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Commonwealth v. Pridgett

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

February 12, 2019

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MAURICE R. PRIDGETT.

          Heard: November 8, 2018

          Complaint received and sworn to in the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department on September 9, 2016. A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Thomas S. Kaplanes, J.

         An application for leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal was allowed by Lowy, J., in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk, and the appeal was reported by him to the Appeals Court. After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.

          Julianne Campbell, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          William M. Driscoll for the defendant.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.

          BUDD, J.

         The defendant, Maurice R. Pridgett, was arrested while sitting alone in the passenger seat of a motor vehicle that had been reported stolen. He was charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle, subsequent offense, in violation of G. L. c. 266, § 28 (a.), and receiving stolen property over $250, in violation of G. L. c. 266, § 60, in connection with items found in the motor vehicle. He filed a motion to suppress his postarrest statements, contending that the police lacked probable cause to arrest.

         A judge in the Boston Municipal Court Department allowed the defendant's motion following an evidentiary hearing, and the Commonwealth filed an interlocutory appeal. The Appeals Court affirmed in an unpublished memorandum and order pursuant to its rule 1:28. Commonwealth v. Pridgett, 93 Mass.App.Ct. 1105 (2018). We granted the Commonwealth's application for further appellate review, and we conclude, as did the Appeals Court, that there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause that the defendant knew the vehicle was stolen, a requisite element of the crime of receiving a stolen motor vehicle. G. L. c. 266, § 28 (a.), [1] We therefore affirm the order of the motion judge allowing the defendant's motion to suppress.[2]

         1. Background.

         The following facts are derived from the testimony of the police officer who made the observations of the defendant prior to his arrest; the testimony of the officer, who was the sole witness at the suppression hearing, was fully credited by the motion judge.

         While working undercover, the officer observed the defendant, who was leaning on a motor vehicle, talking on a cellular telephone (cell phone) and looking around. Upon investigating the vehicle's license plate, the officer learned that the vehicle had been reported stolen. The officer further observed the defendant open the vehicle's front passenger's side door to toss something into the vehicle. The defendant then shut the door and resumed leaning on the vehicle. After a period of time, the officer observed the defendant open the front passenger's side door and sit in the front passenger's seat. At that point the officer radioed to uniformed police officers, directing them to "move in." The uniformed officers removed the defendant from the vehicle and handcuffed him.

         After he was read Miranda warnings, the defendant made incriminating statements including that he knew the motor vehicle was stolen, and that items recovered from the motor vehicle during an inventory search[3] may have been stolen. The defendant filed a motion to suppress his postarrest statements ...


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