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United States v. Bush

October 14, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOHNNIE BUSH, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this criminal action charging Johnnie Bush ("Defendant") with possession of illegal drugs and weapons, is a motion to suppress filed byDefendant. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 20.) Generally, Defendant's motion seeks the suppression of (1) physical evidence discovered in his grandmother's house during the execution of a search warrant, and (2) a confession that Syracuse Police officers elicited from him allegedly before he was advised of his Miranda rights, and after he requested counsel and they used coercive techniques to overcome his will. (Id.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is denied.

I. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 18, 2008, Defendant was arrested at his grandmother's house in Syracuse, New York. (Dkt. No. 11, Part 1, at 1-2.) On January 7, 2009, a two-count indictment was filed charging Defendant with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(l), and with being a felon in possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B). (Dkt. No. 1, at 1-2.)

On June 1, 2009, Defendant filed a motion to suppress (1) physical evidence discovered in his grandmother's house during the execution of a search warrant, and (2) a confession that Syracuse Police officers elicited from him allegedly before he was advised of his Miranda rights, and after he requested counsel and they used coercive techniques to overcome his will. (Dkt. No. 12; see also Dkt. No. 20.) On July 15, 2009, a suppression hearing was held before the undersigned. At the conclusion of the hearing, the undersigned reserved decision, permitted the filing of supplemental briefs (which the parties subsequently filed on September 25, 2009), and indicated that a written decision would follow. This is that written decision.

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

In October 2008, a Syracuse Police officer received information that Defendant was selling crack cocaine in the City of Syracuse. (Dkt. No. 21.) After receiving this information, the officer conducted a records check, which revealed the following: (1) Defendant had one prior felony conviction for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree; and (2) Defendant was on parole and resided at 115 Delong Avenue in Syracuse, New York. (Id.) Subsequently, an undercover Syracuse Police officer conducted two controlled purchases of crack cocaine from Defendant. (Dkt. No. 17, at 20.) Prior to the second purchase, surveillance of Defendant was conducted, which revealed that Defendant was storing the crack cocaine in his grandmother's house. (Id. at 21.) Based upon all of this evidence, the officers obtained a search warrant for the house of Defendant's grandmother. (Id. at 21-22.)

On November 18, 2008, Syracuse Police officers executed the search warrant. (Id. at 5.) After leading Defendant outside, the officers placed him in handcuffs, patted him down, and then escorted him back into his grandmother's house. (Id. 5-7.)

Inside the house, Defendant was seated at the dining room table next to his grandmother, sister, friend, and three-year-old niece. (Id. at 7, 10-11, 22-23, 47, 60.) His grandmother's name was Lois Spady. (Id. at 23-24, 39, 66.) His sister's name was Tonya Stith. (Id. at 20, 23, 39, 60.) His friend's name was Rahkeem Taylor. (Id. at 10, 23, 39.) Each of the individuals had been previously identified as living in the house (with the possible exception of Rahkeem Taylor). (Id. at 39.) Tonya Stith and Rahkeem Taylor were handcuffed. (Id. at 22.) All of the individuals inside the house were read their Miranda rights from a Miranda card by Detective Haskell. (Id. at 26-28.) After being read their rights, Detective Haskell asked them if they understood their rights. (Id.) Mr. Bush acknowledged that he understood his rights. (Id. at 28.) Afterward, all of the adults in the house were strip-frisked in separate rooms. (Id. at 65.) No contraband was found on any of the adults. (Id. at 66.)

After searching all of the adults in the house, the officers searched the house. (Id. at 24.) While performing a search of the house, Detective Haskell located, in the top drawer of a dresser in the rear bedroom, a small plastic bag containing a beige chunky substance and two hundred forty-five dollars ($245.00) in United States currency. (Id. at 24-25, 32-33, 36, 41-42, 44.) In the same rear bedroom, Detective Haskell also located the following: (1) an open box of live .22 caliber ammunition; (2) a Centro bus pass bearing Defendant's name; (3) a New York identification card bearing Defendant's name and photograph; and (4) clothing and footwear consistent with Defendant's size and build. (Id. at 17-18, 24-25, 32-33, 35-36, 49, 54-55.)

From the front bedroom, Detective MacDermont located two knotted sections of clear plastic each containing a small amount of a beige chunky substance, and a drug-assistance benefit card in the name of Melvin C. Spady. (Dkt. No. 17, at 36, 54-55, 62.) Detective Renna located a loaded .40 caliber handgun under the stairs to the basement. (Dkt. No. 17, at 25.)

After the search of the house was complete, Detective Haskell escorted Defendant into the living room, while Defendant's family remained in the adjacent dining room. (Id. at 28-29.) While in the living room, Detective Haskell asked Defendant if he wanted to talk, informed him that the police "had found some things," and told him that "if . . . someone didn't acknowledge that it was theirs, then everyone, every adult in the house was going to have to go to jail because [the handgun that] was found was in a common area." (Id. at 30-31.) Eventually, Defendant provided a written statement to Detective Haskell claiming ownership of the cocaine base (crack) and firearm recovered from the house. (Id. at 30-33.)

III. SUMMARY OF GROUNDS FOR MOTION TO SUPPRESS

In his motion to suppress, Defendant argues that the search and subsequent elicitation of an admission were improper. (Dkt. No. 12, Part 2; Dkt. No. 20, Part 1.) In particular, Defendant asserts the following three arguments: (1) Defendant's confession was obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment because it was obtained before he was advised of his Miranda rights, after he invoked his right to counsel, and after the police used unduly coercive techniques to overcome his will (by threatening to arrest some of the individuals in the house without probable cause); (2) the search warrant was procured by fraud; and (3) even if the search warrant was lawfully obtained, the strip search of all the adults in the house exceeded the scope of the search warrant. (Dkt. No. 12, ...


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