State v. Reddick

Docket Number718-2021
Decision Date22 December 2021
PartiesSTATE OF MARYLAND v. JAMES ANDRE REDDICK, JR.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Circuit Court for Dorchester County Case No. C-09-CR-20-109

Kehoe Berger, Nazarian, JJ.

OPINION [*]

Berger, J.

This case is before us on the State's appeal of the Circuit Court for Dorchester County's order granting a motion to suppress filed by James Andre Reddick, Jr. ("Reddick"), appellee. The circuit court granted Reddick's motion to suppress evidence recovered under an order issued pursuant to Maryland Code (2018 Repl. Vol., 2021 Supp.), § 1-203.1 of the Criminal Procedure Article ("CP"). The State raises the following single issue for our consideration on appeal:

Did the circuit court err by granting Reddick's motion to suppress evidence recovered pursuant to the search order?

For the reasons explained herein, we shall answer this question in the affirmative. Accordingly, we shall reverse the judgment of the circuit court granting the motion to suppress and remand for further proceedings.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

The following factual account is drawn from the evidence that was before the suppression court on July 12, 2021. On April 24 2020, Detective J.M. Battaglia of the Baltimore County Police submitted an application pursuant to CP § 1-203.1 for an order authorizing the disclosure of geographic location information for a mobile telephone associated with Reddick.[1] The District Court sitting in Baltimore County issued the requested search order on the same day.

Detective Battaglia submitted the following affidavit in support of the search order request:

Affidavit in Support of Application: The following sets forth the basis for probable cause that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed by the owner or user of the electronic device or by the individual about whom location information is being sought; and the location information is being sought:
1. Is evidence of, or will lead to evidence of, the crime being investigated; or
2. Will lead to the apprehension of an individual for whom an arrest order has been previously issued.
3. The Order names or describes with REASONABLE PARTICULARITY a. The user of the device if known, or the identifying number of the electronic device about which the location information is sought.
b. The owner, if known and if the owner is a person or entity other than the user, of the electronic device.
On 04/18/20 the Baltimore County Police Department took a missing person report for a Deontae Vilada Belcher M/B 02/25/95. Belcher's mother, Anita Thomas, reported that on 04/04/20 her nephew, Shaundezz Allen, and a subject she knew as "Shane" came to her house at 7925 33rd St. 21237 and picked up Belcher. Belcher returned to the house and told her that Allen had returned to New Jersey where he lives. For the next week Shane returned to the house each day and picked up Belcher. On 04/11/20, Shane again came to the house and picked up Belcher. Belcher did not return to the house and no one has seen or heard from Belcher since that date. Ms. Thomas contacted Shane and Shane told her that he last saw Belcher on 04/11/20.
On 04/22/20, Baltimore City Police received a phone call from a subject who wished to remain anonymous. That anonymous source advised that they had received information from a subject known as Francisco Stokes M/B 03/27/80. Stokes advised the anonymous subject that he, Shane, and victim Belcher had been hanging out together getting high. Belcher made a comment that offended Stokes and Shane. Stokes and Shane then assaulted victim Belcher until he was deceased. Stokes and Shane then took Belcher's body to Leakin Park in Baltimore City where they dumped him in the woods. Baltimore Police conducted a search of Leakin Park but were unable to locate Belcher.
Shane was subsequently identified as James Reddick M/B 04/15/91. Ms. Thomas provided Reddick's phone number as 717-324-8860. Detectives believe the information requested will aid in locating Reddick and furthering this investigation.
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully requested that the Court grant an Order:
1. Authorizing the detectives of the Baltimore County Police Department to obtain location information, meaning Realtime or present location information concerning the geographic location of the electronic device;
2. Authorizing the disclosure of Real-time or present geographic location information as described above;
3. Directing SPRINT, and any other necessary service provider to furnish the requested location information and telecommunication records;
4. Sealing this application, affidavit and the Court's Order and delaying notification to the subscriber, customer, user or owner for a period of thirty (30) days after the expiration of the Order;
5. Directing SPRINT, and any other necessary service provided to refrain from notifying the user, owner, or any other person of the disclosure of location information for as long as the notice be delayed; and
6. Any and all further relief as necessary.
I affirm, under the penalties of perjury, and upon personal knowledge, that the contents are true and correct to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief.
[Digital Signature of Detective J.M. Battaglia]

