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United States v. Ruffin

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

August 15, 2014



Terrence F. McVerry, Senior United States District Judge

Before the Court is the MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE SEIZED IN VIOLATION OF U.S.. IV (ECF No. 40) filed by Defendant Andre Ruffin with brief in support (ECF No. 67).[1] The government has filed a response in opposition (ECF No. 58). The Court held an evidentiary hearing on May 14, 2014; the transcript of that proceeding has been filed of record (ECF No. 73). The parties have since filed supplemental briefs (ECF Nos. 77, 78), which were due on or before July 18, 2014. (ECF No. 75). Neither party filed a rebuttal/response within the seven-day allotment set by the Court at the conclusion of the hearing. (ECF No. 73 at 99). Accordingly, the motion is ripe for disposition.


On May 7, 2013, a federal grand jury sitting in the Western District of Pennsylvania returned a one-count Indictment against Ruffin which charged him with the crime of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon on or about April 22, 2013 in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(e). On October 15, 2013, the government filed a Superseding Indictment which charged Ruffin with the crime of Possession of Firearms and Ammunition by a Convicted Felon on or about April 22, 2013 in violation of the same federal statutes.

Ruffin has filed a motion to suppress evidence and a supplement thereto. (ECF Nos. 40, 53). The government filed an omnibus response. (ECF No. 58). The Court ruled on several aspects of those motions in a March 6, 2014 Memorandum Order in which it deferred a decision on the suppression motion(s) in the original filing pending an evidentiary hearing / oral argument, granted in part and denied in part the motion for pretrial discovery, and denied the supplemental motion to suppress / the request for a Franks hearing. (ECF No. 59). A joint filing followed to notify the Court (1) that the government would not offer into evidence statements made by Ruffin which he sought to suppress in light of Bailey v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 1031 (2013); (2) that the parties agreed there was no need for oral argument on any then-existing legal issues; and (3) that Ruffin intended to file a motion for reconsideration to address the Franks issue and related legal matters. Accordingly, the Court cancelled the evidentiary hearing / oral argument and set a briefing schedule for the motion for reconsideration. (ECF No. 64).

After the parties briefed the issues, the Court granted in part the motion for reconsideration and scheduled an evidentiary hearing. The Court did, however, limit the hearing to (1) the alleged staleness of the information provided in the April 22, 2012 search warrant application and affidavit of probable cause; and (2) the scope of the protective sweep conducted during the execution of the initial search warrant. (ECF No. 70).

On May 14, 2014, the Court held an evidentiary hearing at which it admitted evidence and heard testimony from three government witnesses. (ECF Nos. 71, 72). At the request of defense counsel, the Court ordered supplemental briefing at the conclusion of the hearing.

A. Factual Background

The charges against Ruffin stem from a series of events that unraveled after his so-called common-law wife, Leicia Jackson, died intestate on May 18, 2012. Prior to her death, Leicia and Ruffin shared a home located in the Munhall Borough at 704 East 14th Avenue, Homestead, Pennsylvania. The title to the property was in Leicia’s name. Loretta Jackson, Leicia’s mother, was appointed as the personal representative of her daughter’s estate on June 27, 2012.

Within days of the appointment, Ruffin sent Loretta a letter in which he challenged her right to the property. The letter stated:

Dear ms loretta jackon,
sorry to inform you you are mistaken. you are not executor of property sitting on 704 e 14th ave. me and leicia are common law married. since she is my wife proper channels must be taken. you have right to nothing. you have no jurisdiction or authority in this matter. your intentions violate contracts between my wife (leicia jackson) and I. I am the owner of the property. only I will dictate and give commands concerning my property. thank you.
leicia’s husband andre ruffin [sic]

(ECF No. 58-1 at 2). According to court records, Loretta and Ruffin were scheduled to have a hearing regarding the probate of the estate on April 12, 2013.

On April 11, 2013, Loretta was shot and killed inside of her home. Officers from the West Mifflin Police Department were dispatched to the residence after the activation of a Guardian Protection Alarm System (“Guardian”) and the receipt of a 9-1-1 call from an unidentified woman inside the home. Upon their arrival, police officers found one woman inside the residence in a locked bedroom as well as Loretta inside a second bedroom with multiple gunshot wounds to her body. The same day, the West Mifflin Police Department requested investigative assistance from the Allegheny County Police Department’s Homicide Section.

On April 12, 2013, Detective Scott Towne of the Homicide Section went to 704 East 14thAvenue in an attempt to speak with Ruffin about Loretta. Detective Towne instead encountered Ruffin’s girlfriend, Sataria Hamlin, at the residence, gave her a business card, and asked that Ruffin contact him via telephone. Additionally, Detective Towne observed a video surveillance system on the exterior of the structure.

On April 15, 2013, Ruffin voluntarily provided a statement to Detectives Towne and Caruso at the Allegheny County Police Headquarters. Ruffin told the detectives that he was at home on the evening of Loretta’s murder, that he ...

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