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Commonwealth v. Luna

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Hampden

December 5, 2017

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GIOVANNIE LUNA.

          Heard: October 2, 2017.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on May 12, 2015. A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Edward J. McDonough, Jr., J.

         An application for leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal was allowed by Barbara A. Lenk, J., in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk, and the appeal was reported by her to the Appeals Court.

          James R. Goodhines for the defendant.

          Benjamin Shorey, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Vuono, Meade, & Kinder, JJ.

          KINDER, J.

         The defendant has been charged with various narcotics and firearm offenses. Following an evidentiary hearing, a Superior Court judge denied, in large part, the defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The defendant's application to pursue an interlocutory appeal was allowed by a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, who reported the matter to this court.

         On appeal, the defendant claims that (1) the judge erred in concluding that the Springfield police officers had reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant's vehicle and to pat frisk him, (2) the subsequent warrantless search and seizure of heroin and a firearm from a second motor vehicle was not supported by probable cause or any exception to the warrant requirement, and (3) the police officers lacked authority to conduct the second search outside the city of Springfield. Because we conclude that the Springfield police exceeded their territorial jurisdiction in the execution of the second vehicle search, we reverse so much of the order as denied the motion to suppress evidence seized during that search.

         Background.

         We summarize the pertinent facts from the judge's findings on the motion to suppress, supplemented where appropriate by uncontroverted suppression hearing testimony that the judge explicitly or implicitly credited. See Commonwealth v. Jones-Pannell, 472 Mass. 429, 431 (2015). In April of 2015, Springfield police Officer Jaime Bruno, a narcotics investigator with fifteen years' experience, was told by a confidential informant that on April 15, 2015, an individual named "Gio, " later identified as the defendant, would make a large delivery of heroin at the intersection of Liberty Street and Denton Circle in East Springfield at about noon that day. According to the informant, Gio would be driving a black Mini Cooper automobile, and the informant provided the license plate number. The informant, with whom Officer Bruno had been in "constant communication" for the preceding seven to eight months, had previously provided information to Officer Bruno that resulted in numerous seizures and arrests. The informant told Officer Bruno that he[1] had purchased heroin from Gio at that same intersection on several occasions, and also within the last seventy-two hours at Gio's residence at the Toll House Apartments in West Springfield. Other officers confirmed that the defendant lived at the Toll House Apartments, and informed Officer Bruno that the defendant also had a residence at 122 Beauregard Terrace in Chicopee.

         The Springfield police had previously received complaints that nonresidents of the area were congregating at the intersection of Liberty Street and Denton Circle. On the morning of April 15, 2015, Officer Bruno went to that location to see for himself. He observed two individuals standing at the intersection whom he had previously arrested for heroin offenses.

         Later that morning, at approximately 10:00 A.M., surveillance officers observed the defendant and a Hispanic male leave the Toll House Apartments, place two large plastic containers in the back seat of the Mini Cooper, and drive it to 122 Beauregard Terrace in Chicopee. There, the defendant approached a red Honda automobile parked at the end of the driveway, opened the trunk with a key, and retrieved a black plastic bag the size of a softball. He then reentered the Mini Cooper and drove in the direction of East Springfield.

         The police followed in unmarked vehicles. When the Mini Cooper was within approximately two miles of the intersection of Liberty Street and Denton Circle, the defendant began driving in an erratic manner. He drove up and down a number of side streets with no apparent destination, suddenly stopping and then accelerating beyond the speed limit. This unusual driving caused Officer Bruno, based on his ...


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