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United States of America v. Joseph Ligambi

August 22, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.



Defendant Massimino filed a Motion to Suppress. Def.'s Mot. 1, ECF No. 576. He seeks to suppress an outgoing prison letter from the Defendant, which New Jersey prison officials seized. Id. He contends that prison officials intercepted, opened, and read this letter in violation of New Jersey prison regulations. Id. The Government responded and argues that Defendant fails to identify and describe the nature and contents of the letter with sufficient specificity to allow proper review of his claim, and moreover, fails to state a legal basis under federal law to justify the suppression of a prison letter. Gov't's Resp. 1, ECF No. 728.*fn1 For the following reasons, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion.


In accordance with the Court's Third Scheduling Order, the Government submitted its Pretrial Evidence List on June 22, 2012 (ECF No. 608), identifying the items of physical evidence, documents and categories of documents, business records, and photographic and videotape evidence, which the Government may introduce in its case-in-chief. Included within this list was Defendant Massimino's prison mail obtained from South Woods State Prison, New Jersey, and Southern State Correctional Facility, Delmont, New Jersey. Gov't's Resp. 2. The Government intends to introduce some of Defendant Massimino's prison mail as evidence to prove that he continued to participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra ("LCN") Family even while incarcerated in state prison in New Jersey, both personally and through others. Id. Defendant Massimino seeks to suppress one specific item of prison mail: a letter dated August 22, 2005, from Defendant Massimino to Archie Rosenberg ("the Rosenberg Letter"). Gov't's Supplement 1, ECF No. 796.

Count One of the Third Superseding Indictment avers that Defendant Massimino agreed to associate with and participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia LCN Family enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity that included the collection of extensions of credit through extortionate means, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 894(a)(1). In particular, Count One avers the following:

Defendant MASSIMINO made extensions of credit to Victim D and attempted to collect those debts using extortionate means. On one occasion in 2005, while defendant MASSIMINO was incarcerated, defendant MASSIMINO sent a message to Victim D to repay Victim D's debt immediately. Defendant MASSIMINO threatened that Victim D wouldn't "be able to hide anywhere in the U.S."

Third Superseding Indictment, Count One, ¶ 26.D, ECF No. 723. The Government states that the Rosenberg Letter is the message referred to in Count One and argues it is competent proof of the racketeering charge against Defendant Massimino. Id. at 2-3.

The Government proffers evidence that the New Jersey Department of Corrections opened and read the Rosenberg Letter in accordance with its regulations pertaining to outgoing correspondence from inmates that contain disapproved content.

Id. at 3; see Melendez Aff. ¶ 2, Gov't's Supplement Attach. A. Specifically, Officer Melendez, a Senior Investigator in the Special Investigation Division, knew that inmate Defendant Massimino was affiliated with organized crime, namely the Philadelphia LCN Family, and read, opened, and forwarded to the Government the Rosenberg Letter pursuant to a federal grand jury subpoena issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ("EDPA") and directed to the Custodian of Records at the South Woods State Prison in New Jersey. Gov't's Supplement 3; Melendez Aff. ¶ 3; see also Grand Jury Subpoena 1, Gov't's Supplement Ex. 1.


The Fourth Amendment guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend IV. The Fourth Amendment protects against governmental invasions into a person's "legitimate expectation of privacy," which encompasses two discrete questions.

The first is whether the individual, by his conduct, has "exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy,"-whether, in the words of the Katz majority, the individual has shown that "he seeks to preserve [something] as private." The second question is whether the individual's subjective expectation of privacy is "one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable,"-whether, in the words of the Katz majority, the individual's expectation, viewed objectively, is "justifiable" under the circumstances. Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 740 (1979) (quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351, 353 (1967)).

While a prison inmate is not stripped of constitutional protections at the prison gate, any reasonable expectation of privacy a prison inmate retains is of diminished scope. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545-47 (1975). "The fact of confinement as well as the legitimate goals and policies of the ...

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