U.S. v. Wurie, Criminal No. 08-10071-RGS.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtStearns
Citation612 F.Supp.2d 104
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Brima WURIE.
Decision Date04 May 2009
Docket NumberCriminal No. 08-10071-RGS.
612 F.Supp.2d 104
UNITED STATES of America
v.
Brima WURIE.
Criminal No. 08-10071-RGS.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.
May 4, 2009.

Page 105

John Benzan, Law Offices of John Benzan, Roxbury, MA, for Defendant.

Gretchen A. Lundgren, Suffolk County DA's Office, Boston, MA, for Plaintiff.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE

STEARNS, District Judge.


On March 27, 2008, a Grand Jury returned a three-count Indictment against Brima Wurie charging him with: (i) felony possession of a firearm and ammunition; (ii) distribution of cocaine base (crack cocaine) within 1000 feet of a school; and (iii) possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. Wurie was arrested on September 5, 2007, on suspicion of selling a small quantity of drugs. He was transported to the Area C-6 station in South Boston. There, his personal property was inventoried. Information gleaned from one of Wurie's cell phones led officers to his apartment. Pursuant to a warrant, police seized 215 grams of crack cocaine and a loaded firearm from Wurie's apartment.

Wurie moves to suppress the evidence seized from his person incident to his arrest and later from his apartment, arguing that "police violated his constitutional rights as guaranteed to him by the Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments," that the "stop and seizure were conducted without probable cause, without consent, without a properly issued search warrant, and without any other legal justification . . . [and, that] the seizure of his personal belongings and later use by the police of his phone and keys were done in violation" of these same rights.1 The court heard argument

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on the motion on January 20, 2009. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court granted Wurie leave to file a supplemental brief, but none has been forthcoming.

BACKGROUND

As there are no disputed material facts, the court will rely on the factual recitations in the warrant affidavit and the parties' pleadings.2 Sergeant Detective Paul Murphy is a twenty-two year police veteran and the supervisor of the Area C-6 Drug Control Unit. On September 5, 2007, shortly before 6:45 p.m., while patrolling in an unmarked vehicle, Murphy observed a man (later identified as Fred Wade), talking on a cell phone in the parking lot of a Lil Peach convenience store on Dorchester Avenue. Wade was intently watching passing traffic. A few minutes later, Murphy saw a white 2007 Nissan Altima sedan turn into the parking lot. Wade got into the front passenger seat. The only other occupant of the car was the driver (later identified as Wurie). Wurie drove from the lot, turning left onto Dorchester Avenue in the direction of D Street. Murphy followed. Wurie drove approximately one hundred and fifty yards, made a U-turn, and returned to the Lil Peach. Wade left the car and entered the Lil Peach. Wurie then drove away.

Believing that he had witnessed a drug transaction,3 Murphy broadcast the make, model, and license plate number of Wurie's car. Accompanied by Officer Christopher Boyle, Murphy entered the Lil Peach and confronted Wade. Two plastic bags, each containing an 8-ball (3.5 grams) of crack cocaine, were seized from Wade's left front pocket. Wade stated that he had purchased the cocaine from "B." He also told the officers that "B" lived in South Boston and sold crack cocaine in quantities no smaller than an 8-ball.

Officer Steven Smigliani, having heard Murphy's broadcast, spotted and followed the Altima.4 Murphy radioed Smigliani and told him what Wade had said. Officer Smigliani waited for Wurie to park and exit his car. He then arrested him for distributing cocaine. Wurie was taken to the Area C-6 police station. Police seized two cell phones, a key ring with keys, and $1,275 in cash from Wurie's person.

Approximately 5 to 10 minutes after Wurie was brought to the station, Officers Kevin Jones and Robert England, members of the C-6 Drug Control Unit, examined one of the cell phones seized from Wurie. They observed numerous calls logged on the caller ID screen from "my house." When the phone rang, the officers flipped it open, activating the backlight. They observed a "wallpaper" photo of a young black female holding a baby. They also saw that the "my house" calls originated from "617-315-7384." Officer Jones, using a police computer, typed the number into the website "AnyWho" (www.

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anywho.com). The number was listed to "Manny Cristal" at 315 Silver Street in Boston. The officers did not answer the call or access any other information stored in the phone.

After Murphy gave Wurie a second set of Miranda warnings,5 Wurie stated that he lived at 51 Speedwell Street in Dorchester and that he was in South Boston "cruising around." He denied stopping in the Lil Peach parking lot, denied giving anyone a ride, denied speaking with anyone in South Boston that day, and denied selling cocaine. Based on the large amount of cash Wurie was carrying, his two cell phones, the rented car, the drugs found on Wade, and Wade's description of "B's" mode of drug dealing, Murphy suspected that Wurie was selling 8-balls (a fairly large street-level quantity of crack) out of a hidden mother cache.6 Murphy also believed that Wurie was lying about living in Dorchester and that his true address was 315 Silver Street in South Boston.

Murphy and other Drug Control Unit officers proceeded to 315 Silver Street with the key ring seized from Wurie. There, they found three mailboxes outside the apartment building's front door, one of which had the names "Cristal" and "Wurie" written on it. The lights in the first floor apartment were on. Through the window, Murphy saw a young black woman talking on the phone. She appeared to be the same woman that Jones and England had observed in the cell phone's wallpaper photo. Murphy used Wurie's keys to unlock the door to the front entrance of 315 Silver Street. In the common hallway, one door led to a first floor apartment, another to an apartment on the second floor. Murphy tried to unlock the door to the second floor apartment, using all of the keys on Wurie's key ring, but none worked. He then tried the keys in the first floor apartment door. One key unlocked the door. Without opening the door, Murphy removed the key from the lock and knocked. A young woman (later identified as Yolanda Walker), answered the door. Murphy identified himself as a Boston Police officer and asked Walker to step into the hallway. He could smell the distinct odor of burnt marijuana emanating from inside the apartment. Walker told Murphy that she knew Wurie and that he occasionally stayed at the apartment. She also admitted that he had been in the apartment the night before and earlier that day. The officers then entered the apartment to "freeze" it while they obtained a search warrant. Inside the apartment, the officers found a sleeping child who resembled the infant pictured on the cell phone's wallpaper. When Murphy returned to the station to prepare the warrant affidavit, he asked Wurie why his keys opened the door to the first floor apartment of 315 Silver Street. Wurie replied, "I don't know."

