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United States v. Morris

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 20, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM JAMES MORRIS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM ORDER RE: DEFENDANT MORRIS' MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE FROM TITLE III ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION INTERCEPTIONS (DOC. NO. 298)

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

On May 7, 2013, William James Morris ("Defendant") was charged at Counts I and II of a Superseding Indictment with crimes related to an alleged cocaine distribution conspiracy. Doc. No. 115. Specifically, Defendant is charged at Count I with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, a schedule II controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and at Count II with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Id.

Six other individuals were indicted with Defendant. A jury trial is scheduled to begin on December 3, 2013. Doc. No. 196. All of Defendant's co-defendants have changed their pleas to guilty and therefore, the trial will proceed only as to Defendant Morris.

Presently before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence from Title III Electronic Communications.[1] Doc. No. 298. Defendant's Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. Doc. Nos. 298, 306. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for a Franks hearing and Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 298) will be denied.

Evidence against Defendant includes intercepted conversations obtained via wiretap surveillance. Miscellaneous case number 12-213(b). The wiretap surveillance was authorized by United States District Judge Terrence McVerry on July 25, 2012, and was supported by a 94 page Affidavit in Support of Application sworn by DEA Special Agent Hanjong Louis To. Defendant contends that the Affidavit is not supported by probable cause because it includes "inaccurate" and "uncorroborable" translations of Defendant's conversations and the warrant would not have issued if not for those translations. Defendant requests a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), and seeks to have this Court suppress evidence obtained as a result of the wiretap. Doc. No. 298. The key inquiry for this Court is whether

Defendant has made a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement was knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, included by the Affiant in the Affidavit. Defendant points to the following portions of the Affidavit that are allegedly "woefully reckless as concerns the truth":

(1) June 30, 2012, at 9:30am - Affiant contends that Defendant has a history of cruelty to animals, is having his dog trained, and it is not uncommon for those who distribute controlled substances to engage in dog fighting (Affidavit, ¶ 31);
(2) June 30, 2012, at 9:30am - Affiant contends that Ronnie Steave (a co-defendant in this case) planned to meet with Kornish "in order to discuss a drug transaction." (Id.);
(3) July 1, 2012, at 11:54am - Affiant contends that Defendant had obtained cocaine and had cocaine to distribute to co-defendant Ronnie Steave (Affidavit, ¶ 32);
(4) July 1, 2012, at 1:58am - Affiant contends that co-defendant Ronnie Steave "was receiving cocaine" from Defendant and met with a third-party to distribute cocaine obtained (Affidavit, ¶ 33); and
(5) July 9, 2012, at 10:17am - Affiant contends that Defendant and two individuals arranged to meet in person to avoid discussing controlled substances on the phone (Affidavit, ¶ 37).

Defendant contends that the Affiant has "no basis in fact" for these portions of the Affidavit and therefore, the application for ...


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