816 F.Supp. 789 (D.Mass. 1993), CR. 92-10350, United States v. Lewis

Docket Nº:CR. 92-10350
Citation:816 F.Supp. 789
Party Name:United States v. Lewis
Case Date:March 05, 1993
Court:United States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Massachusetts

Page 789

816 F.Supp. 789 (D.Mass. 1993)



Otis Darren LEWIS and Michael Starks.

CR. No. 92-10350-GN.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.

March 5, 1993

Page 790

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 791

William A. Brown, Boston, MA, for Otis Darren Lewis.

James P. Duggan, Boston, MA, for Michael Starks.

Thomas C. Frongillo, U.S. Atty.'s Office, Major Crimes Div., Boston, MA, for U.S.


GORTON, District Judge.


On December 28, 1992, the defendant Michael Starks ("Starks") filed a Motion to Suppress in the above captioned action. On January 19, 1993, this Court granted Starks an opportunity to supplement and amend his motion to suppress, which he did by filing an amended motion to suppress on February 8, 1993. The co-defendant in this action, Otis Darren Lewis ("Lewis"), then filed a Motion to Suppress on February 9, 1993. Both defendants Starks and Lewis requested an evidentiary hearing with respect to their motions to suppress.

On February 8, 1993, defendant Starks also filed a motion to disclose the identity and whereabouts of the government's confidential informant.


On Friday, August 14, 1992, a confidential informant telephoned Police Officer Robert G. Leedberg of the Brockton Police Department "Gang Unit", and stated that Starks and Lewis would be in Pete & Mary's Bar on Montello Street and both would be in possession of firearms. The confidential informant had provided reliable information to Officer Leedberg and other Brockton police officers on numerous previous occasions. Because Officer Leedberg and Brockton Police Officers James Smith and Thomas Keating, with whom Officer Leedberg was working, were involved in another case on August 14, 1992, they did not respond to the tip.

The confidential informant again telephoned Officer Leedberg on August 15, 1992, and stated that Starks and Lewis were again in Pete & Mary's Bar, and that they were in possession of firearms. The confidential informant

Page 792

stated that he had seen the firearms, and described what Starks and Lewis were wearing. After obtaining this information, Officers Leedberg, Keating and Smith established surveillance of Pete & Mary's bar.

During the evening of Saturday, August 15, 1992 and through the early morning hours of Sunday, August 16, 1992, the confidential informant was present at Pete & Mary's Bar, and came out of the bar and told Officer Leedberg that Lewis and Starks would be leaving the bar soon and that the informant would contact him when they left. At approximately 1:00 a.m. on August 16, 1992, Lewis and Starks left Pete & Mary's Bar, and Officers Leedberg, Keating and Smith observed them as they walked across Montello Street to the D'Angelo Sub Shop parking lot where a brown car was parked.

Officers Leedberg and Keating then drove their unmarked police car into the parking lot, and stopped behind the brown car. As the unmarked police car approached, Officer Smith, who was standing behind Lewis and Starks in an adjacent parking lot, observed the suspects bend down and straighten up. Officer Smith shouted "[p]olice, don't move, keep your hands in sight". The police officers then pat frisked Lewis and Starks and did not find any guns or narcotics. Officer Keating then looked around the parking lot area where Lewis and Starks had been standing and had bent over. He found a loaded 45 caliber Star pistol and 22 packets of a substance later determined to be "crack cocaine" on the ground under a car parked beside the driver's side of the brown car where Lewis had been standing. Officer Keating also found a loaded nine millimeter Beretta pistol and 17 packets of "crack cocaine" on the ground under the passenger's side of the brown car where Starks had been standing. The police officers then placed Lewis and Starks under arrest.

The grand jury returned an indictment against the defendants Lewis and Starks on November 24, 1992, charging them with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a firearm in aid of a drug trafficking offense.


In their motions to suppress, the defendants contend that the guns and "crack cocaine" were confiscated after a warrantless search, and that the police officers did not have probable cause to justify the search and seizure. Lewis and Starks argue that the police officers had ample opportunity to obtain a search warrant, and that, because the police officers failed to do so, the stop of the defendants and the ultimate seizure of the guns and cocaine necessarily violated the Fourth Amendment. They conclude that the police did not lawfully seize the guns and "crack cocaine", and that this evidence must now be suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful search and seizure. 1

There was, however, no violation of the defendants' Fourth Amendment rights. The Court finds that the guns and drugs were abandoned property and that the evidence was lawfully seized pursuant to the plain view doctrine.


As a preliminary matter, the defendants Lewis and Starks contend that the Brockton police officers had ample opportunity to obtain a warrant prior to their surveillance of Pete & Mary's Bar on August 15 and 16, 1992, and that the police officers' failure to do so before the stop therefore necessarily ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment. Where a warrant has not been obtained, the government bears the burden of proving that its search and seizure falls within a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. United States v. Cruz Jimenez, 894 F.2d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 1990). If the government satisfies that burden, the search and seizure is not unreasonable. Id.

Page 793

Furthermore, the existence of probable cause justifying the issuance of a warrant does not preclude further investigation without a warrant, so long as the continuing investigation does not violate the suspect's Fourth Amendment rights. See generally United States v. Berrett, 513 F.2d 154, 156 (1st Cir. 1975). In the present case, it is unclear whether the police officers had sufficient probable cause to arrest the defendants prior to the chain of events that transpired in the early morning of August 16, 1992. The police officers were not, however, precluded from investigating the tip they received on August 15, 1992, as long as their actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court finds that the government has satisfied its burden of proving that its actions on August 16, 1992 were reasonable and that the government did not violate the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, as discussed below.


The Fourth Amendment does not extend its protection to abandoned property, and where property has in fact been abandoned, no issue of a search or seizure is presented, and the property may be seized without probable cause. See, e.g. Abel v. United States, 362 U.S. 217, 241, 80 S.Ct. 683, 698, 4 L.Ed.2d 668 (1960); Hester v. United States, 265 U.S. 57, 44 S.Ct. 445, 68 L.Ed. 898 (1924). Property is deemed "abandoned" in the Fourth Amendment context when a defendant has, in discarding the property, relinquished his reasonable expectation of privacy in the property. See United States v. Thomas, 864 F.2d 843, 845-46 (D.C.Cir. 1989). 2 Thus, where a defendant attempts to dispose of certain incriminating objects upon the lawful approach of or pursuit by the police, and intends to relinquish his reasonable expectation of privacy in those items, those items will be treated as "abandoned" and they may be seized by the police.

Under the facts of this case as described in Section II. above, the police officers had reason to believe that Lewis and Starks attempted to dispose of the guns and cocaine by setting them on the ground of the parking lot under the brown car and the adjacent car, so that they would not be in possession of incriminating evidence, when they first became fearful that they might be searched. Based upon their actions, Lewis and Starks reasonably manifested an intent to abandon the property.

Even if Lewis and Starks contended that they only discarded the incriminating objects in response to unlawful, harassing conduct by the Brockton police officers, and thus did not effectively "abandon" the property, that argument must fail for two...

To continue reading