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United States v. Ortiz

May 22, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ERIC ORTIZ, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Defendant Eric Ortiz stands accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 19 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), as well as drug possession, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(c), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(I). The drugs and the weapons were discovered during a search of his home on April 5, 2006. Ortiz now moves the court to suppress the drugs and weapons as the fruit of an illegal search on the ground that the warrant issued by the Honorable John H. Wilson, Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice, Kings County, was not issued on probable cause. Ortiz also argues that the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment is inapplicable because the police and a confidential informant made misrepresentations in the warrant application. See United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). Also before the court is Ortiz's motion to suppress a written confession allegedly obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied in its entirety.

THE SEARCH WARRANT

Based upon the court's in camera review of the unredacted search warrant application and the unredacted transcript of Justice Wilson's hearing, the court finds sufficient probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant. Moreover, as noted below, Ortiz failed to make sufficient sworn allegations of fact justifying a Franks hearing. Based upon this finding, the court does not need to reach the issue of whether the "good faith" exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement applies. However, the court finds that, even assuming that the warrant was defective, the good faith exception would apply.

Findings of Fact

On March 30, 2006, New York City police officers sought and were issued a warrant authorizing the search of the residence of Eric Ortiz, located at 59 Troutman Street, Apartment 3L, Brooklyn, New York (referred to as the "Subject Premises"). The warrant was issued by Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice John H. Wilson of Kings County. The confidential informant and Police Officer Ruben Duque ("Duque") testified at the hearing in support of the warrant. In addition to receiving testimony, before issuing the warrant, Justice Wilson reviewed Duque's affidavit in support of the application and questioned the confidential informant and Duque under oath.*fn1 The court has reviewed the unredacted affidavits of Duque and the minutes of the proceedings before Justice Wilson and has made the following factual determinations:

1) The confidential informant did not have a record of reliability because he had not provided information in the past. However, the confidential informant testified, under oath, and was able to demonstrate his reliability.

2) The confidential informant testified regarding his relationship to Ortiz, his knowledge of the Subject Premises, what he saw when he visited the Subject Premises and his reason for coming forward (to make the neighborhood safer).

3) Duque testified that he had arrested the confidential informant for marijuana possession, for which the informant had been issued a summons.

4) In addition to his testimony, Officer Duque submitted an attesting that stated that the confidential informant had informed him that the informant had seen various weapons at the Subject Premeise and when observations were made. Duque Aff. ¶¶ 2, 4, 5.

5) Duque's affidavit also attested to his experience as a police officer and to the results of his own investigation, which independently corroborated some of the information provided by the informant. Id at ¶¶ 1, 3. For example, Duque confirmed that Ortiz received gas service and electric service in his name at the Subject Premises, and that Ortiz's car was registered to him at that address. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 4, 5.

The warrant was executed on April 5, 2006. The Inventory from the search indicates that drugs, guns, bullets, drug paraphernalia and currency were seized during the search, including an M-18 smoke cannister and several .9 millimeter hand guns.

Discussion: Probable Cause Existed for the Search

Ortiz asserts that the evidence obtained as a result of the search of his apartment must be suppressed because the warrant was issued without probable cause. Ortiz's assertion is without merit. First, a search warrant issued by an impartial magistrate is presumptively valid. United States v. Smith, 9 F.3d 1007, 1012 (2d Cir. 1993) ("[a] magistrate's 'determination of probable cause should be paid great deference by reviewing courts.'") (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 236, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983)). The Supreme Court has held that "where [the] circumstances are detailed, where reason for crediting the source of the information is given, and when a magistrate has found probable cause . . . the resolution of doubtful or marginal cases . . . should be largely determined by the preference to be accorded to warrants." United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. ...


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