Richardson v. State

Decision Date07 September 2021
Docket NumberNo. 2386, Sept. Term, 2019,2386, Sept. Term, 2019
Citation259 A.3d 156,252 Md.App. 363
Parties Anthony J. RICHARDSON v. STATE of Maryland
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Submitted by: Michael T. Torres (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Submitted by: Derek Simmonsen (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: Friedman, Shaw Geter, Alexander Wright (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Wright, J.

The Appellant, Anthony J. Richardson, was indicted in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, and charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, illegal possession of a regulated firearm by a person under the age of 21, and related offenses. After his motion to suppress evidence was denied, appellant entered a conditional plea, with right to appeal, to conspiracy to commit robbery and wearing and carrying a handgun. See Md. Code Ann. (1974, 2020 Repl. Vol.) § 12-302(e) of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article ("CJP"). After appellant was sentenced to four years, all but one year suspended (to be served on home detention) for conspiracy to commit robbery, and a consecutive three years, all suspended, for wearing and carrying, he timely appealed, presenting the following question for our review:

Did the circuit court err in denying the motion to suppress?

For the following reasons, we shall affirm.

BACKGROUND
Motions Hearing

On September 28, 2018, Corporal Myron Young, the school resource officer ("SRO") for Crossland High School, located in Temple Hills, Prince George's County, Maryland, responded to a call for a fight in the rear parking lot of the school. Approximately 30 or more students were involved in the fight, including appellant, who was "throwing punches" with other students when Corporal Young intervened. Corporal Young grabbed one of the young men who were punching appellant from behind. He also testified that he was familiar with most of the students at Crossland High, and he did not recognize appellant.

After the officer intervened, appellant began to get up off the ground. As he did so, a backpack strapped across his body fell to the ground. Both appellant and Corporal Young reached for the bag at the same time. Corporal Young testified that he thought it suspicious that appellant would reach for the bag during the middle of a fight.

Corporal Young picked up the bag first and noticed that the "bag had a decent amount of weight to it," and that he "suspected that there was most likely a weapon in the bag." At that point, appellant "ran off" at "[f]ull speed towards the service road that would lead out to Allentown Road." After appellant left the area, Corporal Young opened the bag, saw a firearm inside, and notified other officers in the area. He also recovered a cell phone and a school ID for appellant associated with another school that was not Crossland High.

On cross-examination, Corporal Young testified that, in his statement memorializing the event, he wrote that "there was an individual from behind that was attempting to jump" appellant. Corporal Young agreed that he and appellant reached for the bag at the same time and that he "snatched" it up first. He also agreed that he searched it within a minute of obtaining control over the backpack.

Corporal Young also maintained that he knew appellant was an "outsider" because he did not recognize him. Agreeing there had been no reports about appellant, the officer confirmed that it had been his intention to take him back to the SRO office to search his person had he not fled the scene. He further testified that "I didn't find the weapon until he was gone as well."

Following this testimony, the motions court heard argument from appellant that the seizure and search of appellant's backpack was not supported by probable cause or reasonable articulable suspicion. Appellant also argued that he did not voluntarily abandon the backpack and that Corporal Young "for no reason grabs the bag, snatches it in his own words, and then immediately searches it with no specific reasonable articulable suspicion, let alone probable cause to do so." Appellant concluded that Corporal Young should have gotten a search warrant before opening the backpack that was left behind at the scene.

The State responded that, when Corporal Young approached the area, he saw appellant fighting with another person. At that point, appellant could have been arrested for the scuffle and his backpack could be seized incident to that arrest. Further, when Corporal Young picked up the backpack, he noticed a weight and thought there might be a weapon in the bag, thus, a search also was supported by reasonable articulable suspicion. Noting that Corporal Young was a licensed SRO, the State argued that the officer could have "detained everybody involved in that fight," including appellant, but that appellant fled. Accordingly, the State continued, "[w]hen he fled, I argue that he abandoned voluntarily the property that was seized by the officer, and at that point, the officer is within his rights to search that property to try and return it to its rightful owner."

