Not what you're
looking for? Try an advanced search.
Buy This Entire Record For
U.S. v. WILLIAMS
December 18, 2001
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
XAVIER WILLIAMS, A/K/A "XAVIER TORRES", A/K/A "X," A/K/A "RICHIE TORRES," ELIJAH BOBBY WILLIAMS, A/K/A "BOBBY TORRES," A/K/A "BOSCO," MICHAEL WILLIAMS, A/K/A "DAVID MICHAEL TORRES," A/K/A "MIKE TORRES," A/K/A "MIKE FOSTER," KELLY ROLON A/K/A "ALEXUS QUINONES," DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buchwald, District Judge.
The four defendants in this case were indicted on September 26, 2000 on
multiple counts, including, inter alia, narcotics trafficking,
racketeering, and murder. The Government alleges that they were all
members of a criminal enterprise referred to in the Indictment as the
Before the Court are numerous pre-trial motions by the defendants. On
October 16-17 and 30-31, 2001, and on November 1, 2001, the Court held
evidentiary hearings in regard to several of these motions. The Court
heard testimony from Detectives James Cvetic and Gary Tallant of the
Allegheny County Police Department as well as from Special Agent Robert
Ryan of the Internal Revenue Service. No defendant testified at these
hearings, nor did any defendant call any witnesses. The findings of fact
herein are based upon the testimony adduced at these hearings and
we dispose of the defendants' motions*fn2 as follows:
A. Michael and Xavier Williams's motions to suppress
evidence seized from their apartments at 5631
Rippey Street in Pittsburgh on or about February
21, 1996 are denied.
B. Xavier Williams's motions to suppress evidence
seized from his Toyota Land Cruiser and his person
on or about March 1, 1996 are denied.
C. Xavier Williams's motions to suppress evidence
seized from his apartment at 1609 East 174th Street
in the Bronx and from his Nissan Maxima on or about
September 28, 2000 are denied.
D. Xavier Williams's motion to suppress evidence
seized from his Lincoln Navigator on or about
November 2, 2000 is denied.
E. Michael Williams's motion to suppress a post-arrest
statement he made on March 22, 1996 is granted.
F. Elijah Bobby Williams's motion to suppress a
post-arrest statement he made on April 21, 1996 is
G. Michael Williams's motion to dismiss Counts Five,
Six, and Seven of the Indictment is denied.
H. Xavier Williams's motion to dismiss Count Three and
Racketeering Act 1 of Count One of the Indictment
I. Xavier and Michael Williams's motions to compel the
Government to provide the defendants with a bill of
particulars is denied.
J. Xavier and Michael Williams's motions to compel
certain discovery is denied in part and granted in
K. Xavier Williams's motion to hold government
prosecutors in contempt is denied.
L. Xavier Williams's motion for an order mandating the
return of certain items seized from him is denied.
M. Michael Williams's motion for severance is denied.
N. Kelly Rolon's motion for severance is granted.
The defendants are accused of being members of a narcotics trafficking
organization responsible for various acts of violence, including murder.
Indictment at 3. Xavier Williams and Elijah Bobby Williams are brothers,
and Michael Williams is Elijah Bobby Williams's son.*fn3 Kelly Rolon is
Xavier Williams's wife. A lengthy investigation conducted primarily by
the New York Police Department ("NYPD") and the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco & Firearms ("ATF") led to a grand jury returning a 17-count
indictment. Because the Williams defendants are accused, in Counts Five,
Six, and Seven, of crimes for which the death penalty may be sought, each
has been appointed two attorneys, one of whom is "learned in the law
applicable to capital cases" in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 3005.
