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United States v. Sawyers

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 14, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
VICTOR SAWYERS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge.

         Presently before me is Defendant Victor Sawyers' (“Sawyers” or “Defendant”) Motion for a Franks Hearing and to Suppress All Physical Evidence and Statements Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(3) and the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 39). In the alternative, Defendant requests disclosure of the name of the confidential informant. In support of this motion, Defendant argues the search warrant lacked probable cause because the Affidavit of Probable Cause submitted in support of the warrant application contained misrepresentations and omissions that were made either intentionally or with reckless disregard. For the reasons discussed below, the suppression motion and request for a Franks hearing will be denied and the request to disclose the name of the informant will be granted.

         I. Background

         On January 30, 2019, a federal grand jury returned a six-count Indictment charging Sawyers and Antiqua Cox (“Cox”) with possession with the intent to distribute heroin, cocaine base, and fentanyl and conspiracy for the same, maintaining a drug premises, and several firearm offenses. Specifically, Sawyers was charged with the following: Conspiracy to Possess with the Intent to Distribute Heroin, Cocaine Base and Fentanyl in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count One); Possession with the Intent to Distribute Heroin, Cocaine Base, and Fentanyl in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count Two); Maintaining a Drug Premises in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1) (Count Three); Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count Five); and Felon in Possession of a Firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922g) (Count Six). (Doc. 1).

         On May 16, 2018, Detective Nicholas Ishman applied for a search warrant for 10 H Hall Manor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 17104, which was approved by a magistrate judge that same day. (Doc. 39-1, “Def.'s Ex. A, ” at 2; Doc. 51, “Gov.'s Ex. 4, ” at 12). In support of the warrant application, Detective Ishman prepared an Affidavit of Probable Cause describing his investigation based on a tip from a confidential informant and subsequent controlled drug purchase also involving the informant. (Id.). The Affidavit of Probable Cause reads in pertinent part[1] as follows:

Within the last two days, the Affiant [Detective Ishman] has been informed by a Confidential Informant (CI) that there was to be a male with the nickname of “Menace” selling drugs from 10 H Hall Manor, Harrisburg PA, 17104. Menace was identified as Victor Sawyers (11/10/1979). The CI did agree to go to 10 H Hall Manor, and while under police surveillance, make a controlled purchase of crack cocaine from this residence.
While in my presence the CI did dial the number 717-303-4945 and ordered an amount of crack cocaine. The CI was told to come to the prearranged meeting spot of 10 H Hall Manor. I searched the CI and the CI's vehicle and found them free of any drugs, drug paraphernalia or money. I then documented Dauphin County Funds to be used during this transaction (Serial Numbers JA02286922B, MG88866042F, MB88645601G, MD51990904D, MB442747651I, JJ08595396B, MK84704165B) and provided these funds to the CI. Sgt. Delon Henry did mobilize to the area to cover the rear of the residence. Det. Jason Paul and I did mobilize to the area to cover the rear of the residence. The CI was followed to the area by Det. Dennis Simmons. While under full police surveillance, the CI exited their vehicle and walked directly to the front door of 10 H Hall Manor. The CI entered the residence and within 1-2 minutes exited the residence. The CI reentered their vehicle and drove from the area while under the surveillance of Det. Simmons. The CI returned to a secluded area where they provided Det. Simmons with a corner tie of suspected crack cocaine. Affiant searched the CI and Det. Simmons searched the CI's vehicle finding them free of any drugs, drug paraphernalia or money.
It is the Affiant's experience that person(s) who sell illegal drugs often keep additional amounts of illegal drugs in their residences. For this reason Affiant is requesting a Search Warrant for 10 H Hall Manor, Harrisburg PA, 17104 and the curtilage around the residence to search for crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia including sandwich bags, drug proceeds including the previously stated prerecorded Dauphin County Funds, cell phone with the number 717-303-4945 and photos/documentation of residential occupancy.
Affiant is requesting the Search Warrant be sealed for 60 days to protect the identity of the Confidential Informant. The Confidential informant is involved in other narcotics investigations.

(Def. Ex. A at 2).

         Detective Ishman also prepared an Initial Crime Report detailing the arrangement and execution of a controlled drug purchase on May 14, 2018.[2] (See Doc. 39-2, “Def.'s Ex. B, ” generally). On May 18, 2018, officers executed the search warrant and seized a firearm, two magazines, a sandwich bag with suspected cocaine, a corner tie of suspected cocaine, sandwich bags with suspected heroin, two boxes of sandwich bags, a box of latex gloves, “letters w/ Victor Sawyers[, ]” a bag with a spoon and plastic cup, a bottle of caffeine, a safe with ammunition and holsters, a box of glassine bags, three blenders, and one phone with the assigned phone number 717-303-4945. (Doc. 39-6, “Def.'s Ex. F, ” at 2). Sawyers and Cox were subsequently arrested and charged with the above-mentioned offenses.

         On May 6, 2019, Sawyers filed the instant Motion for a Franks Hearing and to Suppress All Physical Evidence and Statements in connection with Rule 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Fourth Amendment, or for disclosure of the name of the confidential informant in the alternative. (Doc. 39). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         II. Legal Standard

         The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. The issuing judge must “make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before, . . . there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S.Ct. 2317 (1983). A court reviewing a determination of probable cause may look only to whether “the magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed.” Id. When called upon to evaluate the supporting affidavit to a search warrant, a court must view it “in a common sense and nontechnical ...


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