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PEOPLE STATE NEW YORK v. JAMES A. SORISE AND LOUIS GENE BUTLER (01/08/69)

COUNTY COURT OF NEW YORK, SPECIAL TERM, NASSAU COUNTY 1969.NY.40021 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 296 N.Y.S.2d 211; 58 Misc. 2d 557 January 8, 1969 THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF,v.JAMES A. SORISE AND LOUIS GENE BUTLER, DEFENDANTS Jacob Jacobson for James A. Sorise, defendant. James J. McDonough for Louis Gene Butler, defendant. William Cahn, District Attorney, for plaintiff. David T. Gibbons, J. Author: Gibbons


David T. Gibbons, J.

Author: Gibbons

 This is an application made immediately prior to trial pursuant to section 813-c et seq. of the Code of Criminal Procedure for an order to suppress certain items of physical property from evidence upon the trial of an indictment charging the defendants with the crimes of robbery, grand larceny, assault, and possession of a dangerous weapon as a misdemeanor. (Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643.)

Following a hearing on this motion, the court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

In the evening of April 2, 1967, while Richard Chamberlain, assistant night manager of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California, was in charge of registrations, two individuals, giving the names Frank Rago and John Kelly came to the main desk and were registered by him as guests of the hotel. It has since been ascertained that the defendant, Louis Butler, gave the fictitious name, John Kelly, and that the defendant, James Sorise, used the fictitious name, Frank Rago. At the time when the defendants registered, Mr. Chamberlain told them that the payment for the use of the room must be made in advance and that the daily check-out time was at 3:00 p.m. The defendants then paid the hotel charge for that night and occupied room No. 914. They paid the charge for the second night on April 3, 1967. The hotel records confirm Mr. Chamberlain's testimony that this was an advance payment transaction, requiring payment prior to each night's occupancy.

Under this arrangement, the room charge was paid up to 3:00 p.m. on April 4, 1967. Sometime after the 3:00 p.m. check-out time on April 4, 1967, not having received advance payment for the use of the room, Lester Fouke, assistant manager of the hotel, went to investigate at room 914. He opened the door, glanced in and observed that nobody was present but that luggage was still in the room. He double-locked the room and left. The process of double-locking the door involved the locking of a second lock installed in the door with a key different from the regular guest's key, and which is retained in the exclusive possession of the hotel management. The effect of such double-locking operation was to prevent re-entry by the guests with the regular key issued to them, and which would consequently require them to personally go to the manager for admittance to the room. By such double-locking procedure, the hotel effectively took possession of the room to the exclusion of the guests who were then in arrears for failure to make the required advance payment.

Having heard nothing from the occupants of room 914, in the afternoon of the following day, April 5, 1967, Mr. Fouke and another employee of the hotel entered the room between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to find out who the guests were and what to do about the luggage. Again, nobody was present in the room. There was an attache case in one of the dresser drawers. He removed it and opened it up on the bed. He then discovered that it contained packets of paper money in paper bank wrappers. He closed the attache case, double-locked the room again, and put in a call to the police shortly before 11:00 p.m. that night. It is noted that Fouke terminated the defendants' right to occupy the room for failure to renew the rental before he made any inspection of the defendants' belongings.

Detectives Royal MacGregor and H. J. Knieriem of the Los Angeles Police Department, Hollywood Detective Division, responded to such call and met Mr. Fouke at the hotel. He led the detectives to room 914, opened the door and requested them to enter. They observed the bedroom part of the hotel accommodations. There was no one present. Mr. Fouke called their attention to an open attache case in which there were revealed, in open view, several packets of paper money in bank wrappers, rolls of coins in wrappers, and loose coins. Some of the paper wrappers had handwritten notes on them.

While in the room, Mr. Fouke told the detectives that he did not know the whereabouts of the former guests, and he furnished them with their names and addresses from the hotel records.

The detectives then proceeded to search the room for other property and to conduct a preliminary examination to determine the ownership of the property in the room which in addition to the attache case and its contents, also contained two other pieces of luggage. The bathroom medicine chest contained a can of Gillette foamy shave cream, a tube of toothpaste and a bottle of aftershave lotion.

At about 11:40 p.m. Detective James Clayborn, a fingerprint expert of the Los Angeles police, arrived in the hotel room and in the presence of the other detectives, he lifted fingerprints from the three last-mentioned items by the use of Scotch tape and placed them on paper cards which are also the subject matter of this motion.

All of the items of property in the room, including the currency, were listed by the detectives and delivered into the custody of the Police Property Clerk of the Los Angeles Police Department.

At no time prior to the entry into the hotel room and the removal of the defendants' personal effects therefrom, were the Los Angeles police authorities or the hotel personnel aware of the commission of the crimes which form the basis of this indictment, nor was any search warrant ever issued in relation to said premises. The police went to the hotel and entered room 914 at the instance of the assistant manager of the hotel and without being advised in advance concerning the commission of any crime by the defendants.

The defendants, both admitted narcotic addicts, testified that on April 3, 1967, they went to Tijuana, Mexico, for the purpose of purchasing heroin, arriving there between noon and 1:00 p.m. On their return to the United States, they were apprehended at the international border by United States customs agents between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and there arrested upon a charge of illegal possession of narcotics.

They also testified that while in the custody of the two Federal agents, they requested them to obtain their luggage and personal effects from the hotel. They said that these officers took the hotel receipts from them, and therefore knew that they had been guests at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. They claim ...


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