A. Motions to Suppress the Fruits of the Searches of the Rippey Street
On February 21, 1996, Detective Tallant drafted an affidavit (the
"Tallant affidavit") in support of an application for a warrant to search
the Rippey Street apartments. 11/1 Tr. at 6-7.*fn4 He did not consult
any prosecutors from the District Attorney's Office or anywhere else for
drafting assistance. Id. at 9. Det. Cvetic reviewed the affidavit, and
then they both swore to it before a night court magistrate. Id. at
21-22. The Tallant affidavit reads as follows:
Your affiants are Detectives assigned to the
Homicide Unit of the Allegheny County Police
Department. All of the information contained in this
affidavit was learned directly by your affiants, or
relayed to your affiants by other police officers
involved in this investigation.
On the evening of February 18, 1996, the Wilkinsburg
Police Department requested investigative assistance
from the Allegheny County Police Homicide Unit. This
request was in regards [sic] to a recent shooting
incident that occurred in the 1100 block of Sperling
Street in Wilkinsburg. It was subsequently learned
that there were three (3) victims in this case, and
all of the shooting victims were pronounced dead at
the scene by Emergency Medical Personnel. The victims
were all shot while seated in a parked 1982 Ford
Bronco. The victims were Timothy A. Moore, B/M/25,
Joel MOORE, B/M/19, and Robert JAMES, B/M/33. The
investigation revealed that two armed suspects
approached the victim's vehicle, and that the suspects
then fired numerous gunshots into the victim's [sic].
During the course of this investigation, it was
learned that the three victims were involved in drug
related activities. It was also learned that the
victims had made a recent drug deal(s) with
individuals known to frequent the Wilkinsburg/East
Liberty Section of Allegheny County.
It was learned that during the investigation that
"Bob" had a home telephone number of #661-4862. This
telephone number is listed to a David Michael TORRES
of 5631 Rippey Street, Apt. C-2, Pittsburgh, PA
15206. This apartment is located in the East Liberty
Section of Pittsburgh. The age of Torres is consistent
with the approx. age of "Bob" (as given by various
The investigation revealed that on the evening in
question, the victims agreed to meet with BOB and MIKE
in Wilkinsburg to settle a drug related debt. It was
reported that Tim MOORE had previously paid Bob and/or
Mike approx. $2,300 for crack cocaine, but that Moore
was not given arty drugs in return for the money. The
victims were to meet Bob and Mike at approx. 8:30 PM
(2-18-96) in a parking lot of a Texaco Gas Station in
Wilkinsburg. The purpose of the meeting was to resolve
the dispute over the aforementioned crack cocaine
deal. Witnesses indicated that the victim's departed
from the New Stanton area of Westmoreland County for
Wilkinsburg at approx. 8:00 PM. It should be noted
that the planned meeting place for the drug deal was
in close proximity to the shooting scene.
During the investigation, your affiant learned
through witnesses that the suspects, (BOB/MIKE) lived
in the area of Rippey Street in the East Liberty
Section of Pittsburgh. It was also learned that Bob
and Mike lived with a relative known as "X". The
investigation revealed that David MICHAEL TORRES
resides at 5631 Rippey Street, Apt. C-2 and that two
relatives lived at that same address. These relatives
are Robert TORRES, AKA "BOB" Torres, and Xavier
TORRES. Robert Torres lives in apartment #C-5, while
Xavier resides in apartment B-3.
During a recent surveillance of the apartment
building in question, a vehicle was found to be parked
in front of the structure. This vehicle had a New York
license plates [sic] affixed to it. The description of
this car was consistent with the description of the
suspect car that was observed fleeing the shooting
Based on the above facts and circumstances, your
affiants respectfully request a Search Warrant for the
above listed residence.
The warrant was subsequently issued by the night court magistrate and
executed by state officers the same day. Id. at 7.
Following the search, Michael Williams and Xavier Williams were
arrested and charged in Pennsylvania state court with homicide and drug
possession, respectively. See Commonwealth v. Torres, 564 Pa. 86,
764 A.2d 532, 536 (2001); X.W. Mem. at 1. Michael Williams filed a
pre-trial motion in state court seeking, inter alia, suppression of the
fruits of the search of his Rippey Street apartment. Torres, 764 A.2d at
536. The state court granted his motion, on the grounds that the search
warrant was deficient because (a) it failed to establish probable cause
to search the apartment; (b) it failed to establish the reliability of
the sources of the information on which it was based; and (c) it failed
to establish the time frame within which the information was obtained.
