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Bella v. United States

November 23, 1960


Author: Hamlin

Before WATERMAN, MOORE and HAMLIN,*fn* Circuit Judges.

HAMLIN, Circuit Judge.

Mario DiBella, appellant, appeals from an order of the District Court denying his motion to suppress certain evidentiary items seized in his apartment by agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics on March 9, 1959, at the time of his arrest. The motion was made after arrest and arraignment of appellant but before his indictment.

On November 30, 1959, subsequent to his indictment, the motion was denied by the District Court, with leave to renew it at the time of trial. On December 3, 1959, appellant gave notice of appeal to this Court from the order of the District Court. There has as yet been no trial of appellant.

Initially, the United States, appellee, raises the question as to whether such an order is appealable.

Over a period of many years this Court has consistently held that where the application is made prior to indictment, as it was in this case, that a defendant may appeal to this Court from an order denying his motion to suppress. United States v. Poller, 2 Cir., 1930, 43 F.2d 911, 74 A.L.R. 1382; Cheng Wai v. United States, 2 Cir., 1942, 125 F.2d 915; cf. United States v. Klapholz, 2 Cir., 1956, 230 F.2d 494; United States v. Russo, 2 Cir., 1957, 241 F.2d 285.

We hold the order made by the District Court in this case to be appealable.

The motion was argued before the District Court by counsel on either side and affidavits and counteraffidavits were presented for his consideration. From the showing there made, the following factual situation appeared. On October 15, 1958, one David W. Costa, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, presented to United States Commissioner Epstein in the Eastern District of New York a complaint praying for the arrest of appellant. This complaint stated:

"That upon information and belief, the defendants, Mario DiBella and Samuel Panzarella, did on September 10, 1958, at Jackson Heights, Long Island, New York * * * unlawfully sell, dispense and distribute a narcotic drug, to-wit: approxi-mately one ounce of heroin hydrochloride, a derivative of opium, which said heroin hydrochloride was not in or from an original package bearing tax stamps required by law * * *.

"That the source of your deponent's information and the grounds for his belief are your deponent's personal observations in this case, the statements of Samuel Panzarella, and other witnesses in this case, and the reports and records of the Bureau of Narcotics."

Upon the basis of this complaint Commissioner Epstein issued a warrant of arrest.

On March 9, 1959, the narcotic agents saw appellant sitting in his living room in his apartment. At 8:15 p. m. Agent Costa, with the warrant of arrest in his possession, went with other agents to appellant's apartment. It was night-time. The agents rang the bell and the door was opened by appellant's stepdaughter. The agents identified themselves, showed her their credentials, and walked into the living room, where they identified themselves to appellant, showed him a copy of the arrest warrant, and placed him under arrest. A quantity of narcotics was found, which, together with other items, the agents seized.*fn1

In Application of Fried, D.C., 68 F.Supp. 961, 964, consideration was given to the sufficiency of a complaint upon which a warrant of arrest was issued. There, the complaint, after alleging that the defendants had in their possession certain goods and chattels knowing the same to have been stolen, contained the following statement:

"The sources of deponent's information and the grounds of his belief are an investigation conducted by him in the course of his official duties."

The Court there held "Such a complaint will not support a warrant of arrest. United States v. McCunn, D.C.S.D.N.Y., 1930, 40 F.2d 295; United States ex rel. King v. Gokey, D.C.N.D.N.Y., 1929, 32 F.2d 793; * * * United States v. Pollack, D.C.N.J., 1946, 64 F.Supp. 554; United States v. Ruroede, D.C.S.D.N.Y., 220 F. 210."

Recently the question of the sufficiency of a complaint to justify a warrant of arrest was considered in Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, 78 S. Ct. 1245, 1247, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1503.

The complaint in that case read as follows:

"The undersigned complainant being duly sworn states: That on or about January 26, 1956, at Houston, Texas * * *, Veto Giordenello did receive, conceal, etc., narcotic drugs, to-wit: heroin hydrochloride with knowledge of unlawful importation; * * *

"And the complainant further states that he believes that

are material witnesses in relation to this charge."

In striking down the complaint as insufficient in that ...

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