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United States of America v. Richard Valentine

March 28, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RICHARD VALENTINE



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

MEMORANDUM

I.INTRODUCTION

On April 1, 2010, defendant Richard Valentine pled guilty to an indictment which charged (1) one count of possession of five grams or more of cocaine base with intent to distribute, (2) one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, (3) one count of possession of oxycodone, (4) and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. As part of the plea agreement, defendant reserved his right to appeal the Court's denial of his pre-trial motion to suppress. On November 30, 2010, the Court imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of 240 months imprisonment followed by eight years of supervised release and a special assessment of $400. On December 13, 2010, defendant filed a timely appeal of the Court's denial of his pre-trial motion to suppress. The Third Circuit affirmed the Court's ruling on November 14, 2011.

On January 4, 2013, defendant filed a timely pro se § 2255 motion. After the Government responded in opposition, defendant filed a motion to amend his § 2255 motion dated February 14, 2013 to add two new claims. The Government opposes the motion to amend on the ground that it was dated after the one-year limitations period expired on February 12, 2013. The motion to amend was filed on February 19, 2013.

II.BACKGROUND

The background of this case is set forth in detail in previous opinions. See United States v. Valentine, 451 Fed. App'x 87, 91 (3d Cir. 2011) (affirming District Court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress); United States v. Valentine, 2009 WL 2776487 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 1, 2009) (denying defendant's motion to suppress). Accordingly, the Court recites in this Memorandum only those facts necessary to explain the Court's rulings on the pending motions.

A. Factual Background

On the evening of November 12, 2008, defendant was the subject of a traffic stop in Bensalem Township. Some time shortly before 9:49 p.m., Bensalem Police Officer Joseph Gansky observed defendant's vehicle with darkly tinted windows being operated at a high rate of speed in Bristol Township. (Tr. at 44-45.) Officer Gansky lacked jurisdiction to stop defendant's vehicle there and did not attempt to do so. (Tr. at 45, 108-09.) Shortly after returning to Bensalem Township, Officer Gansky observed defendant's vehicle enter Bensalem Township. (Tr. at 45-46.) Officer Gansky followed defendant's vehicle and, after he activated his overhead lights on his police vehicle, defendant drove his vehicle into a closed shopping center and parked in a designated parking space. (Tr. at 51, 77.) Officer Gansky testified that he stopped the vehicle because it had darkly tinted windows in violation of Pennsylvania Code 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4524(e)(1) and the driver had been engaging in "suspicious activity." (Tr. at 68-69.) When Officer Gansky approached the vehicle and asked defendant for his driver's license, registration, and insurance, defendant responded that he was driving on a suspended license and had neither insurance nor registration. (Tr. at 53.)

After back-up arrived on the scene, Officer Gansky decided to impound the vehicle. (Tr. at 69, 98.) Officer Gansky called his supervising officer, Corporal George Price, for authorization to impound the vehicle. (Tr. at 57.) Corporal Price testified that his decision to authorize the impoundment of the vehicle was based solely on the fact that defendant was driving on a suspended license and without insurance. (Tr. at 15.)

Officer Gansky then proceeded to inspect the vehicle for damage and inventory its contents. (Tr. at 59--60, 89--90.) Officer Gansky searched first the interior of the vehicle, then the glove compartment, and then the trunk. In the interior of the car, Officer Gansky found loose change and assorted compact discs. (Tr. at 90.) In the glove compartment, which was unlocked according to Officer Gansky's recollection, Officer Gansky found two prescription pill bottles containing pills. (Tr. at 59--60.) There were no labels on the bottles. (Id.) Officer Gansky then opened the trunk using the trunk lid release latch in the vehicle. (Tr. at 60.) At this point, defendant "jumped and ran towards" the back of the vehicle and "slammed" the trunk. (Id.) Officer Gansky then placed defendant in handcuffs for officer safety and informed defendant that the police department's inventory procedure required a full search of the vehicle, including the trunk. (Tr. at 61.) According to Officer Gansky, defendant responded by saying, "You can have the car, you can arrest me, but you cannot search the trunk." (Id.)

Officer Gansky then re-opened the trunk of the vehicle and continued his inventory search. (Tr. at 61.) The trunk contained: (1) various items of clothing, including shoes, (2) two clear bags of a white powdery substance which fell out of the pocket of a pair of jeans, (3) a black digital scale with white powdery residue on it, (4) a Jennings Model 25 automatic pistol, loaded with four live rounds of .25 caliber ammunition, and (5) a second magazine loaded with four live rounds of .25 caliber ammunition. (Tr. at 62.) After finding the gun, ammunition, and bags containing the white powdery substance, Officer Gansky placed defendant under arrest. (Tr. at 62.)

B. Procedural Background

On March 17, 2009, defendant was indicted on (1) one count of possession of five grams or more of cocaine base with intent to distribute, (2) one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, (3) one count of possession of oxycodone, (4) and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon.

On April 9, 2009, defendant filed a motion to suppress, in which he argued (1) that he was the subject of an unlawful traffic stop, (2) the decision to impound his vehicle was improper because it was based on an improper investigatory motive, (3) the inventory of his vehicle was not made pursuant to any standardized written criteria or routine governing the scope of the inventory search, and (4) the impoundment and inventory search were invalid because they did not follow state law and a Pennsylvania Superior Court decision. The Court held a hearing on the motion on July 31, 2009, at which Officer Gansky and Corporal Price testified. On September 1, 2009, the Court denied defendant's motion to suppress.

On April 1, 2010, defendant entered a plea of guilty to all charges, pursuant to a plea agreement that specifically reserved his right to appeal the Court's denial of his motion to suppress. Defendant avers that his trial counsel advised him during the plea negotiations that defendant would be permitted to raise on direct appeal two new arguments regarding the motion to suppress. On November 30, 2010, the Court imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of 240 months imprisonment followed by eight years of supervised release and a special assessment of $400.

On December 13, 2010, defendant filed a direct appeal, raising the two new arguments regarding the motion to suppress: (1) he challenged the impoundment of his vehicle because it was not authorized by a sergeant, and (2) he challenged the inventory search of the trunk of his vehicle as beyond the scope of the written inventory search policy. The Third Circuit affirmed this Court's denial of the motion to suppress without reaching these two new arguments, concluding that because the arguments were not raised before ...


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