Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

District Court Properly Denied Motion to Suppress

United States v. Cardona, No. 12-4612-cr (2d Cir. Dec. 3, 2013) (Kearse, Jacobs, and Parker) (second amended summary order), available here

Convicted after trial of cocaine trafficking, the defendant argued on appeal that the district court should have suppressed various pieces of evidence because his arrest and the ensuing search of his vehicle lacked probable cause. The Circuit disagreed, holding that law enforcement officers properly relied on information provided by another man, Morales-Gomez, who claimed (upon being arrested for drug possession) that he was to deliver 30 kilograms of cocaine to the defendant. Though the officers had not previously worked with Morales-Gomez, they verified many details of his account, including his description of the defendant, the defendant’s nationality, the specifics of the defendant’s criminal record, as well as where he lived and what car he drove. The corroboration of these “innocent” details, the Court wrote, gave sufficient reason to believe the criminal aspects of his story. And Morales-Gomez participated directly in the sting operation that led to the defendant’s arrest, making his information more reliable because he ran the risk that he would be held accountable if his information proved false.
The defendant’s own actions also corroborated Morales-Gomez’s account. For example, the officers heard and recorded phone calls in which the defendant and Morales-Gomez arranged a drug meeting. Based on this and other information, the officers had probable cause to arrest the defendant.
The panel also rejected the defendant’s argument that the officers lacked probable cause to believe that the defendant’s car contained incriminating evidence, including money, cellular phones, or weapons. 
Further, the panel held that the protective sweep of the defendant’s wife residence following his arrest was not invalid. The officers had reason to believe that the defendant had associates at the residence who could have posed a threat to the officers or to any evidence therein. 
Finally, the panel held that the subsequent search of the wife’s residence was not improper. The district court found that the wife validly consented to the search. The Circuit determined that this factual finding was not clearly erroneous.
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