United States v. Baker

Decision Date23 September 2021
Docket NumberCRIMINAL NO. 3:19-32
Citation563 F.Supp.3d 361
Parties UNITED STATES of America v. Johnnie BAKER, and Alexander Martinez, Defendants
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania

Todd K. Hinkley, Assistant US Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Scranton, PA, for United States of America.


MALACHY E. MANNION, United States District Judge

Presently before the court is Defendant Johnnie Baker's August 27, 2020 motion to suppress a warrantless ping of his cellphone, (i.e., real-time tracking of an individual via a cellphone), and the fruits of a subsequent search that were obtained as a result of the ping, (Doc. 94), in which Defendant Alexander Martinez joins, (Doc. 96). Defendants contend that using technology by the government and obtaining real-time cell tracking information, without a warrant, to locate them inside a private home violated their protected privacy interests. Defendants also maintain that law enforcement's ability to locate them inside a home, a highly protected area, using advanced technology, namely, real-time Cell Site Location Information (CSLI), on Baker's cell phone without a search warrant is inconsistent with society's expectations of privacy and violates the 4th Amendment.

Defendants filed their briefs in support of the motions, (Docs. 95 & 97), and submitted as Exhibits, including the Affidavit of Probable Cause in support of the search warrant; a Wilkes-Barre police report regarding Defendants’ arrest and the search of a house located at 280 New Hancock Street, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and the records from Luzerne County 911 Communications Center, (Doc. 95-1). The government filed a brief in opposition to the motions, (Doc. 118), and both Defendants submitted reply briefs. (Docs. 119 & 120). In response to each of these reply briefs, the government submitted sur reply briefs. (Docs. 127 & 128).

Defendant Martinez filed a motion to amend/correct his motion to suppress to include an additional argument raised in his reply brief, and Defendant Baker joined this motion. (Docs. 130 & 132). On April 15, 2021, the court granted Defendantsmotions to amend/correct their motions to suppress. (Docs. 136 & 137). See United States v. Baker, 2021 WL 1517843 (M.D. Pa. 2021).

In light of an April 26, 2021, Seventh Circuit decision addressing a 4th Amendment challenge to government collection of a defendant's real-time cell-site location information, United States v. Hammond, 996 F.3d 374, the court requested the parties submit supplemental briefs addressing the relevance of the Hammond decision to the instant case. (Doc. 136). Each party has submitted the requested supplemental briefs, (Docs. 139-141), and the motions to suppress are now ripe for disposition. Defendants also have requested an evidentiary hearing with respect to their motions. Both Defendants contend that a Franks hearing is necessary in order to determine whether several alleged deficiencies in the affidavit in support of the search warrant for the house were material to the probable cause finding.


On January 22, 2019, both Defendants were indicted for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine base, (Count I), possession with intent to distribute heroin, (Count II), possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, (Count III), possession with intent to distribute cocaine base ("crack"), (Count IV), possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, (Count V), and possession of a firearm with altered serial number, (Count VII). In Count VI, Baker alone was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms. (Doc. 1).

The following information is based on the Wilkes-Barre Police Department's Affidavit of Probable Cause and supplementary narratives filed by officers Shawn Yelland and Matthew Smith, which have been submitted by Defendants as Exhibits 1, 2, and 5. (Doc. 95-1 at 2-6, 16-17). The charges against Defendants stemmed from an incident on December 17, 2017, when the Wilkes-Barre Police received a 911 call from a female caller requesting help at 19 Bradford Street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 95-1 at 2). When police arrived at the house, they encountered Danylle Rambo and discovered a blood trail leading to the kitchen, where they encountered Darryll Elliott. (Id.). Elliott was bleeding from the head, with blood running down his face from a laceration above his eye. (Id.). Police learned from Elliot that he and Rambo had come to the house to purchase heroin, but after they knocked on the door, Elliott was struck in the head by a black male and did not remember anything further. (Id.).

Police located Richard Kasperitis upstairs in the Bradford Street house and, while hesitant, he spoke with police. (Id.). Kasperitis stated that he lived at the house with his girlfriend and had been using heroin for three to four months. (Id.). He also stated that two months earlier, two drug dealers, a black male known as "Feddy" and a Spanish male, "Bug," kicked two other drug dealers out and began dealing heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana from the house. (Id.). Kasperitis stated that Feddy and Bug always carried handguns and told him they had "bodies on them" from Philadelphia. (Id.; Doc. 95-1 at 5). Kasperitis also stated that his role was to answer the door and make initial contact with drug buyers, then Feddy or Bug would complete the transactions. (Doc. 95-1 at 2).

