State v. Williams

Decision Date16 November 1999
Citation9 S.W.3d 3
Parties(Mo.App. W.D. 1999) State of Missouri, Respondent, v. Stefan Koda Williams, Appellant WD56507
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Appeal From: Circuit Court of Boone County, Hon. Gene Hamilton, Judge

Counsel for Appellant: Andrew A. Schroeder

Counsel for Respondent: Philip M. Koppe

Opinion Summary: Stefan Koda Williams appeals the judgment of his jury conviction in the Circuit Court of Boone County for trafficking in the second degree, section 195.223, RSMo 1994, for which he was sentenced to eighteen years imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

The appellant raises two points on appeal. In Point I, he claims that the trial court erred in denying his oral motion at trial to dismiss and replace his trial counsel because he did not receive effective assistance of counsel, as guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and Missouri, in that an irreconcilable conflict arose between himself and his trial counsel, resulting in a complete breakdown of communication between them. In Point II, he claims that the trial court erred in overruling his pretrial motion to suppress and admitting certain evidence at trial resulting from an alleged illegal search warrant because its issuance was not supported by probable cause in that the supporting affidavit: (1) was based on hearsay which was uncorroborated or provided by an informant who was not known to the affiant as being reliable; and (2) did not provide current and relevant information to demonstrate a fair probability that crack cocaine would be found at the appellant's residence.

Division Three holds: In Point I, the appellant claims that the trial court erred in denying his oral motion at trial to dismiss and replace his trial counsel because he did not receive effective assistance of counsel, as guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and Missouri, in that an irreconcilable conflict arose between himself and his trial counsel, resulting in a complete breakdown of communication between them.

A criminal defendant is not entitled to the aid of a particular attorney as a matter of constitutional right. To obtain a change of attorney, a defendant must demonstrate an irreconcilable conflict with his or her appointed counsel through objective evidence that a total breakdown in communication occurred. The defendant must not have created such a conflict. A careful review of the record reflects that, although the appellant made a pro se oral motion to dismiss and replace his trial counsel on the day of trial, the communication problems alleged between them had been ongoing. The record reflects that, if it chose to believe the appellant's trial counsel, which it was free to do, the trial court could have reasonably concluded that the appellant created the irreconcilable conflict alleged in his pro se motion to dismiss and substitute trial counsel through his own misconduct. Hence, the appellant's claim, that due process required the dismissal and replacement of his trial counsel, on its face does not assert substantial grounds for believing that the trial court erred in failing to sustain his motion for substitution of trial counsel.

In Point II, the appellant claims that the trial court erred in overruling his pretrial motion to suppress and admitting certain evidence at trial because the search and seizure at his residence was illegal in that the warrant was not supported by probable cause. Specifically, the appellant contends that the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant was deficient in that: (1) it was based on hearsay which was uncorroborated or provided by an informant who was not known to the affiant as being reliable; and (2) it did not provide current information to demonstrate a fair probability that crack cocaine would be found at the appellant's residence. From this he asserts that the challenged evidence should have been excluded under the "exclusionary rule" as being fruit of the poisonous tree. Probable cause is a fair probability that evidence of a crime will be found and is to be determined from the totality of the circumstances.

The appellant's claim is based, inter alia, on his contention that the supporting affidavit of a police officer which was submitted with the application for the search warrant was deficient because it was based on hearsay which was uncorroborated or provided by an informant who was not known to the affiant as being reliable. The police received an anonymous tip from an ordinary citizen, providing information as to alleged criminal activity, some of which, but not all, could be verified by investigation. The record would reflect that, to the extent possible, the responsible officer investigated and verified that the appellant's motor vehicle, as described by the informant, was routinely parked behind the residence to be searched and that the utilities of the apartment were in the name of a woman who was believed to be the girlfriend of the appellant. Although this information was information that anyone might have known and did not indicate any special or personal knowledge of the appellant or his activities, criminal or otherwise, this does not end the inquiry in that the "totality of the circumstances" must still be examined. The officer's affidavit can be read reasonably as confirming through his own knowledge and the personal observations of other police officers that the appellant previously had been engaged in and arrested for criminal drug activity, in which he was thought to be engaging still. A suspect's past criminal behavior can be considered in determining whether probable cause exists to justify a search.

The appellant also contends that the information contained in the affidavit as to his past criminal drug activity was too stale and attenuated to be considered in establishing such probable cause. Although not sufficient in and of itself, continued illicit drug activity throughout the preceding year, including activity within the four months before the search, is not too stale to be considered, along with all the other relevant circumstances alleged, to determine whether there was a fair probability that the appellant was engaging presently in such activity, especially where, as here, there were observations of narcotic activity by police officers other than the affiant. Therefore, the appellant's claim that the search warrant was illegal on its face does not assert substantial grounds for believing that the trial court erred in issuing the search warrant and the court declines plain error review.

Ulrich, P.J., and Howard, J., concur.

Edwin H. Smith, Judge

Opinion modified by Court's own motion on December 21, 1999. This substitution does not constitute a new opinion.

Stefan Koda Williams appeals the judgment of his jury conviction in the Circuit Court of Boone County for trafficking in the second degree, section 195.223,1 for which he was sentenced to eighteen years imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

The appellant raises two points on appeal. In Point I, he claims that the trial court erred in denying his oral motion at trial to dismiss and replace his trial counsel because he did not receive effective assistance of counsel, as guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and Missouri, in that an irreconcilable conflict arose between himself and his trial counsel, resulting in a complete breakdown of communication between them. In Point II, he claims that the trial court erred in overruling his pretrial motion to suppress and admitting certain evidence at trial resulting from an alleged illegal search warrant because its issuance was not supported by probable cause in that the supporting affidavit: (1) was based on hearsay which was uncorroborated or provided by an informant who was not known to the affiant as being reliable; and (2) did not provide current and relevant information to demonstrate a fair probability that crack cocaine would be found at the appellant's residence.

We affirm.

Facts

On January 20, 1998, the Columbia Police Department received an anonymous CrimeStoppers tip that the appellant was selling cocaine at 2621 Quail Drive, Apt. C, in Columbia, Missouri, and that he had just received a large shipment of the same. The informant also stated that the appellant drove an older-model green Pontiac and lived with his girlfriend, "Kay."

The tip was investigated by Detective Michael Himmel. During his investigation, he checked the utilities at the Quail Drive address and learned that they were registered in the name of Kaylicia Vanee Patrick. He also conducted surveillance and observed a green Pontiac parked at the apartment complex at 2621 Quail Drive. In addition to confirming the information about the appellant's car and girlfriend, Detective Himmel spoke with several other police officers and learned that the appellant was suspected of drug trafficking and that, approximately one year prior, he had been arrested for the sale of cocaine at the Quail Drive address and, approximately four months prior, he had been arrested for possession of cocaine.

Based on his investigation, Detective Himmel, on January 22, 1998, filed an application and supporting affidavit for a search warrant in the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri. The affidavit stated:

This affidavit is in regards to ongoing narcotics activity involving a suspect identified as Stefan Koda Williams. This subject has a state ID #00745045. Subject has an (sic) FBI #980086LA2. Subject shows numerous prior arrests for narcotics violations. Williams presently has two active cases pending here in Boone County reference to narcotics violations.

During the month of January 1997 a cooperative citizen was utilized and a controlled purchase was made from Stefan Williams. The location of this activity was 2621 Quail Apt C.

On 09/06/97 a debriefing was conducted from the cooperative citizen and during this debriefing ...

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