Following the issuance of the requested search order, Baltimore County police investigators used cell site location information recovered pursuant to the search order, as well as financial transactions and video surveillance footage, to develop their case against Reddick. On August 3, 2020, Reddick was ultimately charged via criminal information in connection with Belcher's death. [2] Reddick was charged in the Circuit Court for Dorchester County with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, robbery, assault, multiple handgun offenses, and related conspiracy and lesser-included offenses.

Reddick moved to suppress the evidence recovered pursuant to the search order. A hearing on the motion was held before the circuit court on July 12, 2021. At the hearing, the circuit court heard testimony from Detective Carroll Bollinger of the Baltimore County Police Department. Detective Bollinger was not the affiant of the search order request, but he testified regarding the investigation into Belcher's disappearance and Reddick's subsequent arrest. Detective Bollinger testified that "the information garnered [from the informant identified in Detective Battaglia's affidavit] turned out actually to be false information" and that the informant "had previously called on other occasions to Baltimore City Police and provided false information." Detective Bollinger did not testify as to when or how frequently the informant had previously supplied false information, nor did Detective Bollinger testify that Detective Battaglia knew or had reason to know that the informant had previously provided false information at the time he submitted the search order affidavit. No other witnesses testified at the hearing.

The circuit court issued a written order dated July 14, 2021 that provided as follows:

1. The seizure and subsequent interrogation of [Reddick] in York, PA on April 29, 2020, was unlawful, and as a result, any statements made by [Reddick] during the associated interrogation, and any physical evidence, including the contents of [Reddick's] wallet and cell phone are excluded; and
2. The judge who issued the Order on April 24, 2020, for both historic and real-time records, for [the] cell phone . . . attributed to [Reddick], did not have a substantial basis for doing so, and thus, evidence that was obtained thereby is excluded[.]

On July 19, 2021, the parties returned to the courtroom and the circuit court put its reasoning supporting the prior written order on the record. With respect to the search order, the circuit court explained its reasoning as to why it had determined that there was no substantial basis to support the issuance of the search order.[3] The court explained:

[I]n this particular case . . . where we fail to meet the substantial basis test is one, there was no crime alleged in the application. There was no conclusion by the affiant that consistent with training, knowledge, experience that a crime had been committed or may be committed . . . nor any mention of any astringent evidence of a crime. Such as a ransom note, a body, and the only tip that the application relied upon proved to be erroneous given by someone who was known to give false information. So, based on the testimony at the hearing, you know my questions are did they have financials? Did they have video at that time to support the application and failed to articulate that, or was it just some wild guess? . . . [B]ut in any case I don't see how a neutral detached magistrate would have a substantial basis to issue that order. And therefore, anything seized as a result of that order . . . would be excluded.

This appeal, in which the State challenges the circuit court's conclusion as to the April 24, 2020 search order but does not present any challenge as to the circuit court's determination that the April 29, 2020 seizure and subsequent interrogation was unlawful, followed.

DISCUSSION

On appeal, the State asserts that the circuit court erred by granting Reddick's motion to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to the search order issued under § 1-203.1, which authorized police to access the location data for a mobile telephone attributed to Reddick. The State does not raise an issue as to the circuit court's determination that the April 29, 2020 seizure and subsequent interrogation of Reddick was unlawful. Reddick presents two additional arguments as to why the location data should be suppressed: (1) because notice was not provided as required by the statute; and (2) because the search order...

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