Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Griswold

July 20, 2010


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


In September 2008, the U.S. Probation Office received an anonymous letter stating that Defendant Gregory Griswold -- then on supervised release for firearms offenses -- possessed a semi-automatic handgun. Acting on this tip, Defendant's Probation Officer, with the assistance of United States Marshals, searched Defendant's apartment and recovered a semi-automatic handgun, ammunition, and two knives. Defendant made a statement regarding the gun during the search and another statement some six hours later when questioned by Marshals at the Federal Courthouse.

After he was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Defendant moved to suppress the physical evidence and his statements. (Doc. Nos. 19, 28.) See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On March 11, 2010, I held an evidentiary hearing and took the matter under advisement pending the submission of proposed factual findings and legal conclusions. The Parties have now fully briefed the matter. (Doc. Nos. 36, 43, 46, 47.)

I will deny the Motions with respect to the physical evidence and the statement Defendant made at the Courthouse. I will grant the Motions with respect to the statement Defendant made during the search. Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(d), I make the following factual findings and legal conclusions.


At the suppression hearing, the Government called Probation Officers Adam Peterson and Thomas Miles and Deputy Marshals James Carroll and Daniel Donnelly. The Government also introduced photographic and documentary evidence. Defendant presented no evidence. I credit the testimony of the Officers and the Marshals, and I find that the Government has proven the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence.

Defendant's Prior Federal Conviction

On May 16, 1994, Defendant pled guilty before the late Honorable Herbert Hutton to seven counts of making false statements to a licensed dealer in connection with the acquisition of a firearm and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. Crim. No. 94-83; Gov. Ex. 1. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Using four aliases, Defendant had illegally purchased seven semi-automatic handguns, two of which were hidden in his residence. Crim. No. 94-83, PSR ¶¶ 5-8. At the time of his guilty plea, Defendant's criminal history included 1985 convictions for third degree murder by shooting and possession of an instrument of a crime, two 1986 firearms convictions, and two 1987 drug convictions. Id. at 9-13. Under the then-mandatory Sentencing Guidelines, Defendant's criminal history designation was at the second highest level -- V. Gov. Ex. 9; 3/11/10 Tr. at 36:1-2,38, 69, 70. On September 27, 1994, Judge Hutton sentenced Defendant to a top-end Guidelines sentence of forty-six months imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. 3/11/10 Tr. at 71:5; Crim. No. 94-83, Doc. No. 32.

Among the standard conditions of Defendant's supervised release were the following:

The defendant shall not possess a firearm or destructive device.

The defendant shall not leave the judicial district without the permission of the court or probation officer.

The defendant shall permit a probation officer to visit him or her at any time at home or elsewhere and shall permit confiscation of any contraband observed in plain view of the probation officer.

Crim No. 94-83, Doc. No. 33. See U.S.S.G. § 5D1.3(c)(10). Probation was thus authorized to conduct scheduled and unscheduled visits to Defendant's home and office and seize plain-view contraband, including firearms. 3/11/10 Tr. at 11:12-15, 29:12, 44:6. See United States v. Reyes, 283 F.3d 446, 471 (2d Cir. 2002)("[A] probation officer legally may seize contraband observed in plain view during a home visit....").

After completing parole in an unrelated state matter, Defendant began his term of federal supervised release "in late 2006." 3/11/10 Tr. at 12:1-4. In December 2006, Defendant's case was reassigned to the Honorable Harvey Bartle. Crim. No. 94-83; Doc. No. 43.

Defendant's Supervised Release

In June 2008, Adam Peterson joined the U.S. Probation Office after working as "an investigator for the Office of Inspector General in Pennsylvania for approximately a year and a half and prior to that... [as] a County Probation Officer in Philadelphia for about five and a half years." 3/11/10 Tr. at 3:20-23. On June 30, 2008, Peterson assumed Defendant's supervision from Probation Officer George Reed. Peterson had learned from Reed that Defendant's was a "case of concern," and that Reed had designated Defendant a "special offender" because of his "lengthy criminal history related to firearms... [his] conviction for homicide... and his likelihood of recidivism...." Id. 9:6-22.

Reed told Peterson that on June 11, 2008, a woman who did not identify herself had called the Pennsylvania Parole Office and said that Defendant had a gun in his apartment. Id. at 9:10-12, 40:16-19. The Parole Office reported the call to Reed, who unsuccessfully sought corroboration from local police before transferring Defendant's case to Peterson. Id. at 9:8-14, 40:21-24. Although Peterson continued these efforts, local and state police could not corroborate that Defendant had a gun. Id. at 42-43, 44:12-15, 68:21-24. Peterson also made "some random visits to [Defendant's] employment... where [he] just kind of sat across the street to see if [he] saw anything unusual." Id. at 44:6-10. Peterson conducted "some random home visits as well," but saw no gun. Id. On July 30, 2008, Chief Judge Bartle denied Defendant's request for early termination of supervision. Crim. No. 94-83, Doc. No. 47.