Pertinent to one of the issues on appeal, the court also heard argument about the search of a cell phone, pursuant to a search warrant, that was found inside the backpack. Pertinent to our discussion, the search and seizure warrant, identified at the hearing as Defendant's Exhibit 1, provides as follows:

Upon reviewing the Application and the accompanying Affidavit of Detective M. Lembo #3821, Prince George's County Police Department, which is incorporated into this Warrant , I find there exists probable cause to issue this Search and Seizure Warrant. You are therefore commanded with the necessary and proper assistants to search forthwith the following place, person, and/or motor vehicle and seize the following specified items:
1. You shall conduct a search on the place, person, and/or motor vehicle located at:
T-Mobile Space Gray iPhone SE IMEI: 356600080434043
You shall seize the following items, evidence, and/or contraband:
All information, text messages, emails, phone calls (incoming and outgoing), pictures, videos, cellular site locations for phone calls, data and/or applications, geo-tagging metadata, contacts, emails, voicemails, oral and/or written communication and any other data stored or maintained inside of T-Mobile Space Gray iPhone SE lMEl:356600080434043 .
3. Upon execution of this Warrant, you shall leave an inventory of the items seized, together with a copy of this Warrant, Application, and supporting Affidavit (unless previously sealed by court order) with the person from whom the items are seized, or with the person in charge of the premises, or if neither of those persons is present, then in a conspicuous place on the premises.
(Emphasis added).1

As indicated in the first paragraph of the warrant, the application and affidavit expressly were incorporated by reference. That application and affidavit first avers that there is probable cause to believe there is property subject to seizure "and more particularly in violation of Annotated Code of Maryland CR-3.405 (b)1." See Md. Code (2002, 2021 Repl. Vol.) § 3-405 (b) (1) of the Criminal Law ("Crim. Law") Article (carjacking).2 It then provided a summary of the underlying facts of the robbery and the warrantless seizure of a backpack dropped by the appellant on the grounds of Crossland High School. The application and affidavit then provided details related to the search of the items contained inside the backpack, as follows:

The bag contained a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun (A181261), school identification card, smart trip cards, Rose Gold iPhone 8+, T-Mobile Space Gray iPhone SE IMEI: 356600080434043 , gold Samsung cellphone, and a small amount of US currency. Cpl. Young #2872 was able to make a positive identification on the Defendant (Richardson, Anthony) from the school identification card left in the black bag. Arrest warrant D180437880 was obtained in regard to the handgun. While in possession of the T-Mobile Space Gray iPhone SE IMEI: 356600080434043 , a message was sent to the suspect LetGo account by Det. Booze #2221. The T-Mobile Space Gray iPhone SE lMEl: 356600080434043 then produced an alert that it had just received a message via the LetGo application. Arrest warrant D180578996 was obtained for the Defendant (Richardson, Anthony) in regard to the armed robbery.
This Detective believes that the T-Mobile Space Gray iPhone SE IMEI:356600080434043 could contain text messages, emails, phone calls (incoming and outgoing), pictures, videos, cellular site locations for phone calls, data and/or applications, geo-tagging metadata, contacts, emails, voicemails, oral and/or written communication and any other data stored within the cell phone that are related to the carjacking. All events occurred in Prince George's County, Maryland.

The application and affidavit then provided the following justification for the search of the cell phone:

Your affiant knows that when crimes are committed by more than one person, the individuals committing the crime communicate in advance to plan the crime. When cellular phones are used, certain information is generated and stored in the cellular phone, including call records, text messages, video messages, and picture messages. Furthermore, the call records can create connections between co-conspirators by showing the contact and communication they have leading up to the crime. Finally, the contact lists maintained in the phone can show a connection between the phone number whose records are being analyzed and a suspect being investigated.
The application and affidavit then described the items to be seized as follows:
All information, data, photographs, videos, detail logs, contact lists, and call maintained histories inside of.
T-Mobile Space Gray iPhone SE IMEI: 356600080434043

Appellant argued that the...

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