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United States v. Berry

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 13, 2016

United States of America,
v.
Willie Berry, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         Defendant Tony Berry (“defendant”) has been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, cocaine, heroin and oxycodone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. The indictment also includes a criminal forfeiture allegation.

         Currently before the Court is defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during an arrest and search of his person and rented vehicle which occurred on May 13, 2015. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         On May 13, 2015, Massachusetts State Police (“MSP”) officers received information that defendant was transporting drugs to Holman Street in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Police set up surveillance and recognized a rental car with a Tennessee plates turning onto Holman Street around 7:00 P.M. Officers approached the vehicle and identified defendant as the person in the front passenger seat.

         Officers searched defendant and found a white ankle sock in his pants. When they searched the vehicle they found a similar white ankle sock in the center console. That sock contained a plastic bag with approximately 1, 600 pills of what was later identified as oxycodone.

         According to the government, earlier that morning, locator information for defendant's cell phone had shown movement south on Route 95 from Attleboro. The locator information also showed later movement north on Route 95 through Connecticut and Rhode Island. That locator information was purportedly identical to defendant's travel to and from New York City on April 25, 2015, during which the government alleges defendant was transporting oxycodone pills. The government also details a long history of surveillance of defendant and his associates dating back to 2011.

         In June, 2015, a grand jury indicted defendant and eight others on multiple drug trafficking charges. In November, 2016, defendant moved to suppress the evidence from his arrest and the ensuing search that occurred on May 13, 2015. The Court held an evidentiary hearing and heard oral argument on that motion on December 6, 2016.

         II. Motion to Suppress

         Defendant seeks to suppress all fruits of the search. According to defendant, the evidence should be suppressed because the police lacked probable cause to believe a crime was being committed when they arrested him. The government responds that the police had sufficient probable cause to justify the arrest and subsequent search of defendant.

         A. Legal Standard

         The Fourth Amendment governs the arrest of a person by law enforcement officers. Robinson v. Cook, 706 F.3d 25, 33 (1st Cir. 2013). A warrantless arrest is permissible if there is probable cause to believe that the arrestee has committed a crime. United States v. Bizier, 111 F.3d 214, 216-17 (1st Cir. 1997).

         The probable cause standard is distinct from the “more onerous standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Morelli v. Webster, 552 F.3d 12, 21 (1st Cir. 2009). Probable cause exists if,

at the time of arrest, the facts and circumstances known to the arresting officers were sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that [the suspect] had ...

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