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Commonwealth v. Silva

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

October 22, 2018

COMMONWEALTH
v.
JILLIAN M. SILVA

          Heard: September 7, 2018.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the New Bedford Division of the District Court Department on May 28, 2014. A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by James J. McGovern, J.

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

          Stephen C. Nadeau, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Kevin P. DeMello for the defendant.

          Present: Green, C.J., Milkey, & Singh, JJ.

          GREEN, C. JUDGE

         Following an investigation of suspected drug sales by Bryan Simpson, police obtained and executed a warrant to search the apartment in which they believed Simpson and the defendant, Jillian M. Silva, lived. The defendant was subsequently charged with possessing both class A and class B drugs with the intent to distribute and with conspiracy to violate the drug law. The defendant made a motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search, and a judge of the District Court allowed the motion based on his conclusion that the information submitted in support of the search warrant application was inadequate to establish probable cause. After obtaining leave from a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, see Mass. R. Crim. P. 15 (a) (2), as appearing in 474 Mass. 1501 (2016), the Commonwealth appealed. We reverse.

         Background.

         Our review of the sufficiency of an application for a search warrant "begins and ends with the 'four corners of the affidavit'" supporting it. Commonwealth v. O'Day, 440 Mass. 296, 297 (2003), quoting Commonwealth v. Villella, 39 Mass.App.Ct. 426, 428 (1995). We summarize the facts recited in the May 23, 2014, affidavit executed by Detective Daniel Amaral, an experienced New Bedford police detective assigned to a unit specializing in narcotics investigations.

         During the week of May 4, 2014, Amaral was told by a confidential informant (CI) that an individual the CI knew as "Bryan" was engaged in a "crack" cocaine delivery service. The CI had been purchasing crack cocaine for over a month, and gave a physical description of Bryan. As described by the CI, the CI would call a telephone number to speak to Bryan, after which Bryan would designate a time and location to meet the CI to complete the purchase. The CI said that Bryan sometimes arrived at the purchase location in a gold-colored vehicle with a strap holding down the trunk, which was driven by a woman.

         After consulting with other members of the narcotics investigation unit, Detective Amaral learned that another detective in that unit (Detective Sergeant Marc Blouin) had begun an investigation of an individual named Bryan Simpson residing at 175 Harwich Street, New Bedford, and had received five anonymous telephone calls on the narcotics anonymous tips line within the previous six months. The anonymous tipster described Simpson's use of a gold-colored vehicle with a strap holding down the trunk. Blouin informed Amaral that he had traveled to 175 Harwich Street and observed Simpson and a woman leave the building at that address and get into a gold-colored vehicle with a strap holding down the trunk. After checking the license plate of the vehicle, Blouin learned that it was registered to the defendant's mother. After searching police department records, Amaral discovered an incident report concerning a domestic disturbance at 175 Harwich Street between Simpson and the defendant on July 7, 2013, in which the defendant reported that she had had a verbal argument with Simpson, whom she described as her boy friend of four years.[1]

         Amaral then arranged, on three separate occasions between May 4 and May 23, 2014, to have the CI participate in controlled purchases of crack cocaine from Simpson. On two occasions, shortly after the CI placed a call to Bryan, detectives watched Simpson and a woman leave by the front door of 175 Harwich Street, enter a vehicle parked on the street, and drive directly to the designated location. There, the CI briefly interacted with Simpson before the two separated. After both encounters, the CI provided police with a substance that was later confirmed to be crack cocaine. After the second meeting, Simpson and the woman returned immediately to 175 Harwich Street and entered through the front door. On the occasion of the third controlled purchase, Simpson was observed leaving 175 Harwich Road alone, entering a vehicle in the rear of the building, and driving to the designated location, where he sold crack cocaine to the CI and then drove in a direction away from Harwich Road. On at least two other occasions during this period, police observed Simpson leave his residence and engage briefly with individuals other than the CI at various locations in what appeared to be drug transactions.

         Detectives also observed Simpson and a woman check the mailbox for an apartment on the east side of 175 Harwich Street before using ...


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