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United States of America v. Joseph Meehan

May 3, 2013


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



On December 1, 2011, Defendant Joseph Meehan was indicted and charged with various offenses, including attempted robbery and Hobbs Act robbery. He was also charged with attempted armed carjacking, using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, witness tampering, possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The charges stem from robberies that took place at pharmacies located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 9 and 14, 2011, and events following the robberies. Defendant was identified as a perpetrator of the robberies. Thereafter, a major effort to locate Defendant was undertaken by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and the Philadelphia Police Department.

On February 17, 2011, using data obtained from a cell phone, Defendant was tracked to the Riviera Motel, 2120 Route 73, Pennsauken, New Jersey. (Doc. No. 125 at 1; Doc. No. 119 at 22.) An FBI Task Force, Agents of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, and New Jersey State Police conducted surveillance at the motel and observed Defendant walking outside Room 74. (Doc. No. 119 at 50.) Defendant was observed walking on crutches with a bandage on his foot, which he may have placed there after being shot by Philadelphia Police when fleeing the scene of the February 14, 2011 robbery. (Id.; Doc. No. 117 at 6--7.)

While Defendant and his companion, Leah Ann Sabatino, were walking outside Room 74, law enforcement agents quickly approached Defendant and Sabatino and arrested them. (Doc. No. 119 at 56.) Defendant contends that during the arrest, officers kicked his crutches away, and one officer stomped on his foot, causing him to scream in pain. (Id.) While hearing Defendant scream in pain, Sabatino pleaded with the officers to stop beating Defendant, and, ostensibly in an effort to appease the police and stop the beating, told the officers that contraband was located inside their motel room. (Doc. No. 119 at 4--5.)

As a result of these events, Detective William Wheeler of the Pennsauken Police Department and Detective Timothy Tague of the Philadelphia Police Department prepared an affidavit of probable cause to search Room 74 of the motel. They submitted the affidavit to a New Jersey Municipal Court Judge in support of a request for a search warrant. (Id. at 21--23; Doc. No. 125 at 1.) The affidavit provided as follows:

Det. Timothy G. Tague #8071, being of full age and being sworn according to law, upon my oath, deposes and says: . . . .

On 2/17/2011 I was contacted by Detective William McCusker of the Philadelphia Police Department. Detective McCusker informed me that he was looking for a robbery suspect who was wanted for a parole violation out of Philadelphia. The suspect was entered into NCIC/SCIC as a Wanted Person. This suspect is also wanted for questioning regarding three armed robberies which had occurred in Philadelphia, on 1/31/2011, 2/9/2011 and 2/14/2011. During the armed robbery of 2/14/2011 the suspect exchanged gun fire with Philadelphia Police. During these robberies it was reported that a large amount of prescription drugs and currency were taken. Detective McCusker advised that cell phone information was being received from the area of Rt. 73 and Haddonfield Rd., Pennsauken, NJ. I informed Detective McCusker that the location was in the immediate area of the Riviera Motel. Approximately two hours transpired when I received a phone call from Detective McCusker advising that the suspect had been located at the Riviera Motel coming out of room 74 with a female. The suspect was placed under arrest. The female was identified as Leah Anne Sabatino, date of birth 4/2/1981. She was detained by police and interviewed. She advised police she had rented the room using her identification. The suspect did not possess any identification. She stated that she has stayed with the suspect in room 74 since Tuesday (2/15/2011) night at approximately 10:00 PM. She also advised police that she has observed a large amount of prescription drugs in room 74. (Doc. No. 119 at 22.) Based on this affidavit, the court issued a search warrant for Room 74.

Defendant contends that the affidavit contained a material omission that rendered the affidavit false, and warrants a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). If Defendant presents evidence to show that the affidavit contained a false statement made "knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth," and that "the allegedly false statement [was] necessary to the finding of probable cause," he is entitled to a hearing on his Franks claim.*fn1 Id. at 155--56.

