder / center console area of the truck.

On August 28, 2007, a federal Grand Jury returned a three-count indictment which charged Defendant with Possession of a Firearm By A Convicted Felon on or about May 3, 2007, in violation of Title ...


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