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United States v. Montgomery

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 30, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
PRICE MONTGOMERY, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Mark R. Hornak, United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court are two motions to suppress: a Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence filed by Defendant Price Montgomery and joined by Defendant James Perrin (ECF No. 199) and a Motion to Suppress Tracking, GPS, and Pen Register filed by Defendant Montgomery (ECF No. 201). The former Motion seeks to suppress evidence obtained by law enforcement through (1) the search of Defendant Montgomery's vehicle; (2) the arrests of Defendants Montgomery and Perrin and the search of their persons; and (3) the search of Defendant Montgomery's residence. The latter Motion seeks to suppress all evidence obtained from various tracking and GPS devices, pen registers, and warrants for searches of cell phones on the basis that the applications for the authorization of these devices lacked probable cause.

         For the reasons that follow, both Motions to Suppress, ECF Nos. 199 & 201, are denied.

         I. Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence, ECF No. 199

         Defendants Montgomery and Perrin assert that law enforcement violated their Fourth Amendment rights through the search of Defendant Montgomery's vehicle, the arrests and searches of Defendants Montgomery and Perrin, and the search of Defendant Montgomery's residence. In essence. Defendants argue that law enforcement agents-who were conducting surveillance on Defendant Montgomery's home while other investigators attempted to get a search warrant for the home-saw Defendants Montgomery and Perrin leave the home and then prematurely conducted a traffic stop, without reasonable suspicion, in an effort to detain the Defendants and search them without a warrant. Because Defendants were leaving the place to be searched and law enforcement did not have a warrant, Defendants assert that the stop, search, and seizure violated their Fourth Amendment rights as articulated in Bailey v. United States, 568 U.S. 186 (2013).[1] Similarly, because investigators incorporated the evidence seized during the allegedly unconstitutional search of Defendant Montgomery's car into the affidavit of probable cause for the search warrant application for the residence, Defendants further argue that that search warrant was invalid and the evidence discovered during the search of Defendant Montgomery's residence must be suppressed.

         The Government asserts that Bailey v. United States is inapplicable to this case because Defendants were not detained merely to permit law enforcement to execute a search warrant at Defendant Montgomery's residence-rather, according to the Government, law enforcement had probable cause to lawfully detain Defendants and search the vehicle, pursuant to the automobile exception to the search warrant requirement, based on information gained from the wiretap investigation.[2] Accordingly, claims the Government, none of the searches violated the Fourth Amendment, the search warrant for Defendant Montgomery's home was valid, and Defendants' Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence should be denied.

         A. Legal Standard

         It is settled law that the Fourth Amendment generally requires police to secure a warrant before conducting a search, subject to certain well-established exceptions. See, e.g., Maryland v. Dyson. 527 U.S. 465, 466 (1999); California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 390-91 (1985); Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967). One such exception is the search of a vehicle. Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 149 (1925).

         Under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, police may search a vehicle without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe the vehicle contains contraband. Dyson, 527 U.S. at 466 (citing Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938, 940 (1996); Carroll, 267 U.S. at 149 ("[I]f the search and seizure without a warrant are made upon probable cause, that is, upon a belief, reasonably arising out of circumstances known to the seizing officer, that an automobile or other vehicle contains that which by law is subject to seizure and destruction, the search and seizure are valid.")). Further, where police have probable cause to search a vehicle, they may conduct a warrantless search of every part of the vehicle and its contents, including all containers and packages, that may conceal the object of the search. United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 825 (1982).

         A law enforcement officer has probable cause to conduct a search when, based on the totality of the circumstances, ''the facts available to [the officer] would 'warrant a [person] of reasonable caution in the belief that contraband or evidence of a crime is present." Florida v. Harris, 568 U.S. 237, 243 (2013) (quoting Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 742 (1983)). "The test for probable cause is not reducible to 'precise definition or quantification." Id. (quoting Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366. 371 (2003)). "All we have required is the kind of 'fair probability' on which 'reasonable and prudent [people, ] not legal technicians, act.'" Id. at 244 (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 235 (1983)).

         B. Analysis

         Based on the record in this case, the Court concludes that law enforcement had probable cause to believe that the vehicle in which Defendants departed from Defendant Montgomery's residence contained evidence of drug trafficking; therefore, the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement.

         The Court will briefly describe the basis for this probable cause, as accurately detailed in the Government's briefs and as set forth in the testimony of law enforcement officers involved in the investigation at the evidentiary hearing in this matter. Starting on June 6, 2014, law enforcement officers were aware that Defendants Montgomery and Perrin were preparing to travel to New Jersey to obtain a shipment of heroin based on phone calls and text messages intercepted by law enforcement using wiretaps on Defendant Montgomery's phone and other methods of surveillance. (Gov't's Resp. to Defs.' Suppl. Brs. in Supp. of Mot. to Suppress Physical Evid., ECF No. 424, at 2.) On June 7, 2014, a surveillance team observed Defendants arrive at the location in New Jersey where agents believed Defendant Montgomery met with his heroin supply source, a business known as Inferno Limits Paintball. (Id.) Defendant Montgomery carried a brown backpack, in which investigators suspected he transported heroin and/or money, into the building. (Id. at 2, 3.) Based on the surveillance of the Defendants in New Jersey and information learned from the wiretap, DEA Task Force Officer Matthew Trusedell testified at the evidentiary hearing: "We believed that Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Perrin had obtained a quantity of heroin, [and they] were bringing it back to Pittsburgh." (Id. at 2-3.) Early the next morning (June 8, 2014, at approximately 5 AM), Defendants traveled back to Pittsburgh in Defendant Montgomery's vehicle and arrived at Defendant Montgomery's residence. (Id. at 2-3.) Law enforcement officers observed as Defendant Montgomery again carried a brown backpack from the vehicle into the residence, while Defendant Perrin carried a suitcase, which seemingly due to its weight and/or contents, he held in a "curling" fashion up against his chest. (Id. at 3.) Within a matter of hours that same day, investigators observed those Defendants exit the residence and return to Defendant Montgomery's vehicle, with Defendant Montgomery again carrying a brown backpack. (Id.)

         Based on evidence gathered during the course of the investigation, including a previous stop of one of Defendant Montgomery's associates where contraband was discovered in a similar high-end bag, Officer Truesdell testified during the evidentiary hearing that law enforcement officers believed that Defendant Montgomery and his associates used high-end bags-like the brown backpack that Defendant Montgomery was carrying when he allegedly retrieved the heroin shipment in New Jersey, when he returned to his residence in Pittsburgh, and again when he left his residence shortly before law enforcement stopped his vehicle-to transport either money or heroin. (Id.) At this point, believing Defendants had just returned to Pittsburgh with heroin and that the vehicle-and, more specifically, the brown backpack-contained contraband or evidence of a crime, ...


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