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United States of America v. William Torres

December 19, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WILLIAM TORRES



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The superseding indictment in this case charges Defendant William Torres ("Torres") with: 1) conspiring with twelve co-defendants to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) from June 2008 through July 21, 2011(Count 1); 2) knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute, and aiding and abetting in possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) on March 3, 2011 (Count 8); 3) knowingly possessing a firearm and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. §924(c)(1) and (2) on March 3, 2011 (Count 9).

Torres has filed a motion to suppress: 1) shotgun shells found in plain view in Torres's residence at 1812 East Tusculum Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ("1812 East Tusculum") which were seized during a warrantless "protective sweep" of the residence on March 3, 2011; 2) evidence found on Torres's person during his arrest, also on March 3, 2011, including a key to 1812 East Tusculum, a round of ammunition, a cellular phone, and $108; and 3) evidence found during a later search, pursuant to a warrant, of 1812 East Tusculum, including the two firearms listed in the superseding indictment, shotgun shells and other ammunition, a box filled with bundles of packaged heroin stamped "Nite Life" (a total of 450 packets), drug paraphernalia, over $1500 in cash, two cellular phones, and proof that Torres resided at that address, including photographs and an insurance card issued to him.

On September 6, 2012, the Court held a hearing on Defendant's Motion to Suppress.

I. F INDINGS OF F ACT

1. Officer Robert Clark is a Philadelphia Police Officer with over 20 years of experience. At the time of the relevant events in this case, he was assigned to the FBI Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force. *fn1

2. In December 2010, Officer Clark began investigating a drug conspiracy, the Medina drug trafficking organization, of which Torres is charged as a member. *fn2

3. On January 4, 2011, Philadelphia police officers and FBI agents searched 4203 Bodine Street in Philadelphia, the home of Claudio Santos, one of Torres's co-defendants in the alleged drug conspiracy, pursuant to an arrest warrant for Santos and a search warrant for his home. *fn3

Santos was arrested based on evidence that he was involved in two separate shootings. *fn4

4. During the January 4, 2011 investigation, a cooperator informed officers that Torres was removing drugs from the 2800 block of Water Street and taking them to the 1800 block of East Tusculum Street. Officers and FBI agents drove to East Tusculum Street, where they observed Torres at the front door of 1812 East Tusculum. A woman had just exited that residence and stepped into a taxi. Then, Torres went back inside and shut the door. *fn5

5. Officer Stanley Davis followed the taxi and stopped it for an investigation of the passenger. She identified herself and stated that she lived at 1812 East Tusculum. *fn6

6. The Officers at 1812 East Tusculum noticed motion detectors go off at the rear of the property, but could not access that area. They attempted to talk to Torres, but discovered that he was no longer in the house, and that the back door was open. *fn7 Two cooperating sources told officers that Torres had fled from his residence. *fn8

7. The Officers took no further action on that date. *fn9

8. On February 27, 2011, Hector Plaza was killed. The same two cooperating sources who had provided information in the earlier shooting investigation informed police that Plaza was killed because of a confrontation involving Plaza, Torres, and a third man, and that the conflict was related to the Medina drug trafficking organization. *fn10 Between February 27 and March 3, 2011, the police were also informed that Torres "had intimate knowledge about [the Plaza] murder" and that he was planning to flee Philadelphia. *fn11

9. Prior to the events of March 3, 2011, police only knew Torres as "Will" or "Willow." They did not know his last name, birth date, or other biographical information about him. *fn12

10. From the two informants, *fn13 police had learned that Torres lived at 1812 East Tusculum, was a "case worker" or "shift supervisor" in the Medina drug trafficking organization, and kept drugs and possibly weapons in his residence. *fn14 The informants had provided reliable tips to the police in the past. One had provided "a handful" of tips, and the other "hundreds." *fn15

11. On March 3, 2011, Officer Clark established surveillance of 1812 East Tusculum. Nearby, but not in front of 1812 East Tusculum, a SWAT team, two uniformed officers in a marked car, and other officers and agents waited. *fn16

12. Shortly after Officer Clark established surveillance, *fn17 he observed a man generally meeting Torres's description leave the property and walk westbound. *fn18 Officer Clark alerted the SWAT team, which drove ...

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