United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before me is a Motion to Suppress (Doc. 107) and a Motion to
Dismiss the Indictment, or, in the alternative, to Obtain a
Bill of Particulars with Respect to Count One of the
Indictment (Doc. 109). Regarding the Motion to Suppress, the
Defendant, Michael Laury, alleges that the search warrant for
the structure located at 75 Park Avenue, Wilkes-Barre,
Pennsylvania (the “Park Avenue Residence”) lacks
sufficient probable cause, fails the particularity
requirement, and was not reasonably executed by law
enforcement officials. (See Doc. 108). With respect
to Laury's Motion to Dismiss, he argues that the
Indictment does not adequately inform him of what he must be
prepared to defend at trial. (See Doc. 109). In the
alternative, Laury requests a Bill of Particulars that
identifies factual information pertaining to his offense.
(Id.). I will deny Laury's Motion to Suppress
because the search warrant is valid and was reasonably
executed and his Motion to Dismiss, and in the alternative to
Obtain a Bill of Particulars because it adequately apprises
Laury of what he must be prepared to defend at trial.
a corresponding federal investigation pertaining to a local
bank robbery, a Cooperating Witness (“CW”)
informed the FBI about the location of a methamphetamine
laboratory where he went with his co-conspirators after the
robbery to purchase heroin and methamphetamine. (See
Doc. 108, at 3-5). The CW went on to identify photographs of
the Park Avenue Residence as the location of the
methamphetamine laboratory, describe the interior of the
residence, and explain the apparatuses inside the residence,
which were indicative of a methamphetamine production. (Doc.
113-3, at 7-8).
application from law enforcement, Magistrate Judge Joseph
Saporito issued a search warrant for the Park Avenue
Residence. (See Doc. 108-1, at 1). During the
execution of this search warrant, the FBI agents and the
Pennsylvania State Police Clandestine Laboratory Emergency
Response Team found an operational methamphetamine laboratory
in the basement cellar of the Park Avenue Residence.
(See Doc. 113-1, at 2-4). At this time, the search
team arrested various individuals present at the Park Avenue
Residence, including Laury. (See Doc. 108, at 8).
Following this search, Laury was detained. He signed a
Miranda waiver (Doc. 113-2) and submitted to a
recorded interview where he stated that he lived at the Park
Avenue Residence and permitted others to stay there, but
denied knowledge of the methamphetamine laboratory. (Doc.
113, at 4). The grand jury subsequently issued a one count
indictment charging Laury, among others, with maintaining and
renting a drug-involved premise in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 856 (a)(1). (Doc. 1).
as stated, has filed pretrial motions to suppress evidence
and to dismiss Count One of the Indictment. I will address
the issues in that order.
Motion to Suppress Evidence
Motion to Suppress all of the evidence seized at the Park
Avenue Residence during the execution of the search warrant
will be denied. Laury's motion is based on three
arguments: (1) the search warrant was not supported by
probable cause, (2) the search warrant was not sufficiently
particular and the execution of the search was unreasonable,
and (3) his subsequent statements to the police qualify as
“fruit of the poisonous tree” given that they
were made subsequent to his arrest, which occurred
immediately after the allegedly unlawful search of the Park
Avenue Residence. (See Doc. 108, at 10-20). Finally,
Laury argues that he is entitled to a hearing under
Franks v. Delaware, U.S. 154 (1979) due to omissions
made in the affidavit of probable cause attached to the
search warrant application for the Park Avenue Residence.
(Doc. 108, at 19-20).
Fourth Amendment guarantees: “The right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable
cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place to be searched, and the persons or
things to be seized.” U.S. Const. amend IV. “What
is reasonable depends upon all of the circumstances
surrounding the search or seizure and the nature of the
search or seizure itself.” United States v. Montoya
de Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 537 (1985). Here, (1) there
was a substantial basis in the probable cause affidavit to
issue a search warrant, (2) the search warrant was
sufficiently particular and executed reasonably as there was
no indication that the Park Avenue Residence contained
multiple separate units, and (3) the “fruit of the
poisonous tree” doctrine is not applicable because law
enforcement officials lawfully executed the search warrant
and arrested Laury. Moreover, a Franks Hearing is
unnecessary, because the probable cause affidavit did not
contain any material omissions or false statements.
