537 F.2d 554 (1st Cir. 1976), 75--1312, United States v. Cruz Pagan

Docket Nº:75--1312 to 75--1314.
Citation:537 F.2d 554
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Hipolito CRUZ PAGAN et al., Defendants, Appellants.
Case Date:June 10, 1976
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 554

537 F.2d 554 (1st Cir. 1976)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Hipolito CRUZ PAGAN et al., Defendants, Appellants.

Nos. 75--1312 to 75--1314.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 10, 1976

Argued Feb. 9, 1976.

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Gino P. Negretti, Miami, Fla., for appellants.

Jose A. Quiles, Asst. U.S. Atty., San Juan, P.R., with whom Julio Morales Sanchez, U.S. Atty., San Juan, P.R., was on brief, for appellee.

Before COFFIN, Chief Judge, McENTEE and CAMPBELL, Circuit Judges.

McENTEE, Circuit Judge.

After a jury trial each of the appellants was found guilty as charged 1 in the multiple-count indictment. 2 Their main contentions on appeal are the following: (1) that there was no probable cause to justify issuance of a search warrant for an apartment from which incriminating evidence was obtained; 3 (2) that the warrantless search of a delivery van in an underground parking garage violated the fourth amendment rights of two of the appellants; (3) that there was insufficient evidence to convict any of the appellants of importation offenses; (4) that there was insufficient evidence to convict one of the appellants of the conspiracy offenses; and (5) that there was an error in sentencing. We deal with each of these contentions seriatim. 4

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On December 5, 1972, a United States Magistrate issued a warrant for the search of apartment 311 in El Girasol Condominium in San Juan. (It is undisputed that this apartment belonged to appellant Cruz Pagan and that incriminating evidence was obtained therein.) In weighing the issue of probable cause for the warrant, the magistrate had before him an affidavit 5 of a customs agent which stated in pertinent part:

'On November 12, 1972, information received from a reliable informant stated that Hipolito Cruz Pagan and Rafael G. Bordenave-Morales were involved in the smuggling of narcotics. On November 29, 1972 additional information stated that Cruz Pagan and Bordenave were in South America. On December 5, 1972 at about 2:00 a.m. aircraft HK--1487P landed without authority at Yauco, P.R., and police officers of Yauco observed a car which was on the runway speeding away, abandoning the aircraft, as they approached the airport. On December 5, 1972 a search of the area near the aircraft disclosed white paint residues where the car had collided and a license for a car bearing license plates 98N987, property of National Car Rental. On December 5, 1972 a check conducted at National Car Rental disclosed the car to be rented to Hipolito Cruz Pagan, that it was a white Chevrolet Impala, which car had not been returned to the Rental Company.'

Appellants attack several of the factual allegations made in this affidavit. They first point out that the affidavit mentions a car speeding away, while the testimony at the suppression hearing was that it was only identified, by sound, as a motor vehicle. They next note that the affidavit states that the white Impala was rented to Hipolito Cruz Pagan, whereas it was brought out at the suppression hearing that the rental agency's records showed that the car was rented to Hipolito Cruz Rivera, the father of Cruz Pagan. 6

Appellants contend that these were 'intentional, relevant and non-trivial misstatements' requiring suppression under United States v. Belculfine, 508 F.2d 58, 63 (1st Cir. 1974). We do not agree. As to both references, the testimony at the hearing on the motion to suppress was imprecise. For example, although one officer merely heard the noise of a motor vehicle, another also testified to seeing red tail lights. On the question of who rented the car, it was variously stated that the name on the records was Hipolito Cruz Rivera and Hipolito Cruz. There was ample evidence to conclude, moreover, that in fact Cruz Pagan had rented the car with his father's credit card, or at least in his father's name. The district court, while not directly addressing the question in its opinion, appears to have accepted the two statements as essentially accurate. Under these circumstances, we cannot say that the references, if indeed they were inaccurate at all, rise to the level of 'non-trivial misstatements'. 7

'( A)ffidavits for search warrants . . . must be tested and interpreted by magistrates and courts in a commonsense

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and realistic fashion,' United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 108, 85 S.Ct. 741, 746, 13 L.Ed.2d 684 (1965); see also Rosencranz v. United States, 356 F.2d 310, 314 (1st Cir. 1966), and we sympathize with government agents who must operate in haste against a background of rapidly evolving and frequently ambiguous circumstances. 8 See Brinegar v. United States, 388 U.S. 160, 176, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949). We are convinced that the likelihood of the alleged discrepancies having any effect on the determination of probable cause was negligible, and that the policies underlying Belculfine simply are not called into play here. While the principles established in Belculfine continue to govern our approach to inaccurate affidavits, it should also be stated that 'we do not read supporting affidavits with the same microscopic intensity as municipal bond counsel would a bond indenture.' United States v. Pond, 523 F.2d 210, 214 (2d Cir. 1975).

The next--and most substantial--of appellants' arguments concerns the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Hipolito Cruz Pagan and Guillermo Rafael Bordenave after their departure from the underground parking garage of El Girasol Condominium. When federal agents were at the condominium, where Cruz Pagan lived, to execute the warrant discussed above, two of their number went into the building's underground parking garage, where there was parked a...

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