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United States v. Espinosa

December 24, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.


Defendant in this case has filed several separate motions to suppress evidence allegedly obtained in violation of his civil rights. Specifically, Defendant seeks to suppress the following:

(1) Statements made during and shortly after Defendant's first arrest for conspiracy

(2) Statements made after Defendant's first arraignment for conspiracy to deliver heroin but before Defendant's second arraignment on additional charges

(3) Evidence sized as a result of a search on an apartment allegedly occupied by Defendant

Judge Golden has previously denied a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the apartment. After considering Defendant's objections on the admissibility of the various statements, this Court finds that Defendant's rights were not violated and thus denies all of Defendant's remaining motions to suppress.

I. Background

A. Facts

The Defendant was first arrested near his home in Allentown, Pennsylvania on May 18, 2006. The arrest occurred at approximately 9:30 p.m. when another individual, Irene Irizarry, allegedly brought illegal drugs to the Defendant. (N.T. Pgs. 5-6, 10, Feb. 19, 2008 AM). The Defendant was initially approached by Detectives Cruz and Boyer from the City of Allentown Bureau of Police inside Little John's Pizza Shop, as he was about to meet Ms. Irizarry. (N.T. Pg. 11, Feb. 19, 2008 AM).

Detective Cruz testified that he instructed Defendant at this time that the police were conducting a drug investigation and that Defendant was not under arrest, but he was not free to leave. (N.T. Pg. 11, Feb. 19, 2008 AM). While in the shop, Detective Boyer noticed two cell phones sitting on the counter-top of the shop, near Defendant. Detective Boyer asked Defendant if the phones belonged to him, and Defendant confirmed that they did. (N.T. Pg. 65, Feb. 19, 2008 AM). Detective Boyer testified that Defendant was not in handcuffs at this time and had not been warned of his Miranda rights. (N.T. Pgs. 70-71, Feb. 19, 2008 AM).

Shortly after that conversation, the Detective escorted Defendant outside, where both Detective Cruz and Detective Boyer gave Defendant his Miranda rights. (N.T. Pg. 12, Feb. 19, 2008 AM). Both Detectives testified that Defendant waived those rights at this time. (N.T. Pgs. 12, 66, Feb. 19, 2008 AM). During the conversation that occurred outside the pizza shop and after Defendant had been read and waived his Miranda rights, the Detectives requested permission to search an apartment, Apartment No. 12 at 709 North 9th Street in Allentown, which they believed belonged to Defendant. Defendant refused to consent to a search of the apartment and stated that his wife, not he, lived at that address. (N.T. Pgs. 13, 67-68, Feb. 19, 2008 AM).

The Detectives next took Defendant to Apartment No. 12, where he continued to deny his occupation of the apartment. (N.T. Pgs. 13-15, Feb. 19, 2008 AM). Detective Cruz testified that he then secured the Apartment and removed Defendant to the police station, at which point he was arrested for conspiracy to possess with the intent to deliver four hundred and ninety-nine bags of heroin. (N.T. Pgs. 14-15, Feb. 19, 2008 AM). Detective Cruz began preparing a search warrant for Apartment No. 12, which he eventually secured and executed at approximately 1:15 a.m. on May 19, 2006. (N.T. Pgs. 14, 18, Oct. 8, 2008). During the search, the police located additional controlled substances and a firearm inside Apartment No. 12. (N.T. Pg. 17, Feb. 19, 2008 AM).

After his arrest, Defendant was held in custody and then arraigned, at approximately 11:15 a.m on May 19, 2006, on a charge for conspiracy to deliver drugs. (N.T. Pg. 16, Oct. 8, 2008). Detective Cruz was not present at the arraignment. (N.T. Pg. 18, Oct. 8, 2008). Following Defendant's arraignment on the conspiracy charge, he was returned to the Lehigh County Prison. In accordance with standard county practice, Defendant was asked upon his return to the prison if he wanted a public defender to be assigned to his case, and Defendant responded that he did. (Hr. December 4, 2008). At the hearing on December 4, 2008, Chief Deputy of the Lehigh County Public Defender's Officer, Earl C. Supplee, III testified that his Office's records indicate Defendant had requested a lawyer after the first arraignment.*fn1 Defendant has attached a letter from the Public Defender's Office confirming representation as Exhibit 4 to his Second Supplemental Motion to Suppress.

After completing the search of Apartment No. 12, at approximately 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. on May 19, 2006, Detective Cruz testified that he went off-duty. (N.T. Pg. 22, Oct. 8, 2008). When Detective Cruz returned to duty, at approximately 4:00 p.m. on May 19, 2006, he examined the evidence obtained during the search. Detective Cruz then secured a writ from a magistrate to have the Defendant brought from the Lehigh County Prison to the Allentown Police Department, at approximately 9:30 p.m. on May 19, 2006. Once Defendant was at the Police Department, Detective Cruz intended to prepare additional charges arising from the evidence found at the apartment and provide Defendant with another opportunity to truthfully explain the situation. (N.T. Pgs. 23-24, 52-53, Oct. 8, 2008). Defendant was brought to an interview room at the Police Department and advised that, based on the evidence found during the search of his alleged apartment, additional charges would be filed, including possession with intent to deliver heroin, possession of cocaine, and possession of a firearm. (N.T. Pgs. 24-25, Oct. 8, 2008).

Detective Cruz testified that he then gave the Defendant Miranda warnings, and Defendant gave both a verbal and written consent to the interview by Detective Cruz, during which Defendant allegedly made incriminating statements. (N.T. Pgs. 30-31, Oct. 8, 2008). According to Detective Cruz, Defendant had previously asserted that because Apartment No. 12, the location of the search, belonged to his wife and he did not live there, he could not give consent to the search. (N.T. Pgs. 32-33, Oct. 8, 2008). During the interview, Defendant admitted that the apartment did belong to him and he did not consent to the search because he knew that heroin was in plain view on the table. (N.T. Pgs. 33-34, Oct. 8, 2008). Detective Cruz then prepared additional charges against the Defendant, which were filed in a new criminal complaint, separate from the original complaint containing the charge for criminal conspiracy to deliver heroin, and Defendant was arraigned on those additional charges at approximately 12:30 a.m. on May 20, 2006. (N.T. Pgs. 25-27, Oct. 8 2008).

B. Procedural History

On January 30, 2008, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress Post-Arrest Statements and Physical Evidence Pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, (Doc. No. 24), and a Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence, (Doc. No. 25). The Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence, which asserted that the search warrant was invalid and evidence secured as a result should be suppressed, was denied by Judge Golden, to whom this case was previously assigned, in a Memorandum and Order dated August 12, 2008. (Doc. No. 79). On March 11, Defendant filed a Supplemental Motion to Suppress Post-Arrest Statements. (Doc. No. 64).

After the case was reassigned to the undersigned, Defendant requested an additional evidentiary hearing to secure suppression of statements made by the Defendant during and shortly following his arrest, as raised in the initial and Supplemental Motions to Suppress Post-Arrest Statements. (Doc. No. 24). The evidentiary hearing was held on October 8, 2008, following which the parties filed briefs. Defendant then filed a Second Supplemental Motion to Suppress on October 20, 2008, (Doc. No. 88), in which Defendant requested a further evidentiary hearing to present additional facts warranting suppression of inculpatory statements made to Detective Cruz after his first arraignment in state court but before the second arraignment. ...

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