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United States v. Donaldson

decided: June 20, 1986.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
RONALD DONALDSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal by Ronald Donaldson from his conviction by the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Warren W. Eginton, Judge, sitting with a jury, of one count of harboring or concealing a fugitive, 18 U.S.C. § 1071 (1982). We reject the claim that his arrest was the fruit of an illegal search. Affirmed.

Author: Winter

WINTER, Circuit Judge:

Ronald Donaldson appeals form his conviction of one count of harboring or concealing a fugitive in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1071 (1982), following a jury trial before Judge Eginton. The principal issue raised is whether Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204, 68 L. Ed. 2d 38, 101 S. Ct. 1642 (1981), requires us to hold that the warrantless search of Donaldson's apartment was illegal. Because we believe that the search was incident to Donaldson's valid arrest and that Donaldson's other arguments are without merit, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

Our description of the facts relies upon the parties' Joint Proposed Findings of Fact. On June 28, 1984, Special Agent Macrino of the United States Secret Service began an investigation into the passing of a counterfeit twenty-dollar note at a Bridgeport service station. The station's attendant was suspicious after receiving the note as payment for two dollars' worth of gasoline, and he copied the license plate number of the vehicle on the back of the bill.

The license plate was registered to Frank Spetrino ("Spetrino's father") of 227 Grove Street, Bridgeport, father of Frank Spetrino III ("Spetrino"). The building at 225-229 Grove Street is a three-story, three-family residence. Each apartment occupies a single floor and is assigned a separate street number. The Spetrino apartment, 227 Grove Street, was on the second floor; the third floor apartment, 229 Grove Street, was occupied by Donaldson.

Upon arriving at the Spetrino home on June 29, the Secret Service agents were greeted at the door by Spetrino's father, who told them that his son was not home. Spetrino's father stated that Spetrino had been using the vehicle on the day before-the day the note was passed. Thereafter, the agents who had been watching the rear of the building encountered Spetrino as he attempted to leave the premises through a back door.

Agent Macrino identified himself to Spetrino, explained his investigation, and asked Spetrino to accompany the agents to the Bridgeport Police Department, which Spetrino agreed to do. During the interview at the police department, Spetrino admitted that he had passed the counterfeit bill, claiming to have received it from Thomas Palmieri of Naugatuck. Spetrino told the agents that Palmieri had printed a large quantity of twenty-dollar notes, which Spetrino and others had used to buy narcotics, and that Palmieri was planning to print another large batch the next morning. After agreeing to meet Agent Macrino the following morning, Spetrino was allowed to go home.

Thomas Palmieri was well known to the Secret Service agents. A printer by trade, he previously had been convicted of manufacturing counterfeit currency. The agents maintained an all-night surveillance of Palmieri's residence on June 29.

On June 30, Spetrino went with Agent Macrino to the Bridgeport Police Department. There Spetrino made a telephone call to Palmieri, but the conversation was vague and inconclusive for investigative purposes. Spetrino then told Agent Macrino that he had to go to a nearby methadone clinic, and Agent Macrino agreed to wait until Spetrino had picked up his methadone and returned.

Shortly after Spetrino had left Agent Macrino to visit the clinic, Palmieri walked out of his house in Naugatuck, approached the Secret Service surveillance van, and peered directly into the van, ending any possibility of surreptitious surveillance. The parties differ as to whether Palmieri's discovery should have led the agents to believe that Spetrino had tipped off Palmieri.

After an hour passed and Spetrino had not reappeared, Agent Macrino began looking for him without success. On June 30, July 1, and July 2, Agent Macrino made numerous calls to the Spetrino residence. Each time he called, Spetrino's father told him that Spetrino was not at home and that he had not seen him.

On July 2, Agent Macrino filed a complaint describing his investigation of Spetrino and, at approximately 3:00 p.m., obtained a warrant for Spetrino's arrest. At approximately 4:00 p.m., Agent Macrino along with four other agents of the Secret Service initiated a surveillance at 225-229 Grove Street. Sometime after 4:00 p.m., Agent Gardner observed Spetrino's father drive to the front door of 225-229 Grove Street, let Spetrino out of the car, and then park the car while Spetrino entered the building. Spetrino's father, after parking the car, also entered the building. Agent Macrino then telephoned the Spetrino residence. The person who answered the phone, probably Spetrino's mother, responded that Spetrino was not at home and that she had not seen him. She also stated that Spetrino's father was not at home, but was expected back soon. Pauses in the conversation led Agent Macrino to believe that the speaker was receiving guidance form someone else who was with her. Agent Macrino waited for a short period and again called the Spetrino residence. During this second call, Agent Macrino spoke with Spetrino's father who said that Spetrino was not at home, and that he had not recently seen him.

Agent Macrino left three agents to guard the outside of the Spetrino residence and, along with Agent Rasor, walked toward the building. As the two approached, Agent Macrino noticed a man on the third-floor front porch scanning the neighborhood. The two agents entered the building, went to the Spetrino's second floor apartment, and knocked on the door. Spetrino's father answered and again said that his son was not home and that he had not seen him ...


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