See Commonwealth v. Torres, 714 A.2d 416, 419 (1998). Following this
suppression order, the Commonwealth moved to "nolle prosse," or abandon,
its case against Xavier Williams, and the court entered an order to that
effect. Commonwealth v. Williams, cc
9700236 (Order of Court dated Dec. 1, 1997). The suppression order was
overturned by an intermediate state appellate court, Torres, 714 A.2d at
421, but was eventually affirmed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.*fn5
Torres, 764 A.2d at 540.
a. Applicability of the Exclusionary Rule
The Government argues that the exclusionary rule should not be applied
to the searches of the Rippey Street apartments because the search was
conducted by agents of the State of Pennsylvania without any assistance
from the federal agencies involved in obtaining the present indictment.
Gov't Opp. at 5-10. Specifically, the Government contends that because
the goal of the exclusionary rule is to deter official misconduct, and
because this prosecution is so far removed from the search at issue, when
we balance the "`additional marginal deterrence' obtained by invoking the
[exclusionary] rule "against the cost to the public interest of further
impairing the pursuit of truth'" we should decline to invoke the
exclusionary rule. Id. at 6 (quoting Tirado v. Commissioner, 689 F.2d 307,
310 (2d Cir. 1982)).
We do not, however, have discretion in the matter. In Elkins v. United
States, the Supreme Court rejected the argument put forth by the
Government and held that "evidence obtained by state officers during a
search which, if conducted by federal officers, would have violated the
defendant' s immunity from unreasonable searches and seizures under the
Fourth Amendment is inadmissible over the defendant's timely objection in
a federal criminal trial." 364 U.S. 206, 223, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d
1669 (1960). The Elkins rule remains the law. See, e.g., Cerrone v.
Brown, 246 F.3d 194, 199 (2d Cir. 2001); United States v. Jones,
185 F.3d 459, 463 (5th Cir. 1999) ("The question that a federal court
must ask when state officials secure evidence to be used against a
defendant accused of a federal offense is whether the actions of the
state officials violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States
Constitution.") (internal quotation omitted). It is clear, then, that the
exclusionary rule does apply to the searches at issue here. Indeed, any
other result would be fraught with mischievous potential.
In Commonwealth v. Torres, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania carefully
considered the issue of whether the Tallant affidavit stated probable
cause. We agree with its conclusion that, on its face, the Tallant
affidavit did not satisfy the probable cause requirement of the Fourth
Amendment as articulated in Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238-39, 103
S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983).*fn6 Specifically,
we agree that the failure of the affidavit to (a) set forth the basis of
knowledge and veracity of the anonymous sources cited therein, (b)
provide any indication of which of the anonymous sources provided each
piece of information included therein, and (c) provide significant indicia
of reliability to overcome these other failures, rendered it insufficient
to meet the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Torres, 764 A.2d at
539-40; see also Gates, 462 U.S. at 238-39, 103 S.Ct. 2317; United States
v. Canfield, 212 F.3d 713, 718 (2d Cir. 2000); 2 Wayne R. LaFave, Search
and Seizure: A Treatise on the Fourth Amendment § 3.3 at 88 (3d ed.