On December 17, 2017, Kasperitis received phone calls from Rambo, who was seeking to buy heroin, and he told her to wait because Feddy and Bug were in the process of packaging the drugs. (Id.). At 5:00 a.m., Kasperitis said he heard a banging on the front door, followed by an argument and a female screaming. (Id.).

The police also interviewed Rambo, who stated that she called Kasperitis several times during the night because Elliott was "dope sick" and needed heroin, but Kasperitis told her to wait. (Doc. 95-1, at 3). Eventually, Rambo and Elliott decided to go to the Bradford Street house and knock on the door. (Id.). When a male voice inside the house asked who was at the door, Elliott became impatient and began kicking and pounding on the door. (Id.). Feddy and Bug then opened the door and pointed handguns at them, and Rambo began yelling and screaming since she thought they were about to be killed. (Id.). Once inside, Feddy and Bug began beating Elliott; Bug hit Elliott with a hammer and Feddy pistol whipped him. (Id.). Feddy briefly went upstairs then came back down and hit Elliott again. (Id.).

After the assault incident with Elliott, Kasperitis stated that Feddy went back upstairs in the Bradford Street house holding a .38 revolver and opened the cylinder, stating he was waiting for an Uber ride and would call later. (Id.). Feddy also said that Kasperitis would be the "star witness" regarding the assault, and to "tell the truth." (Id.). Kasperitis elaborated that Feddy and Bug utilized an Uber driver, Darik Johnson, who lived at 280 New Hancock Street, to travel to Philadelphia to purchase their drugs. (Doc. 95-1, at 3). Johnson picked up and transported Feddy and Bug from the Bradford Street house shortly after the assault of Elliott. (Id.). Kasperitis said the two men took two handguns, approximately 100 grams of cocaine, 10 bricks of heroin, and 4 pounds of marijuana with them. (Id.). Police also located Samantha Uhl upstairs in the house, who confirmed Kasperitis’ story and said that everyone in the house was afraid of Feddy and Bug. (Doc. 95-1, at 6).

Elliott was then transported to the hospital and while it was first believed that one of his wounds had been caused by a small caliber bullet, it was later discovered that it was in fact caused by a hammer. (Id.; Doc. 95, at 4 n. 2).

As explained in the affidavit of probable cause for a search warrant for the 280 New Hancock Street house, subsequently obtained by police, the following occurred:

On December 17, 2017, after arriving on scene, Wilkes-Barre police requested that [the] 911 center perform a Ping on the cellular phone utilized by Feddy, due to the fact that a male was shot and that he was armed and dangerous.
That number was 2159109637. The result showed that the phone was located within 14 meters of 280 Hancock St.
Based on the information listed above, the fact that a man was shot and assaulted, the fact that the firearm(s), drugs, [and] hammer, were placed into a car driven by Johnson, who resides at 280 New Hancock St., shortly thereafter, and the phone utilized by the suspect in the shooting [Baker], showing a location of with in [sic] 14 meters of 280 New Hancock St. within half hour [sic] after the shooting, and constant surveillance being conducted this date in the area in which the phone is believed to be specifically 280 New Hancock St., showing no one leaving the address, affiants believe that the suspects and evidence involved in this Aggravated Assault are currently located at 280 New Hancock St., respectfully request a search warrant to search the premises and curtilage of 280 New Hancock St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

(Doc. 95-1, at 3).

Utilizing the location data obtained from the ping on Baker's cellphone, police obtained a search warrant for 280 New Hancock Street.1 (Doc. 95-1 at 6). On the first and second floors of the house, officers detained several individuals, namely, Tameghen Mays, Darik Johnson, Lauren Klinefelter, and an unidentified child. (Id.). Officers encountered Defendants Baker and Martinez exiting from the third floor of the house and apprehended them after a brief chase. (Id. at 6, 17). On the third floor, officers also located suspected narcotics in plain view, based upon which they obtained an additional search warrant for the premises. (Id. at 6). The police also located Baker's Sprint cellphone, that was the subject of the warrantless ping to find his location, on the third floor of 280 New Hancock Street house. (Id.).

Defendants now move to suppress all of the evidence seized at 280 New...

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