After obtaining and executing a search warrant, officers recovered from the master bedroom of the apartment 215 grams of crack cocaine, a Smith & Wesson .9 millimeter firearm loaded with five rounds of ammunition, six loose rounds of .40 caliber hollow point ammunition, four plastic bags of marijuana, photographs of Wurie and Walker and other personal papers, drug paraphernalia, and $250 in cash.7

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DISCUSSION

Probable Cause to Arrest

An arrest must be supported by probable cause for a search to be lawful. Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964). "Probable cause" is a far less exacting standard than any test implying a degree of relative certainty, or even a "more likely than not" view of the facts. See United States v. Melvin, 596 F.2d 492, 495 (1st Cir.1979). "[P]robable cause exists where, at the moment of arrest, the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the police are enough to warrant a prudent person in believing that the individual arrested has committed or was committing an offense." Commonwealth v. Santaliz, 413 Mass. 238, 241, 596 N.E.2d 337 (1992). Probable cause may be based on credible hearsay information that would not itself be admissible at trial. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 311-312, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327 (1959). "When the constitutional validity of an arrest is challenged, it is the function of a court to determine whether the facts available to the officers at the moment of the arrest would `warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief' that an offense has been committed." Beck, 379 U.S. at 96, 85 S.Ct. 223. In making this assessment, a court will be guided by the collective knowledge or "fellow officer" rule, that is, where police are engaged in a collaborative effort, the knowledge of each officer may be "pooled" in establishing probable cause. United States v. Cook, 277 F.3d 82, 86 (1st Cir.2002). Finally, a court may consider an officer's training and experience in assessing probable cause. Conduct that might be perceived as innocent by a casual onlooker may in the totality of the circumstances appear suspicious to a trained officer. United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273, 122 S.Ct. 744, 151 L.Ed.2d 740 (2002).

Based on his experience, his knowledge of the methods used by drug dealers, and his observations of the interaction between Ward and Wurie, Murphy reasonably believed that he had witnessed a drug transaction on September 5, 2007. See United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 9, 109 S.Ct. 1581, 104 L.Ed.2d 1 (1989). When Ward admitted purchasing the crack cocaine...

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25 practice notes
  • United States v. Wurie, No. 11–1792.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 17, 2013
    ...dispute and that an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary. The district court denied Wurie's motion to suppress, United States v. Wurie, 612 F.Supp.2d 104 (D.Mass.2009), and, after a four-day trial, the jury found Wurie guilty on all three counts. He was sentenced to 262 months in prison. Thi......
  • State v. Granville, No. PD–1095–12.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • April 2, 2014
    ...has an expectation of privacy in the place searched, and that his expectation is reasonable”). 16.See United States v. Wurie, 612 F.Supp.2d 104, 109 (D.Mass.2009) (“It seems indisputable that a person has a subjective expectation of privacy in the contents of his or her cell phone.”), rev'd......
  • United States v. Bosyk, No. 18-4302
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 1, 2019
    ..."container[s]"—like cigarette packs, wallets, or purses—which may be searched incident to arrest. See, e.g. , United States v. Wurie , 612 F. Supp. 2d 104, 109–110 (D. Mass. 2009) (collecting cases), rev’d 728 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2013). In Riley v. California , the Supreme Court rejected that ......
  • Riley v. California, Nos. 13–132
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2014
    ...of the apartment, arguing that it was the fruit of an unconstitutional search of his cell phone. The District Court denied the motion. 612 F.Supp.2d 104 (Mass.2009). Wurie was convicted on all three counts and sentenced to 262 months in prison.A divided panel of the First Circuit reversed t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • United States v. Wurie, No. 11–1792.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 17, 2013
    ...dispute and that an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary. The district court denied Wurie's motion to suppress, United States v. Wurie, 612 F.Supp.2d 104 (D.Mass.2009), and, after a four-day trial, the jury found Wurie guilty on all three counts. He was sentenced to 262 months in prison. Thi......
  • State v. Granville, No. PD–1095–12.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • April 2, 2014
    ...has an expectation of privacy in the place searched, and that his expectation is reasonable”). 16.See United States v. Wurie, 612 F.Supp.2d 104, 109 (D.Mass.2009) (“It seems indisputable that a person has a subjective expectation of privacy in the contents of his or her cell phone.”), rev'd......
  • United States v. Bosyk, No. 18-4302
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 1, 2019
    ..."container[s]"—like cigarette packs, wallets, or purses—which may be searched incident to arrest. See, e.g. , United States v. Wurie , 612 F. Supp. 2d 104, 109–110 (D. Mass. 2009) (collecting cases), rev’d 728 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2013). In Riley v. California , the Supreme Court rejected that ......
  • Riley v. California, Nos. 13–132
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2014
    ...of the apartment, arguing that it was the fruit of an unconstitutional search of his cell phone. The District Court denied the motion. 612 F.Supp.2d 104 (Mass.2009). Wurie was convicted on all three counts and sentenced to 262 months in prison.A divided panel of the First Circuit reversed t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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