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United States v. McGrath

decided: December 10, 1979.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES MCGRATH, SYLVESTER SCIGOWSKI, SCOTT COOPER AND BRUCE BUCKLE, APPELLANTS.



Appeals from judgments entered after a jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Henry F. Werker, District Judge, convicting appellants of violations of the federal narcotics laws. Affirmed.

Before Mansfield, Mulligan and Timbers, Circuit Judges.

Author: Timbers

After a four week jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Henry F. Werker, District Judge, appellants Scigowski, McGrath, Cooper and Buckle were convicted of conspiring to possess and to distribute large quantities of marijuana during the four year period between June 8, 1974 and June 15, 1978. The latter three appellants also were convicted of substantive offenses of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Of the numerous claims of error raised on appeal, we find the following to be the only ones which warrant attention in this opinion:

(1) Whether the district court properly denied motions to suppress evidence seized without a warrant from a van and from a briefcase.

(2) Whether the indictment and trial were timely under the Speedy Trial Act.

(3) Whether the evidence was sufficient to establish a single conspiracy and to connect appellants thereto.

(4) Whether a notebook seized from a co-conspirator was properly admitted in evidence.

Other subordinate claims of error have been raised.

We have carefully considered all claims of error raised by all appellants and we find no merit in any of them.

We affirm.

I.

During the four year period from June 8, 1974 to June 15, 1978, McGrath was a large-scale marijuana supplier. With help from friends, including the other appellants, he engaged in a substantial sale and distribution operation. Cooper, together with co-conspirators Schaller and Felle, were distributors for McGrath. Scigowski was a distributee who resold the marijuana he received.

Prior to January 1978, most of the group's dealings in marijuana involved quantities ranging from 10 to 135 pounds. At one point Cooper's sales ran as high as 800 pounds. The group also engaged in some cocaine transactions.

In January 1978, McGrath received some four tons, or 8,000 pounds, of marijuana. On January 26, McGrath had sent Felle a shipment of 3,400 pounds of marijuana so that the ring could distribute from both the Schaller farmhouse in Kingston, New York, and from a New York City location. Felle called on Cooper and Scigowski for help in finding a place to store the 1.7 tons of contraband. Cooper came forward with a friend who agreed to store the marijuana in a rented warehouse. When McGrath and Buckle arrived with the shipment, it was taken first to a warehouse in Queens and then to another in Brooklyn. At the latter, after being sorted and logged, it was left in storage with a "distributing company" listed as bailor. Cooper and Felle distributed some of the warehouse marijuana on a consignment basis. Felle also delivered bales from Brooklyn directly to Cooper and Scigowski at their homes in the Soho section of New York City.

It was during one such delivery that law enforcement agents began to close in. On January 30, 1978, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents were watching as Felle delivered three bales of marijuana to Scigowski. After seeing Felle and Scigowski carry burlap bales from a car into the latter's house, the agents placed both men under arrest.

Felle quickly agreed to cooperate with the government. He informed the agents that he expected another very large marijuana shipment to arrive from Kingston the following day. Felle's telephone calls to other members of the ring in the early hours of the morning confirmed the ...


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