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UNITED STATES v. RODRIGUEZ
January 3, 1994
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
RENALDO RODRIGUEZ, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: REENA RAGGI
Renaldo Rodriguez moves for pre-trial dismissal of Count Four of criminal indictment number 92-531 charging him with violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (1993) by using a firearm equipped with a silencer in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Defendant contends that the tern "equipped," as used in § 924(c)(1), is unconstitutionally vague when applied to his case. He submits that to pass constitutional muster the term must be interpreted in light of the rule of lenity to apply only when a silencer is actually attached or affixed to a firearm. Since that is concededly not this case, he requests dismissal.
After careful consideration of the briefs submitted by the parties, as well as oral argument, this court denies defendant's motion. It finds that the tern "equipped" is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to this case. In everyday parlance the word "equipped" is understood to mean supplied or made ready for action with whatever is necessary to meet a particular need or exigency. This concept does not depend on one item being attached to another to provide persons with sufficient notice of the conduct proscribed. Instead, it turns on the totality of circumstances under which the items are possessed and used, including any evidence from which it could fairly be inferred that the items were purposely placed in such proximate relation to one another as to ensure their ready availability for joint action. Because a reasonable person would understand that an individual who places a silencer in a briefcase with a compatible loaded 9 mm. pistol (as alleged in this case) has "equipped" the firearm with the silencer, defendant's prosecution pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) does not violate the Constitution. Of course, it will be for the jury to decide if the government has proved defendant guilty of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The facts relevant to this motion are simply stated. On May 29, 1992, in conjunction with a lengthy investigation into large-scale drug trafficking by a group known as the "Clemente Organization," New York City police officers executed a search warrant on apartment 4K at 140-15 Holly Avenue, Flushing, New York. On various occasions, officers had seen the defendant Renaldo Rodriguez, then known to them only as "Ray," enter or leave the subject apartment carrying brown paper bags. Intercepted telephone conversations among members of the Clemente Organization and surveillance observations of "Ray" meeting with some of Clemente's confederates established probable cause to think that "Ray" was a drug supplier for Clemente.
The search of apartment 4K yielded drugs, cash, and a daunting cache of weapons. Among the items seized were:
1. Numerous plastic and glassine bags containing heroin.
2. Several hundred stamps containing Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD.
4. A money counting machine.
5. A 9 mm. Uzi semi-automatic pistol loaded with 26 rounds of ammunition.
6. A 9 mm. Uzi semi-automatic pistol loaded with 16 rounds of ammunition.
7. A 9 mm. Intratec semi-automatic pistol loaded with 18 rounds of ammunition.
8. A 9 mm. Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol loaded with 13 ...
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