The Anonymous Letter

On September 12, 2008, Peterson "received a phone call from Chief Judge Bartle... advis[ing] [him] that [the Judge] was in receipt of an anonymous letter from a concerned citizen" regarding Defendant. Id. at 12:17-20. On September 15th, Judge Bartle provided Peterson with the letter which stated:

In reference to Gregory Griswold

Docket # 94-0083-01

To whom this may concern. Im writing to thank you for not granting Gregory Griswold a early supervised release. He still live the life of a criminal all though he has a parole officer. He is still on parole. Gregory does not work for IQraa deli he was cell mates with the owner years ago and when they new Gregory was being released the owner made up foney paper work for him and he was allowed to put a stand infront of there store. Gregory has a 9mm Gun that he carry around and he also drives a car every day of the week.

He has some one who he buys counter fit $20 bills from and he goes out of the city limits every Saturday. Gregory is still living as a criminal. How close are you watching your parolee and he is allowed to walk the streets with a gun, knife and mase daily.

How can his release be supervised if he's out of the city at least twice weekly without your permission.

Thank You

A concerned citizen.

Gov. Ex. 2; 3/11/10 Tr. at 47:21.

Peterson was struck by the letter's detail and accuracy. Id. at 13:22-25,14:1-9. For instance, the author described the gun's caliber, knew that Defendant was on supervised release, and knew of Judge Bartle's recent denial of Defendant's request for early termination of supervision. Id. The author also knew that Defendant worked at a stand near "a deli," and "that he does travel outside the city...." Id. Indeed, as required by the standard conditions of his release, Defendant had sought permission from Probation to make these worked-related trips. Id. at 14:6-9. The author had also correctly identified "the docket number for Mr. Griswold's case." Id. at 14:3,20.

Peterson "wanted to act appropriately to protect the community if there was anything going on." Id. at 15:7-15. Accordingly,"when [he] received the phone call from Judge Bartle [he] obviously advised his supervisor, Sally Keglovits about the situation... [and] reviewed the letter with her in her office." Id. at 15:1-5.

Most of the investigative tips received by Probation are anonymous. Id. at 80:12-13. Because Probation "receive[s] a lot of bad information as well [as reliable information, the Officers] try to filter through as much as [they] can, try to corroborate as much as [they] can... through documentation, collateral contact with law enforcement, neighbors, things of that nature." Id. at 7:9-16. As Officer Miles testified, "we can't take this stuff lightly... we would never ever blow off something like that." Id. at 78:7, 81:15-16. On the contrary, Peterson thought the suggestion that Defendant had a gun "might have some credence." Id. at 17:19. Peterson was especially concerned that Probation had received two such tips in three months. Id. at 17:22-25. Moreover, Peterson knew that Defendant had been convicted of a shooting murder and many weapons offenses, and that Defendant was on supervised release after having pled guilty to purchasing illegally seven semi-automatic handguns and "possession of a firearm by a convicted felon." Id. at 9:25, 19:23-25, 20:1-3, 23:8.

Peterson also knew that Defendant "operated a vending business" requiring him to "carry cash." Id. at 18: 13-19. "[T]hrough [his] contact with Mr. Griswold [Peterson believed] that he wouldn't be without a firearm, that he regularly would carry a firearm based on his criminal history [and] based on what he did for a living." Id. at 18: 7-11.

The Petition/Warrant to Search

Peterson and Keglovits "talked about [the anonymous letter] at length and [] reviewed the file." Id. at 20:6-7. Peterson believed that if Defendant had a gun in his residence, an unscheduled visit -- allowed as a standard condition of supervised release -- would not ensure the weapon's recovery because during home visits we're not authorized to open drawers and closets and things of that nature and we're only authorized to seize things in plain view unless we seek the Court's authorization to do otherwise.

Id. at 7:17-20 (emphasis added). Accordingly, at the direction of Keglovits, Peterson prepared "a petition to modify the conditions of supervised release" to allow Probation to search Defendant's residence. Id. at 7:24-25. Peterson called Judge Bartle to "let him know that [he was] inclined to seek the Court's authorization for a search and seizure warrant of Mr. Griswold's residence, person and vehicle." Id. at 20:12-15.

Peterson drafted a petition in the form the Probation Department customarily uses in this District to seek the modification of supervised release conditions. Id. at 22:10-13. Judge Bartle told Peterson to include "a synopsis of what [they] had discussed on the phone...." Id. at 21:18-22. Finally, Judge Bartle told Peterson ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.