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Commonwealth v. Abdallah

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

July 28, 2016

COMMONWEALTH
v.
JARED ABDALLAH

          Heard: February 11, 2016.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on June 19 and 20, 2013, and March 6, 2014.

         A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Raymond P. Veary, Jr., J.

         An application for leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal was allowed by Hines, J., in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk, and the appeal was reported by her to the Appeals Court. The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

          Tara L. Blackman, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Michael J. Fellows for the defendant.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ. [1]

          DUFFLY, J.

         After causing a disturbance, the defendant was arrested outside his hotel room in the town of Raynham on an outstanding warrant for larceny of $250 or less. Raynham police took possession of a small backpack (a cloth drawstring bag with shoulder straps made of rope) that the defendant had been carrying on his person and transported the bag, along with the defendant, to the police station, where it was searched pursuant to the Raynham police department's inventory policy. The search of the bag uncovered several thousand dollars in cash, glassine bags containing what appeared to be cocaine, and several hundred Percocet pills. The defendant was indicted on charges of trafficking in a class B substance (cocaine), G. L. c. 94C, § 32E (b) (1); trafficking in a class B substance (Percocet), G. L. c. 94C, § 32E (c0 (2); and possession with the intent to distribute a Class B substance (Percocet), G. L. c. 94C, § 32A (a.) .[2] Following an evidentiary hearing, the defendant's motion to suppress the items found during the search was allowed by a Superior Court judge.

         A single justice of this court granted the Commonwealth's application for interlocutory appeal and reported the matter to the Appeals Court. We transferred the case to this court on our own motion. We conclude that, in the circumstances presented here, there was no error in the allowance of the defendant's motion to suppress. Accordingly, we affirm the allowance of the motion, although for reasons that differ somewhat from those relied upon by the motion judge.

         Background.

         We set forth the facts found by the motion judge, supplementing those findings with uncontroverted evidence in the record that was credited by the judge.[3] See Commonwealth v. White, 469 Mass. 96, 97 (2014), citing Commonwealth v. Isaiah I., 448 Mass. 334, 337 (2007).

         Just before noon on June 1, 2013, three officers of the Raynham police department responded to a call regarding a disturbance at a local hotel that allegedly involved the defendant. While en route to the hotel, Sergeant David LaPlante learned from a police dispatcher that the defendant was wanted on an outstanding warrant for larceny of $250 or less. When the officers arrived at the hotel, the desk clerk informed them that the defendant had refused to leave his hotel room when she informed him at the posted checkout time that it was time to check out.

          As the officers approached the defendant's room, they could hear a male voice engaged in a conversation. They knocked on the door and announced their presence. When the defendant opened the door, LaPlante recognized him from prior encounters, most recently an incident in which the defendant had been the victim of a stabbing. As the defendant stepped out of the room, he was speaking on a cellular telephone that he was holding. LaPlante told him to drop the telephone, and the defendant complied. LaPlante then told the defendant that he was under arrest, asked him to turn around, and handcuffed him.

         As LaPlante conducted a patfrisk of the defendant to check for weapons, he saw that the defendant was wearing a small cloth backpack. LaPlante removed the defendant's handcuffs and another officer, Lieutenant Brian Carr, took possession of the backpack. LaPlante then again handcuffed the defendant. The bag remained in Carr's custody as the officers escorted the defendant to LaPlante's police cruiser. The officers informed the defendant that he would be able to pick up his belongings, including clothing and personal items that had been left in the hotel room, at the hotel's front desk after he was released. The defendant asked the officers to secure a computer and a video game system that were in his room, and they did so. The officers also asked the defendant whether he had an automobile with him; he informed them ...


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