Because Defendant has not met his burden, a Franks hearing will not be held.


The following facts are derived from allegations in the Government's Trial Memorandum and from Defendant's moving brief. (Doc. Nos. 117, 119.) On February 9, 2011, Defendant and co-Defendant Jonathan Andrews planned to rob the Blue Grass Pharmacy at 2417 Welsh Road, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 117 at 5.) Andrews stole a white Mitsubishi Gallant for use as a getaway car. (Id.) After conducting the robbery and stealing narcotics and cash, Defendant and Andrews fled the scene in the stolen Mitsubishi. (Id.) Philadelphia Police later found the Mitsubishi, which had been wiped down for fingerprints with a chemical, most likely WD-40. (Id.)

Defendant and Andrews next planned the robbery of the CVS Pharmacy located at 8525 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id.) Defendant recruited Anthony Menachella to be a getaway driver. (Id.) Andrews and Menachella purchased walkie-talkies for use in the robbery. (Id. at 5--6.) Andrews stole another car for use as a getaway vehicle. (Id. at 6.) On the morning of February 14, 2011, the getaway car's battery was dead, and Menachella decided to back out of the robbery. (Id.) Defendant recruited Randy Parsons to replace Menachella as the getaway driver.*fn2 (Id.) Parsons used his personal vehicle as the getaway car. (Id.)

On February 14, 2011 at approximately 8:30 p.m., Defendant, Andrews, and Parsons entered the CVS Pharmacy on Frankford Avenue. (Id.) Defendant and Parsons were armed with handguns and Andrews carried a BB gun. (Id.) While Parsons apparently stood as lookout near the front of the store, Andrews went through the cash registers, and Defendant ran to the rear of the store, where the pharmacy is located. (Id.) Defendant ordered two pharmacy employees to put pharmaceuticals in a bag. (Id.)

While the robbery was in progress, the Philadelphia Police Department responded to a 911 call, and units began to arrive at the scene. (Id.) Parsons, upon hearing police sirens, fled without informing Defendant or Andrews. (Id.) Two police officers, Schmid and Seymour, entered the store and evacuated customers. (Id.) The officers then moved down the aisles towards the pharmacy at the rear of the store, where Defendant and Andrews were located. (Id.) Schmid shouted at Defendant and Andrews from his position in the aisle. (Id.) Andrews pointed his handgun at the officers. (Id.) Suddenly, a female pharmacist stood up between Andrews and Schmid. (Id.) The officers partially retreated down the aisle. (Id.)

Trapped in the pharmacy area, Defendant attempted to break the drive-through window by firing his weapon at the glass, with no effect. (Id.) Defendant then opened the sliding window, which he and Andrews used to exit the pharmacy into the rear driveway. (Id.) Behind the CVS, Defendant and Andrews were confronted by more police. (Id.) Defendant fired his weapon at the police, who returned fire. (Id.) Defendant was apparently shot in the foot during this gunfight. (Id. at 7.) Defendant and Andrews managed to escape by jumping over a fence behind the CVS. (Id. at 6--7.)

Andrews made it back to his car and drove away. (Id. at 7.) He was later arrested by Philadelphia Police and confessed to the robbery. (Id.) He pled guilty before this Court on January 10, 2013. (Doc. No. 99.) The Government intends to call Andrews as a witness against Defendant at trial. (Doc. No. 117 at 7.)

Defendant, who was separated from Andrews, unsuccessfully attempted a carjacking behind the CVS. (Id.) After his failure, he fled into the surrounding neighborhood. (Id.) Defendant managed to elude police despite a canvas of the area. (Id.) He called a friend, Chucky Rhodes, who came to pick him up near the CVS. (Id.) Defendant apparently made incriminating statements to Rhodes about the robbery. (Id.) Already a fugitive from Pennsylvania parole and now wanted for his participation in the robbery and shootout with Philadelphia Police, ...

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