Appeal from the Order June 22, 2010 In the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-23-CR-0002740-2009
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gantman, J.:
BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., GANTMAN, AND OTT, JJ.
Appellant, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, appeals from the order entered in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, granting the motion of Appellee, Braheim Jamier Goldsborough, to suppress evidence obtained following his arrest for multiple drug offenses.*fn1 We reverse and remand for further proceedings.
The suppression court's findings of fact set forth the relevant facts of this appeal as follows:
1. [Appellee] was arrested on February 5, 2009, and charged with numerous violations of the Controlled Substance, Drug Device and Cosmetic Act.
2. At the Suppression hearing, Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Skahill, an undercover officer with Troop K, Philadelphia Vice Narcotics Unit of the Pennsylvania State Police for eleven years, testified that he had been involved in over 200 drug arrests in his career. He has spoken to over 500 individuals who are involved in cocaine trafficking. His duties involved conducting undercover drug investigations, including handling confidential informants, preparing search and arrest warrants and conducting electronic surveillance. In addition, he testified to his training including the Pa. State Police Drug Classes, the Top Gun Drug Class, Bucks, Montgomery and Delaware County D.A.'s class, DEA Schools, and Eastern States Vice Investigator's Associations Drug Trafficking Classes. He attended Undercover Narcotics School in New Jersey and has been a faculty member at Top Gun School. He has taught undercover operations at numerous D.A.'s offices and for the Pa. State Police Academy. He has testified as a drug expert in various counties throughout Pennsylvania and in Federal Court. At the suppression hearing, he was qualified as an expert in drugs and drug investigations.
3. In January of 2009, Trooper Skahill received information from a confidential informant ("CI-1") who told him that [Appellee] was involved in drug trafficking. CI-1 observed this throughout January of 2009. CI-1 observed that [Appellee] was secreting drugs, cocaine, in a car that was accessed by [Appellee]. CI-1 observed [Appellee] putting a large amount of cocaine inside that [Nissan] 350Z while it was parked almost right in front of 323 Rural Avenue. CI-1 observed this in the late evening hours/early morning hours of February 4-5, 2009. CI-1 estimated that at least one-half of a kilogram of cocaine was put inside the 350Z.
4. CI-1 observed transactions in which other individuals purchased cocaine from [Appellee]. CI-1 related that
[Appellee] was operating a gold Mercedes Benz station wagon in and around the City of Chester, Pa. Also, he was utilizing a gray 350Z to stash and store his cocaine and also make sales and deliveries out of that vehicle. CI-1 related that he could find those vehicles in the area of the 300 block of Rural Avenue in Chester, Pa. CI-1 provided an accurate description of [Appellee]. Then, Trooper Skahill corroborated this information individually and also through other law enforcement sources, including Officer Dave Tyler of the Chester City Police Department. Trooper Skahill conducted a criminal history check of [Appellee] before applying for a search warrant. Trooper Skahill confirmed the identity of [Appellee].
5. Trooper Skahill had many successful prior contacts with CI-1, which led to the arrest of about eight individuals and seizures of large quantities of drugs, including cocaine. He had been working with him/her for approximately three years. CI-1 had given reliable information in the past that resulted in numerous arrests and convictions. CI-1 had always been truthful. CI-1 was making statements against his/her own interest. CI-1 demonstrated knowledge of narcotics, including preparing, packaging, weight, and prices.
6. As soon as Trooper Skahill got off the phone with CI- 1 in the early morning hours of February 5, 2009, he headed straight down to 323 Rural Avenue. He contacted other officers in his unit and told them about the information he had received. Then, Trooper Skahill and members of the Pennsylvania State Police Troop K Vice Unit established an early morning surveillance of 323 Rural Avenue, Chester City, Pennsylvania. When Trooper Skahill arrived at approximately 7:30 a.m., he observed the 350Z parked across the street from 323 Rural Avenue and it was facing the wrong direction. At 10:30 a.m., he observed [Appellee] pull into the driveway leading into 323 Rural Avenue while operating a gold four-door Mercedes Benz station wagon. Then, he used keys to enter the residence at 323 Rural Avenue. From Trooper Skahill's vantage point, he could see the front door of the residence. [Appellee] came out of the residence two times to meet with an individual in a pick-up truck and also to meet a female. At approximately 11:15 a.m., Trooper Skahill observed two marked Chester City Police vehicles arrive and enter the residence, after being greeted by [Appellee]. Ultimately, he learned that the City Police arrived based upon a report of a burglary at that residence.
7. The next witness to testify at the Suppression Hearing was Pennsylvania State Police Troop K Vice Narcotics Unit Officer Scott Miscannon. Trooper Miscannon was working undercover and established surveillance at about 9:00 a.m. on February 5, 2009 in front of 323 Rural Avenue in Chester, Pa. He observed [Appellee] exit a gold Mercedes Benz. He also observed a gray Nissan 350Z parked across the street from 323 Rural Avenue. Just prior to 1:20 p.m. he observed [Appellee] exit the residence, walk across the street to the passenger side of the Nissan and then [walk] directly back into 323 Rural Avenue. Then, [Appellee] peeked out of the residence but did not exit. Then, at approximately 1:20 p.m., the Trooper observed [Appellee] exit 323 Rural Avenue, walk across the street with a set of keys in his hand and enter the driver's side of the Nissan 350Z. He sat in the car for about one minute and then exited the car and headed back to 323 Rural Avenue. Officer Miscannon exited his vehicle, drew his duty weapon, and identified himself as a Pennsylvania State Police Officer, he was wearing a raid vest marked "State Police." [Appellee] fled but the Officer tackled him on the sidewalk next to the Nissan 350Z. He patted down [Appellee] and found a scale with suspected cocaine residue on it, a pill bottle with suspected marijuana, as well as keys to the Nissan and the Mercedes Benz.
8. Officer Miscannon testified that when he tackled [Appellee] he had observed no illegal conduct. The Officer was instructed to detain [Appellee] for merely entering and exiting the Nissan. He also testified he did not observe anything illegal in the Nissan prior to [Appellee] entering and exiting it.
9. Both vehicles were then transported to the Pa. State Police Station in Media, Pa. pending the application of search warrants. The Troopers believed the two vehicles contained cocaine and/or other evidence of [Appellee's] cocaine trafficking operation, and they applied for and received search warrants for the vehicles. The search of the Mercedes yielded $15,905.00 in cash. The search of the Nissan yielded: 5 clear plastic bags of cocaine, 3 additional bags of a white-powdery substance, and a bottle of Inositol powder. At the Pa. State Police Station in Media, Pa. Corporal Heins provided [Appellee] his Miranda*fn2 rights and then [Appellee] signed a three page written statement in which he admitted operating both vehicles. He admitted that there was approximately ½ of a kilogram of cocaine inside the Nissan 350Z. He stated he purchased the cocaine from a man named "Hector" from Northeast Philadelphia. He also said he owed Hector $19,500.00 for the cocaine inside the Nissan.
10. At the suppression hearing, Chester Police Officer David Tyler testified he is assigned full-time with the F.B.I. on the Drug Task Force. In February of 2009, Officer Tyler received information from a confidential informant ("CI-2") who told him that [Appellee] was supplying cocaine throughout the City of Chester to several mid-level cocaine dealers in Chester. ...