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United States v. Wiggins

June 20, 2002


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Date Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge


The defendant, Anthony Wiggins, was arrested on November 12, 2001 for felony possession of a firearm by a felon. A warrant for his arrest was issued on November 24, 1998. This warrant was executed on Wiggins nearly three years later, on November 14, 2001. Defendant moves the Court to dismiss this matter for violation of Wiggins' constitutional speedy trial rights. In addition, he moves to suppress evidence and statements allegedly seized in violation of Wiggins' Fourth Amendment rights.

Upon careful consideration of defendants' motions, the responses and replies thereto, the entire record herein, and the applicable statutory and case law, the Court GRANTS defendant's motion to dismiss for violation of his speedy trial rights and GRANTS defendant's motion to suppress statements and evidence.

I. Constitutional Speedy Trial Violation

At the hearing on defendant's motion to dismiss for violation of speedy trial rights, the Court heard testimony from William Bonk, a Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal who supervises the warrant squad, and from John Triplett, a Metro Transit Police Captain. The parties also stipulated to a proffer by defense counsel regarding the investigation, in which she would have engaged, had the case been prosecuted at an earlier time. All of the evidence clearly demonstrated that the government failed to notify Wiggins of the charges pending against him and, for close to three years, failed to take any action whatsoever in an attempt to execute the outstanding warrant for his arrest.

A. Hearing Testimony

On November 24, 1998, a grand jury returned a one-count indictment in this Court charging Wiggins with possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). That same day, a warrant for Wiggins' arrest was issued by United States Magistrate Judge Alan Kay.

The government, in order to explain the delay in executing the warrant for Wiggins' arrest, presented extensive testimony regarding the warrant systems used by the Marshal Service and the Metro Transit Police.

The government's first witness, Deputy William Bonk, has been employed by the Marshal Service for twelve years and has supervised the warrant squad for three years. Deputy Bonk explained that the warrant squad handles two types of warrants: Class 1 warrants and Class 2 warrants. Class 1 warrants are those warrants, for which the Marshal Service bears responsibility for ensuring that they are entered into the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") database, and for which the Marshal Service has the apprehension responsibility. The Class 2 warrants are warrants that originate from investigations by other law-enforcement agencies. The Marshal Service makes an entry of a Class 2 warrant in its database and then files the warrant until such time as another law-enforcement agency brings the person in question into custody. The distinction between Class 1 and Class 2 warrants has been in place since at least 1987 and, according to Deputy Bonk, is a national policy manifested in various memoranda of understanding between law enforcement agencies.

Deputy Bonk testified that the Marshal Service received a warrant for the defendant, Anthony Wiggins, that was issued by Magistrate Judge Alan Kay of this Court on November 24, 1998. This was a Class 2 warrant, in that it originated from an agency other than the Marshal Service. The Marshal Service, therefore, did not have investigative responsibility, but apparently ran a check through the Washington Area Law Enforcement System ("WALES") and NCIC for other outstanding warrants and prior offenses on December 1, 1998. There did not appear to be any other warrants for the defendant on December 1, 1998. The Marshal Service also checked with the D.C. Jail to ensure that the defendant was not in custody at the jail.

Deputy Bonk explained that the Marshal Service does not generally enter Class 2 warrants into NCIC. The Marshal Service would only enter a Class 2 warrant into NCIC if it had received a written request. The defendant's file does not show that the Service received any written request or notation asking it to enter the warrant into NCIC. At the time that the Marshal Service ran its check for other outstanding warrants in NCIC, it was clear that the warrant in question in this matter had not been entered into the NCIC database. However, the warrant itself directs the Marshal Service to arrest the defendant pursuant to an indictment.

At the time that Wiggins was indicted in this case, he had recently been released in Superior Court Case No. F9855-97. He was arrested in the Superior Court case in December 1997, but the government dismissed the charges on September 22, 1998, apparently because it had not obtained an indictment within the requisite time period. On February 10, 1999, an indictment was filed in his Superior Court case, and an arraignment notice was mailed to his home. Wiggins received the notice and appeared for arraignment on February 23, 1999. He entered a guilty plea in that case on April 26, 1999, and was sentenced on October 12, 1999 to 2-6 years.

The Marshal knew Wiggins' home address, the same home address where Wiggins later received an arraignment notice in his Superior Court case. However, because the Marshal Service attached a Class 2 priority to the warrant issued by Judge Kay, no action was taken by the Marshal Service on the warrant.

Deputy Bonk testified that the Marshal Service did not enter the warrant for Wiggins' arrest into the NCIC database. No one from the Marshal Service sought to locate the defendant, or to apprehend him, and no effort was made to monitor whether the defendant appeared in D.C. Superior Court. The absence of such efforts was due primarily to the status assigned to the warrant, as Deputy Bonk testified that the Marshals in the District Court regularly check their Class 1 detainers against correctional facilities' records. Deputy Bonk testified that the Marshal Service had jurisdiction to arrest the defendant, but that, absent a request by another agency or a judicial officer or U.S. attorney, the Service would not arrest a person for whom there was a Class 2 warrant.

The fate of the 1998 warrant for Wiggins' arrest was pre- ordained by the fact that it originated with the Metro Transit Police. It would appear that Metro Transit warrants are a rare occurrence in this Court, as Deputy Bonk testified that, in his 12 years of experience, he had only seen two cases involving warrants issued by the Metro Transit Police. The government's second witness, Captain John Triplett, having worked twenty-seven years at Metro Transit Police, also testified that, to his knowledge, this case is only the second instance involving a felony warrant, originating with the Metro Transit Police, in federal court.

Captain Triplett is in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division and the Warrant Squad. He testified that the Metro Transit Police do not enter warrants in the District of Columbia into NCIC or any other database. Until the eve of the hearing when Captain Triplett learned of the circumstances surrounding Wiggins' warrant, Metro Transit Police had assumed that the warrant office of D.C. Superior Court entered into NCIC all the warrants in the District of Columbia, including those originating in federal court. *fn1

Wiggins began serving his sentence in his Superior Court matter on October 12, 1999. He was incarcerated at Lorton Correctional Complex and, when that institution closed in the fall of 2001, the warrant for the defendant's arrest came to the attention of the Marshal Service. Deputy Bonk testified that he received an e-mail from Michelle Lee of the Bureau of Prisons on November 9, 2001, which included a list of several inmates who were scheduled to be transferred from Lorton to the BOP on November 15, 2001. One of the inmates scheduled for transfer was the defendant, Anthony Wiggins. Deputy Bonk checked all the names sent to him by Ms. Lee for open, unexecuted warrants and discovered the warrant for the defendant's arrest issued by Magistrate Judge Kay in November 1998, approximately two years earlier.

The government agreed to defense counsel's proffer that, had the warrant on Wiggins been executed three years ago, and the information about the case come to her at that time, she would have taken steps to investigate the factual allegations made by the government. Specifically, she would have asked her investigator to search for and interview possible witnesses at the Metro Station stop where Wiggins was arrested. Three years subsequent to the events in question, defense counsel concluded that her investigator would be unlikely to find any witnesses, and if such ...

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