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United States v. Burroughs

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 29, 2012

UNITED STATES of America,
v.
Eddie P. BURROUGHS, Defendant.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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George Peter Eliopoulos, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Nikki U. Lotze, Lotze Mosley LLP, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, District Judge.

Defendant Eddie P. Burroughs is charged by indictment with one count of unlawful possession with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base, one count of unlawful possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and one count of unlawful possession with intent to distribute marijuana. In December 2011, the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department executed a search warrant of the Defendant's alleged residence and purportedly recovered the narcotics at issue. Presently before the Court is the Defendant's Pro Se Motion to Suppress the search warrant. Upon consideration of the parties' pleadings,[2] and the record, and relevant legal authorities, the Court finds the Defendant's motion lacks merit and is therefore DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court detailed the factual and procedural history of this case in its prior Memorandum Opinion, and incorporates that discussion herein. 8/10/12 Mem. Opin., 882 F.Supp.2d 113, 116-18. In relevant part, on November 26, 2011, at approximately 12:15 AM, two black males purportedly robbed two individuals (the " complainants" ) at gun point near 6th Street and Trenton Avenue in Southeast Washington, D.C. Def.'s Ex. 1 (Investigative Suppl. Report) at 1. The complainants indicated that, among other things, an iPod, two cellular telephones (one Samsung telephone and one Virgin Mobile telephone), a wallet, and $374 in U.S. currency were taken during the robbery. Id.; Aff. of Det. Francis at 1. The complainants described their assailants as two black males: (1) one individual approximately 5'5" with slim build and shoulder length dread locks, wearing a black coat and blue jeans, and carrying a silver handgun; and (2) one individual approximately 6'5", heavy set (200-225 lbs), wearing a black coat with a hood and blue jeans. Def.'s Ex. 1 at 1.

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The Defendant was arrested at approximately 1:35 AM on November 26, 2011 in the 3600 block of 6th Street, Southeast, Washington, D.C. UUV Arrest Report at 1. The Defendant was believed to have fled from a vehicle involved in a carjacking in Prince George's County, Maryland, earlier that evening. Id. at 2. After being taken to the Seventh District police station, officers recovered a black wallet containing a white access card, various receipts, and $740 in U.S. currency from the Defendant's pants pocket. Def.'s Ex. 1 at 2; Aff. of Det. Francis at 1. Based on the currency, wallet, and white access card recovered from the Defendant, Detective Francis thought the Defendant might have been involved in the armed robbery. Def.'s Ex. 1 at 2. The Defendant was interviewed on November 26 by two Prince George's County Detectives in relation to the carjacking, and by Detective Francis regarding the armed robbery. Id.; Aff. of Det. Francis at 1.

The same day as the Defendant's arrest and interview, Detective Francis attempted to contact one of the complainants to see if the complainant could identify the wallet and white access card recovered from the Defendant, but the identification did not take place until December 2. Def.'s Ex. 1 at 2. In the interim, D.C. Superior Court Judge Kimberley S. Knowles dismissed the UUV charge against the Defendant for lack of probable cause. District of Columbia v. Burroughs, 2011 CF2 022837, Probable Cause Hearing (D.C. Superior Ct. Nov. 29, 2011). On December 2, Detective Francis showed several of the items taken from the Defendant upon his arrest to one of the robbery complainants. Aff. of Det. Francis at 2. The complainant identified the wallet and some of the receipts as having been taken during the robbery. Id.