1996). In contrast to Pennsylvania's jurisprudence, our analysis does not
Unlike Pennsylvania, which does not have a "good faith exception" to
the exclusionary rule, Commonwealth v. Edmunds, 526 Pa. 374, 586 A.2d 887,
899 (1991), the federal courts do recognize such an exception. United
States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 899, 922, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677
(1984). Therefore, the Government argues that, even if the Rippey Street
search warrant was invalid, the good faith exception to the warrant
requirement applies to the case at bar. Gov't Opp. at 26. We agree, and
for this reason, the evidence seized from the Rippey Street apartments
shall not be suppressed for violating the defendants Fourth Amendment
In Leon, the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not bar
the Government from using "evidence obtained by officers acting in
reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a detached and neutral
magistrate but ultimately found to be unsupported by probable cause" in
its case-in-chief. 468 U.S. at 899, 104 S.Ct. 3405. As we have found that
the warrant in question was unsupported by probable cause, see Section
II.A.2.b, supra, and the defendants have not argued that the magistrate
was anything but detached and neutral, our analysis boils down to the
question of whether Detectives Tallant and Cvetic, who swore to the
affidavit, and the other officers who executed the warrant, acted in
accordance with the standard set forth in Leon. This is an objective
standard, namely, "whether a reasonably well trained officer would have
known that the search was illegal despite the magistrate's
authorization." Leon, 468 U.S. at 923 n. 23, 104 S.Ct. 3405; see also
id. at 919 n. 20, 104 S.Ct. 3405.
Here, Det. Tallant not only swore to the affidavit that led to the
Rippey Street search warrant, he captained the execution of the warrant
that very evening. 11/1 Tr. at 16-18 (Det. Tallant explaining how he led
several "teams" of officers in executing the search). Thus, our inquiry
focuses on whether a "reasonably well trained officer" who drafted and
swore to this affidavit, then led the search pursuant to a warrant
supported by the affidavit, would have "known that the search was
illegal, despite the magistrate's authorization." Leon, 468 U.S. at 923
n. 23, 104 S.Ct. 3405. We find that a reasonably well trained officer in
that position would have relied in good faith on the warrant and not
known that the search was illegal.
Given the availability of the good faith exception, the November 1,
2001 hearing provided Det. Tallant with an opportunity to fill in many of
the gaps that led us to conclude that the warrant was facially
detective. See Section II.A.2.b, supra. Det. Tallant was entirely
his testimony, and no other witnesses were called. Once the Court
received an accurate picture of what Det. Tallant knew when he swore to
the Tallant affidavit and searched the Rippey Street apartments, we were
convinced that, had Det. Tallant included in the affidavit all the
information he actually knew at the time, we would have found that the
ensuing warrant was, in fact, supported by probable cause. In short, we
find that while the affidavit was poorly drafted, the ensuing search was
conducted in good faith.
Det. Tallant testified that the information in the affidavit was
primarily obtained from several sources: Roger Moore, brother of homicide
victim Timothy Moore; Tica Carter, Timothy Moore's live-in girlfriend;
and an unnamed live-in girlfriend to Robert James. 11/1 Tr. at 58-68. He
further testified that he carefully drafted the affidavit so as to
prevent the defendants from learning the identities of the witnesses in
order to protect them from possible retaliation by the defendants, who
would receive a copy of the affidavit at the time of the search. Id. at
9-12, 42-44. Thus, Det. Tallant did not put the names of any witnesses in
the affidavit. Id. at 10. In addition, he gave all the information in a
"collective" manner, because a defendant might have been able to identify
an unnamed witness by the specific information with which they are
credited. Id. at 43. While this methodology is the primary reason for the
warrant's invalidity, see Section II.A.2.b, supra, we find that it was
done in good faith and that a reasonably well trained officer could
believe that, because a magistrate had accepted an affidavit written in
this style, it was valid under the Constitution.
Det. Tallant testified as to the basis of knowledge of the sources who
provided the information contained in the Tallant affidavit. For our
purposes, it will suffice to mention just a few excerpts from Det.
Tallant's testimony. He testified that Roger Moore and the victims'
girlfriends had personal knowledge of the victims' drug activities. 11/1
Tr. at 58. He testified that the pager numbers listed in the affidavit
were obtained from a girlfriend of one of the victims, who had "dialed
some of those pager numbers herself." Id. at 59. He stated that Roger
Moore had spoken to victim Tim Moore on the day of the homicides, and the
latter told him that he was going to settle a drug debt of approximately
$2,000-$3,000 that night, and that Robert James's girlfriend also told
him of the debt-settlement meeting. Id. at 63-64. Finally, Det. Tallant
testified that one of the girlfriends told him that the defendants lived
in the Rippey Street Apartments. Id. at 66-67.
