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UNITED STATES v. 3120 BANNEKER DRIVE

August 12, 1988

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Property Identified as 3120 Banneker Drive, N.E., Washington, D.C., Containing a Two-Story Townhouse, Further Described as Square 4325, Lot 279, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 Introduction

 The following facts are undisputed. On July 6, 1987, Detective Robert J. Flatley of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police received a tip that a woman was being held against her will at 3120 Banneker Drive, N.E., Washington, D.C., by Calvin Ellis Knox, also known as Calvin "Sonny" Knox. Affidavit of Sergeant John J. Hickey, Jr. in connection with Application for a Seizure Warrant ("First Hickey Affidavit"), 1. Upon receiving this information, the police went to 3120 Banneker Drive, N.E., freed the woman, and arrested Calvin Knox for kidnapping. Id. at 2.

 When Mr. Knox was searched incident to his arrest, the police discovered a glassine bag containing a white powder in his pocket. Id. Both the field test performed by the police and the test subsequently performed at the DEA Laboratories revealed that this bag contained 3 ounces of cocaine. Plaintiff's Opposition to Claimant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibits II and III.

 This was not the only link the police discovered between Calvin Knox, 3120 Banneker Drive, N.E., and the narcotics trade. The woman who had been held by Mr. Knox told Sergeant John J. Hickey that she had purchased cocaine from Mr. Knox at 3120 Banneker Drive, N.E., "on numerous occasions" during the preceding year. Affidavit of Sergeant John J. Hickey, Jr. ("Second Hickey Affidavit"), para. 1. According to Sergeant Hickey, the woman had returned to 3120 Banneker Drive, N.E., to purchase additional cocaine, but Mr. Knox would not let her leave until she settled a debt she allegedly owed him. Id.; First Hickey Affidavit, at 1. Again according to the police, this woman, while held against her will, observed Mr. Knox and another man "cracking" cocaine and also saw a variety of drug paraphernalia stored inside what appeared to be a dishwasher. Affidavit in Support of an Application for a Search Warrant, para. 3.

 On the basis of the narcotics seized from Mr. Knox at the time of his arrest, and the narcotics and related paraphernalia seen by the woman detained by Mr. Knox, the police obtained a warrant to search 3120 Banneker Drive, N.E., for narcotics and related items. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit II. When the warrant was executed, the police discovered three loaded weapons as well as two vials of "crack" concealed in a clothes dryer. First Hickey Affidavit, at 2.

 PLAINTIFF HAS SHOWN PROBABLE CAUSE THAT THE DEFENDANT PROPERTY WAS USED TO FACILITATE A VIOLATION OF THE NARCOTICS LAWS.

 Plaintiff seeks to recover the defendant property under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7), which is a civil forfeiture provision. That statute provides, in pertinent part, that:

 
(a) The following shall be subject to forfeiture to the United States and no property right shall exist in [it]:
 
(7) All real property . . . which is used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, a violation of this title punishable by more than one year's imprisonment, except that no property shall be forfeited under this paragraph, to the extent of an interest of an owner, by reason of any act or omission established by that owner to have been committed without the knowledge or consent of that owner.

 The summary judgment inquiry under this statute is not precisely akin to the law of summary judgment that federal courts employ daily. While a court must

 
. . . evaluate every summary judgment by viewing the evidence and the inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, . . . the 'summary judgment procedures under Rule 56, Fed. R. Civ. P., must necessarily be construed in the light of the statutory law of forfeitures, and particularly the procedural requirements set forth therein. Those procedures themselves are quite summary, especially when compared to normal civil actions.'

 United States v. One 56-Foot Motor Yacht Named the Tahuna, 702 F.2d 1276, 1281 (9th Cir. 1983) (quoting United States of America v. One 1975 Mercedes 280S, 590 ...


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