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United States v. Parker

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

June 10, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES K. PARKER, a/k/a “STINK” Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KIM R. GIBSON JUDGE

I. SYNOPSIS

Pending before the Court is Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and motion to suppress statement (both filed at ECF No. 71). Defendant asserts that the police conducted an unlawful search pursuant to a defective search warrant and unlawfully obtained his statement in violation of the United States Constitution. For the reasons explained below, the Court will DENY Defendant’s motions.

II. BACKGROUND

This matter arises from alleged drug transactions involving the Defendant and a subsequent search conducted on October 31, 2012. The Government filed a three-count Indictment against Defendant on February 12, 2013. (See ECF No. 1). Count 1 charges Defendant with distribution of less than 28 grams of cocaine base on or about October 18, 2012; Count 2 charges Defendant with distribution of less than 28 grams of cocaine base on or about October 30, 2012; and Count 3 charges Defendant with possession with intent to distribute less than 28 grams of cocaine base on or about October 31, 2012.

Counts 1 and 2 arise from two controlled drug purchases involving a confidential informant and Defendant, which occurred on October 18, 2012, and October 30, 2012. Count 3 arises from a search conducted pursuant to a warrant of Apartment # 482, Building # 19, Coopersdale Homes, Johnstown, PA (“Apartment # 482”), which occurred on October 31, 2012. Defendant was arrested on November 1, 2012, in relation to these incidents.

On March 26, 2013, Defendant made his initial appearance, was arraigned, and pled not guilty. (See ECF Nos. 34, 36). On January 7, 2014, Defendant filed the pending motions to suppress the evidence seized during the search and the subsequent statement he gave to police. The Government filed a response on February 20, 2014. (ECF No. 85).

Regarding the search of Apartment # 482, Defendant claims that the warrant is defective because it wrongly names Defendant as an “owner, occupant or possessor” of the apartment, even though Defendant’s actual address, as listed on his driver’s license, is 195 R Barron Avenue, Johnstown, PA. In response, the Government argues (1) that the Defendant was an occupant of Apartment # 482; (2) that whether Defendant was an owner or occupant of the apartment is immaterial because search warrants apply to places and not to people; and (3) that the warrant is constitutionally sound because it is based on probable cause, it describes the place to be searched with sufficient particularity, and it describes the items to be seized with sufficient particularity. Alternatively, the Government argues that the Leon good faith exception would apply.

Regarding the statement Defendant gave to police, Defendant claims that the police did not properly administer Miranda warnings prior to the interview. The Government counters that the police properly administered the Miranda warnings to Defendant both verbally and in writing prior to the interview and that Defendant waived his rights and voluntarily gave his statement.

On May 29, 2014, the Court held a suppression hearing on Defendant’s motions. At the hearing, the Government presented the testimony of four witnesses: Detective Thomas Keirn, Detective Justin Arcurio, Deputy Vince Arcurio, and FBI Special Agent Arnold Bernard. The Government also introduced the following exhibits into evidence: the application for search warrant (Gov’t Ex. 1); the statement of rights and waiver form signed by Defendant (Gov’t Ex. 2); Defendant’s booking sheet (titled “Personal History Report, ” form DLE-6) (Gov’t Ex. 3); an arrest report prepared by Detective Keirn (Gov’t Ex. 4); an FBI report from Defendant’s interview (Gov’t Ex. 5); a consent to search cell phone form signed by Defendant (Gov’t Ex. 6); the booking sheet for Ebony Thorne (titled “Personal History Report, ” form DLE-6) (Gov’t Ex. 7); and a search warrant report prepared by Detective Keirn (Gov’t Ex. 8). Defendant’s counsel cross-examined the Government’s witnesses, and offered into evidence a driver license information sheet regarding the Defendant (Def. Ex. A).

III. FINDINGS OF FACT

The Court makes the following findings of fact based on the evidence and testimony presented at the suppression hearing:

1. The three-count Indictment in this case charges Defendant with distribution of less than 28 grams of cocaine base on or about October 18, 2012; distribution of less than 28 grams of cocaine base on or about October 30, 2012; and possession with intent to distribute less than 28 grams of cocaine base on or about October 31, 2012.
2. Detective Thomas Keirn began investigating drug activities related to Defendant in August 2012.
3. After successfully conducting multiple drug transactions with Defendant using a confidential informant, Detective Keirn identified Apartment # 482 as a location being used by Defendant to conduct his drug activities.
4. Detective Keirn drafted a search warrant application and affidavit of probable cause, which was approved by Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Forest Fordham, for the purpose of locating instrumentalities and evidence related to illegal drug activities within Apartment # 482. (See Gov’t Ex. 1).
5. On October 31, 2012, Judge Patrick T. Kiniry of the Cambria County Court of Common Pleas signed and issued a warrant to search Apartment # 482. (See Gov’t Ex. 1).
6. On October 31, 2012, at approximately 7:15 p.m., officers executed the search warrant issued by Judge Kiniry and conducted a search of Apartment # 482.
7. At the time of the search, Defendant and Ebony Thorne were involved in a romantic relationship, they had one child together, and they held themselves out to be married to one another.
8. During the months prior to the search, Defendant regularly stayed overnight at Apartment # 482, and kept personal belongings at the apartment.
9. On November 1, 2012, Deputy Vince Arcurio and Detective Justin Arcurio arrested Defendant at approximately 11:00 a.m. in the lobby of the Penn Traffic Building in Johnstown, PA, when Defendant arrived to meet with his probation agent.
10. The two officers immediately transported Defendant to the Richland Township Police Department.
11. While transporting the Defendant to the police department, Detective Justin Arcurio verbally administered Miranda warnings to Defendant. Defendant verbally acknowledged that he understood his rights.
12. Upon arriving at the police department, the officers processed Defendant and placed him in a holding room.
13. Detective Justin Arcurio then presented Defendant with a waiver of rights form and read the form out loud to Defendant. Defendant answered and initialed each question on the form and signed his name to the bottom of the form, acknowledging ...

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