474 F.2d 1071 (9th Cir. 1973), 72-2007, United States v. Fisch

Docket Nº:72-2007, 72-2068.
Citation:474 F.2d 1071
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Edward J. FISCH, Ivan L. Glasscock, Appellants.
Case Date:February 16, 1973
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 1071

474 F.2d 1071 (9th Cir. 1973)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Edward J. FISCH, Ivan L. Glasscock, Appellants.

Nos. 72-2007, 72-2068.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

February 16, 1973

Certiorari Denied May 29, 1973.

See 93 S.Ct. 2742.

Page 1072

Edward V. Brennan (argued), of Ferris, Weatherford & Brennan, San Diego, Cal., Philip A. DeMassa (argued), San Diego, Cal., for appellants.

Thomas M. Coffin, Asst. U. S. Atty. (argued), Stephen G. Nelson, Asst. U. S. Atty., Harry D. Steward, U. S. Atty., San Diego, Cal., for appellee.

Page 1073

Before TRASK and CHOY, Circuit Judges, and TALBOT SMITH, [*] District Judge.


The case before us involves eavesdropping, not by the use of electronics or artificial means, but in the traditional "listening at the keyhole" sense. The convicted defendants were in a motel room and the agents listened from an adjoining room as the operation was discussed. The principal argument of appellants is that their right of privacy was thus invaded.

The appellants were charged in a four count indictment with, count one, conspiring to import, count two, importing, count three, conspiring to possess with the intention of distributing, and count four, possessing with the intention of distributing approximately 70 pounds of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, 952, 960 and 963. After trial to the Court, appellant Fisch was found guilty on all four counts, and appellant Glasscock on counts one, two and three, but not guilty on count four. The case below is reported sub nom. United States v. Perry, 339 F.Supp. 209 (S.D. Cal., 1972).

The modus operandi was somewhat unusual. The marijuana was dropped from an airplane onto an area west of Vulcan Mountain, near the Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation. The drop area was marked by flares. These flares were observed by a retired California Division of Forestry ranger, Mr. Tobin, who stopped to investigate. As he approached, he observed two cars nearby, and two men. One asked if he was from the garage. He answered that he was not and inquired as to their "problem." He was told they had a flat tire and trouble underneath the car. Unable to observe any flat, he took the license numbers of the cars, obtained the names of the men, Glasscock (appellant herein) and Thorpe, and suggested that they might obtain mechanical assistance at the Santa Ysabel Standard station. After telling them to extinguish the flares, he left the area. On the following day, September 24, this information was given to Deputy Sheriff Gene Cowley, of the San Diego County Sheriff's Office. At the same time Deputy Cowley received another report. This, from Wayne and Larry King, residents of the Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation, was delivered by one of the Santa Ysabel Mission Tribe, Anthony Taylor. The message was that a red and white airplane had been observed circling in the area of Vulcan Mountain and that it had dropped two objects during one of its passes. This had occurred at about the same time that Tobin had encountered the burning flares.

In patrolling the area of the aircraft drop immediately thereafter, Cowley observed the same Ford van previously described to him by Tobin travelling very slowly down the highway. The back end of the van was dirty and the license could not be read. A tail light was defective. Cowley stopped the van and asked the occupants (Glasscock and Thorpe) to produce identification. Indiana driver's licenses were produced, as well as a California registration, Glasscock stating that they had borrowed the van from a Sacramento friend, James Nash. As Cowley was running a name check on the occupants, he asked permission to check the van further, which was given by Glasscock, the driver. Under the right front seat Cowley observed an aerial navigation map. It was opened to expose the Julian Omni station on Vulcan Mountain, and on it a line had been drawn from the Vulcan site northwest, intersecting Highway 79 at the point of the suspected air drop, near where the van had been observed by Ranger Tobin on the previous evening. Upon the completion of the name check the van was released.

Later that day Cowley was informed that Larry and Wayne King, who had

Page 1074

observed the plane circling the day before, making the drop, had found a duffle bag containing 13 kilos of marijuana on top of Vulcan Mountain. This bag had been turned over to Border Patrol Agents in the area. Two days later a second duffle bag was found by the tribesman, Anthony Taylor. A few minutes after making the find Taylor encountered three unidentified males who told him they were there for fishing. He told them they were trespassing on Indian land and the bag was delivered to Deputy Cowley.

Again, on September 28, 1971, Deputy Cowley observed the Ford van parked off the highway near the area of the drop. No one was observed nearby but the engine was warm. Upon resuming patrol, he later observed the van on the highway. The license plate was still dirty and the tail light still defective. Glasscock showed Cowley a receipt for work done on the van and he was merely warned, not cited, upon his promise to make the necessary repairs. It was ascertained at this time also that the men were staying at the Holiday Inn Motel, Mission Valley. This information had been requested by Cowley's superiors and was transmitted to them.

Deputy Sheriff Perkins was then assigned to the Holiday Inn, Mission Valley. He learned from the motel clerk that Glasscock and Thorpe were registered in Room 514. Perkins requested an adjoining room but none was available, so he registered in 508. Upon the Deputy's request, and upon being informed that a smuggling investigation was underway, the motel clerk moved Glasscock and Thorpe to room 506 (adjacent to 508), upon the excuse that others had prior reservations on their room.

Aural surveillance was then begun. An attempt was made to use a suction cup electronic device but it was defective and nothing intelligible could be heard from it so its use was abandoned. All relevant conversations were heard by the naked ears of the officers. Some of the conversation was so loud that it was heard by an agent sitting on the bed in the middle of the room, specifically in part, the questioning of Fisch, the pilot, by Glasscock as to his speed when he made the drop. Other parts were heard by listening prone at the door, lying some six or eight inches away from a crack between door and carpet, leaving "room for your notebook to take notes." There was talk of drug usage, of the "specific deal," the problems they had had, the "trouble finding the stuff in the area" and how "they had been hassled by the Sheriffs in the area, and the Indians and the Ranger." Glasscock indicated that the next time "they were going to do a little bit more research into the area." He also telephoned one "Don" for help in locating the marijuana, arrangements being made for three more men to assist in the search. In short, there was ample disclosure and admission of the criminal smuggling operation then and there under execution. Arrests of the...

To continue reading