On the basis of the complainant's identification, Detective Francis sought a search warrant for the Defendant's residence: 3400 13th Street, Southeast, Apartment 301, Washington, D.C. Detective Francis executed the affidavit in support of the search warrant on December 3, 2011, in front of Superior Court Judge Anthony C. Epstein. Id. at 2. Superior Court Judge Ronald P. Wertheim authorized the search warrant on December 5, 2011. The warrant specifically identified the following property to be seized: Sprint Threshold cell phone, Virgin Mobile cell phone, iPod/Shuffle, handgun, ammunition, photographs, proof of ownership of guns, and gun cleaning kits. Officers executed the search warrant on December 6, 2011, and recovered significant quantities of crack cocaine, powder cocaine, and marijuana, which led to the charges currently pending against the Defendant. See 8/10/12 Mem. Opin., 882 F.Supp.2d at 116-17.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Fourth Amendment provides that " no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation." U.S. Const. amend. IV. " To demonstrate probable cause to search premises, an affidavit must set forth facts sufficient to induce a reasonably prudent person to believe that a search thereof will uncover evidence of a crime." United States v. Laws, 808 F.2d 92, 94 (D.C.Cir.1986). " When police obtain evidence by way of an unlawful search, the exclusionary rule may require exclusion of that evidence in some circumstances." United States v. Glover, 681 F.3d 411 (D.C.Cir.2012). However, as the D.C. Circuit explained,

[T]he exclusionary rule has limited force in cases involving a search with a search warrant. In particular, reviewing courts may not exclude evidence " when an officer acting with objective good faith has obtained a search warrant from a judge or magistrate and acted within its

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scope." United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 920, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). The reason is evident: " In the ordinary case, an officer cannot be expected to question the magistrate's probable-cause determination or his judgment that the form of the warrant is technically sufficient." Id. at 921, 104 S.Ct. 3405. The " exclusionary rule was adopted to deter unlawful searches by police, not to punish the errors of magistrates and judges." Massachusetts v. Sheppard, 468 U.S. 981, 990, 104 S.Ct. 3424, 82 L.Ed.2d 737 (1984) (citation omitted).

Id. at 418-19. Courts have recognized three exceptions to the good faith principle articulated in Leon. Specifically, exclusion may be appropriate regardless of the good faith of the officer executing the warrant if (1) " the magistrate or judge in issuing a warrant was misled by information in an affidavit that the affiant knew was false or would have known was false except for his reckless disregard of the truth" ; (2) " the issuing magistrate wholly abandoned [her] judicial role" ; or (3) the affidavit was " so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable." Leon, 468 U.S. at 923, 104 S.Ct. 3405 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); e.g., Glover, 681 F.3d at 419; United States v. Spencer, 530 F.3d 1003, 1007 (D.C.Cir.2008). " An affidavit offered in support of a search warrant enjoys a ‘ presumption of validity.’ " United States v. Maynard, 615 F.3d 544, 550 (D.C.Cir.2010). If the Defendant makes a " substantial showing" — that is a " more than conclusory" showing " accompanied by an offer of proof" — that false statements were included or material facts omitted under the first Leon exclusion, the Court must hold an evidentiary hearing. Id. (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

The Defendant's pleadings raise a number of issues regarding the procedures surrounding the issuance, content, and execution of the search warrant. Ultimately, none of the Defendant's arguments rise to the level of requiring an evidentiary hearing, much less suppression of the search warrant.

A. Signatures on the Search Warrant and Related Documents

The first general category of arguments raised by the Defendant concerns the execution of the affidavit in support of the search warrant, the search warrant itself, and the search warrant return. The Defendant argues that affidavit, warrant, and return are defective because: (1) Detective Francis forged the signature of the Assistant United States Attorney; (2) the affidavit and warrant were signed on two different days by two different Superior Court Judges; (3) the Judges signed the affidavit and warrant even though the warrant failed to establish probable cause; and (4) Detective Francis must have forged all three signatures himself. None of these arguments have merit.

First, the Defendant alleges that Detective Francis must have forged the signature of the Assistant United States Attorney on the search warrant affidavit. Def.'s Mot. at 4. There is no basis for this argument, and the Defendant cites no authority for the proposition that a defect in the AUSA's signature is grounds for suppressing the search warrant.

Second, the Defendant takes issue with the fact that the affidavit in support of the search warrant and the warrant itself were signed on two separate days by two separate Superior Court Judges. There is nothing inherently suspect with the affidavit ...


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