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UNITED STATES v. QUINTANA-LEDEZMA

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


January 9, 1991

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
AMILCAR QUINTANA-LEDEZMA

The opinion of the court was delivered by: GESELL

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 GERHARD A. GESELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 The defendant, a citizen of Panama who has lived in this country for two years, moves to suppress crack cocaine seized from his bag by officers interdicting passengers on interstate buses which pause at the local bus station. Gerald Crispino, an Immigration and Naturalization Service Special Agent attached to the Metropolitan Police Department's Narcotics Interdiction Unit, opened defendant's bag while defendant, en route from New York to North Carolina, was in his seat on the bus at about 5:50 a.m. on October 11, 1990. There were apparently 14 passengers and four officers on the bus at the time. Only moments before searching defendant's bag, Crispino had seized and removed another bag from the bus, and he along with other officers apparently then handcuffed and arrested a woman who had been seated near that bag and led her past defendant's seat. *fn1"

 No other facts have been established to the Court's satisfaction after a hearing at which Crispino and the defendant were the only witnesses. Neither of the men testified with sufficient credibility to enable the Court to set out with any confidence a factual account of what happened. Defendant portrayed himself in false fashion. He pretended not to understand the simplest English, refused to answer except through an interpreter, and professed total lack of understanding of what had happened on the bus. But unfortunately, Crispino's testimony was equally unreliable; in fact, it was transparently unworthy of belief. He was often evasive and unresponsive. He presented totally inconsistent statements. *fn2" He appeared to have little appreciation of his duty to present the truth. His demeanor was almost mocking and quite unlike the responsible testimony normally offered by MPD officers.

 Thus the United States failed to meet its burden, see Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 454-55, 29 L. Ed. 2d 564, 91 S. Ct. 2022 (1971), of showing grounds for a warrantless search of defendant, and the police conduct must be deemed violative of the Fourth Amendment. *fn3" The motion to suppress is hereby granted, and any and all evidence obtained as a result of the seizure of defendant's bag is suppressed.

 The Court's experience with this never-ending stream of drug interdiction cases continues to suggest that the ability of judges to evaluate the reliability of testimony would be greatly enhanced if officers taped their encounters with bus and train passengers. Such an approach might help mend the uneasy state of affairs within this Circuit over the reliability of District Court findings and the constitutionality of police interdiction activities.

 A status conference is set for January 18, 1991, at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom No. 6. At that time, the United States shall indicate how it proposes to proceed.

 SO ORDERED.


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