United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM RE: MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS
Introduction and Background
Second Superseding Indictment in this case charges nine
defendants with multiple counts from their alleged
involvement in a drug trafficking organization (the
“DTO”). Presently before the Court are two
motions filed by Defendant Jamaal Blanding
(“Blanding”) to suppress evidence that the
Government intends to use at the trial in this case beginning
November 4, 2019 with jury selection on October 31, 2019. The
Court held an evidentiary hearing on Blanding's motions
on October 7, 2019.
motions concern evidence seized from the interior of an
apartment that Blanding periodically occupied. The
apartment-which was owned or leased by Yanina Miller, an
associate of Blanding's-is located at 1815 John F.
Kennedy Boulevard, Apt. 2411, Philadelphia, PA 19103 (the
“Miller Apartment”). The First Motion concerns a
search warrant that was secured by the Government on June 1,
2018 to search the Miller Apartment and was executed on June
4, 2018. (ECF 401, Blanding Mot. to Suppress Evid. from June
1, 2018 Search Warrant) (“Blanding First Mot.”).
The Second Motion concerns cell phones that were seized
following effectuation of an arrest warrant for Blanding at
the Miller Apartment on October 18, 2018. (ECF 405, Blanding
Mot. to Suppress Evid. Pursuant to Warrantless Search and
Seizure) (“Blanding Second Mot.”). For the
reasons that follow, Blanding's Motions to Suppress will
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution 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. Under
the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement generally must
establish probable cause before invading a
“constitutionally protected reasonable expectation of
privacy.” Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347,
360 (1967) (Harlan, J., concurring). A magistrate judge may
determine probable cause exists if the totality of the
circumstances indicate “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 (1983). A magistrate's determination should be
upheld if “the affidavit on which it was based provided
a substantial basis for finding probable cause.”
United States v. Hodge, 246 F.3d 301, 305 (3d Cir.
principal constitutional guidance on suppression of evidence
obtained pursuant to a search warrant is United States v.
Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984). Leon made clear that
the exclusionary rule, which precludes use of evidence
obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, is “a
judicially created remedy designed to safeguard Fourth
Amendment rights generally through its deterrent
effect.” Id. at 906 (quoting United States
v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 348 (1974)). Application of
the exclusionary remedy is appropriate only in “those
unusual cases” where it will further the purposes of
the rule-deterring police misconduct and incentivizing law
enforcement compliance with the Fourth Amendment.
Id. at 918.
First Motion to Suppress
First Motion seeks suppression of evidence seized from the
Miller Apartment on June 4, 2018 pursuant to the June 1, 2018
search warrant. The Court finds that probable cause supported
the search warrant, and that the subsequent execution of the
warrant was lawful.
First Motion-seeking suppression of evidence obtained during
the June 4, 2018 search of the Miller Apartment-asserts that
the warrant application did not satisfy the probable cause
requirement and did not describe particularly the items to be
seized. (Blanding First Mot. ¶¶ 9-13.) The
Government responds that the application was supported by
probable cause and identified with particularity the evidence
sought, and that the agents relied in good faith on the
warrant. (Gov't Opp'n to Blanding First Mot. at 5-7.)
At the evidentiary hearing, Blanding did not present any
evidence on the First Motion and his counsel agreed that the
sufficiency of the June 1, 2018 warrant could be determined
as a matter of law.
Court has previously adjudicated various suppression motions
directed at search warrants executed in the course of
investigating the DTO. Specifically, the Court addressed the
constitutionality of a search warrant obtained for 3234 North
Sydenham Street in United States v. Boyer, No.
18-249-6, -8, -9, 2019 WL 3717669 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 6, 2019). In
that case, as here, the moving defendants challenged the
sufficiency of the magistrate judge's probable cause
finding. Id. at *3. However, because the Court found
that a substantial basis supported the probable cause
determination, the motions to suppress were denied.
Id. at *6.
contents of the search warrant upheld in Boyer are
similar to the contents of the warrant Blanding attacks here.
In Boyer, the affidavit that was presented to the
magistrate described a car registered to the address sought
to be searched that had been observed leaving the scene of a
murder. Id. at *5. Similarly here, the
magistrate's probable cause finding was based on a
comprehensive affidavit that contained detailed allegations
related to the drug conspiracy, the nature of Blanding's
relationship with Miller, and his connections to the Miller
Apartment. (Hr'g ...