The Search Warrant is Based on Sufficient Probable
alleges that the search warrant was not supported by probable
cause, because it was based on information provided by an
unreliable witness, i.e. the CW. (Doc. 108, at 12).
In reviewing the initial probable cause determination made by
a magistrate judge, a district court will conduct a
deferential review to determine whether “the magistrate
had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause
existed.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213,
238-39 (1983). “When presented with an application for
a search warrant, the magistrate must ‘make a
practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the
circumstances set forth in the affidavit ... there is a fair
probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be
found in a particular place.'” United States v.
Stearn, 597 F.3d 540, 554 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting
Gates, 462 U.S. at 238). Probable cause need not be
supported by direct evidence, but “can be, and often
is, inferred from the type of crime, the nature of the items
sought, the suspect's opportunity for concealment and
normal inferences about where a criminal might hide
evidence.” Id. (quotations omitted). “A
magistrate may issue a warrant relying primarily or in part
upon the statements of a confidential informant, so long as
the totality of the circumstances gives rise to probable
cause.” Id. at 555. An informant's
“veracity” and “reliability” are
relevant qualities to this determination, but “these
elements should [not] be understood as entirely separate and
independent requirements to be rigidly exacted in every
case.” Id. (quotations omitted). “[A]
deficiency in one [element] may be compensated for, in
determining the overall reliability of a tip, by a strong
showing as to the other, or by some other indicia of
reliability.” Id. (quotations omitted). Police
corroboration of an informant's information is “an
important method for establishing a tip's
reliability.” Id. at 555. The Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit further stated that it takes guidance
from the Supreme Court's decision in Gates,
“which instructs that ‘[if] an informant is right
about some things, he is more probably right about other
facts.'” Id. at 557 (quoting
Gates, 462 U.S. at 244).
“Courts accord great weight to [an informant's]
first-hand observations shortly before a search.”
United States v. Woods, 254 Fed.Appx. 889, 892 (3d
Cir. 2007) (noting that “the absence of additional
corroboration does not undermine the finding of probable
cause” where the informant provided “information
[that] was not random, easily predicted or accessible to the
general public, ” because it was based primarily on the
informant's first-hand observation of the manufacture of
methamphetamine in her home); see also United States v.
Ramsey, No. 1:12-cr-00310-3, 2013 WL 6388518, at *3
(M.D. Pa. Dec. 5, 2013) (finding that there was a sufficient
showing of probable cause in an affidavit, because it
contained an informant's firsthand account of how he
purchased drugs from the Defendant's alleged residence,
the location of the residence, and additional drug quantities
inside the residence).
the totality of circumstances, the search warrant for the
Park Avenue Residence was supported by sufficient probable
cause. The Government submitted an affidavit of probable
cause based largely on the information provided by the CW.
(See Doc. 113-3). In this affidavit, FBI Agent
Joseph F. Noone explains that he co-supervised the
investigation that gave rise to the instant search warrant
application. (Id. at 2). The affidavit introduces
Agent Noone, his career history, and involvement with the
investigation of the Park Avenue Residence. (Id. at
1-3). Then, it describes the ingredient list and directions
for methamphetamine creation and ingestion, including the
tools necessary for each process. (Id. at 3-5).
Next, the affidavit explains the nature of the investigation
of the Park Avenue Residence, including the use of a CW.
(Id. at 6). The relevant details include the
CW's first hand account of his arrangement to purchase
methamphetamine from unidentified individuals at the Park
Avenue Residence and his observation of their methamphetamine
laboratory. (Id. at 7). The CW further explained
that he believed the laboratory had been in operation
“for a long period of time” given the amount of
materials strewn about the residence, e.g. plastic
bottles with protruding hoses, coffee filters, bottles with a
milky substance bubbling inside, and lithium batteries.
(Id. at 7-8). He also described the interior of the
residence, which appeared to be under construction due to the
dismantled walls and “wide-open floor plan.”
(Id. at 7). The materials noticed by the CW are
consistent with the aforementioned methamphetamine ...