Det. Tallant also testified as to the reliability of the witnesses:
What satisfied me about their reliability is that
they related to me things that they knew personally,
not things that were told to them by others, that they
had conversations with the victims, that they had in
fact, in the case of one witness, had actually met
[Elijah Bobby Williams] and [Michael Williams] and
that they knew about drug transactions because they
had witnessed them.
One witness was even admitting to the fact that this
witness was using drugs with them and , in my
estimation, was very straightforward because this
information put this particular witness in a bad
light, explaining that they also had this drug-related
lifestyle. I felt that they were very forthcoming with
the information. Their concerns to me were not about
things that they had done or illegal activities that
they were involved with, they were very open about
their concerns were safety concerns. So I felt that
they were reliable.
Finally, Det. Tallant repeatedly testified that he honestly believed
that the warrant was valid. See, e.g., id. at 8, 20. As Leon announced an
objective test, this fact may seem irrelevant. Leon, 468 U.S. at 919 a.
20, 923 n. 23, 104 S.Ct. 3405. Nevertheless, the core of the Leon test is
whether the search was conducted in "good faith." Thus, we would not
condone a search that was conducted in pursuant to a warrant which a
reasonably well trained officer could rely, but the actual officer who
executed the warrant subjectively knew that it failed to state probable
cause. See LaFave § 1.3(e) at 68.
In conclusion, we find that Det. Tallant and the other officers who
conducted the search of the Rippey Street apartments did so in reasonable
reliance on the later invalidated search warrant, and, therefore are
entitled to the Leon "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule.
Accordingly, we do not suppress the fruits of the searches of the Rippey
Street apartments for violating defendants' Fourth Amendment rights.
B. Motions to Suppress the Fruits of the March 1, 1996 Searches
On October 7, 1995, the NYPD received a phone call stating that two men
had been shot on 174th Street in the Bronx, New York. Transcript of
Suppression Hearing held October 16, 2001 ("10/16 Tr.") at 9. NYPD
Detective Robert A. Nugent and Officer Hector Rivera, among others, went
to the scene, where Det. Nugent spoke to one of the victims, Victor
Mercado. Id. at 9, 12. Mercado was badly injured as a result of the
shooting, and the police feared that he might die from his injuries. Id.
at 35, 9. As Mercado was being placed in an ambulance, Det. Nugent asked
him for the identity of the perpetrator. Id. Mercado replied that "X" had
shot him, and when Det. Nugent asked for the identity of "X," Mercado
told him that "X" was Xavier Williams. Id. at 10.
At the scene of the shooting, Det. Nagent also spoke with the other
victim, Jose Vazquez. Id. at 27. Vazquez told Det. Nugent that he thought
the shooter was a dark-skinned Hispanic man in a hooded sweatshirt. Id.
at 27-28; Det. Nugent's Investigation Notes at "2305."
Several days later, Det. Nugent again interviewed the victims in the
hospital where they was receiving treatment. 10/16 Tr. at 10, 40. Again,
Mercado repeated that it was Xavier Williams, whom Mercado claimed to
have known since the fifth or sixth grade of grammar school, who had shot
him. Id. at 10. In addition, he picked out a picture of Xavier Williams
from a array of photographs of six men. Id. at 39. Det. Nugent also
showed Vazquez the same photograph array that was shown to Mercado. Id.
at 40. Vazquez, however, did not pick anyone out as the perpetrator. Id.
In response to these interviews, NYPD officers from Det. Nugent's
precinct immediately began searching for Xavier Williams. Id. at 11. Det.
Nugent also prepared a "wanted card" and "wanted poster" for Xavier
Williams, so that if he were stopped by law enforcement officers, they
would know that he ...