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United States v. Joyner

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 22, 2019




         Defendant Dewayne Joyner moves to suppress evidence that was seized from him by law enforcement agents in the course of executing search warrants for his person and for a hotel room where he was staying. Because the search warrants were supported by probable cause and because Joyner has not shown any other legal defect in the execution of the warrants that would justify a remedy of suppressing evidence, I will deny Joyner's motion.


          A federal grand jury indictment charges Joyner with knowingly possessing heroin with intent to distribute it on various dates from September 6 to September 12, 2017. The charges stem from an investigation based in Bridgeport, Connecticut that included several controlled purchases of heroin from Joyner. These purchases were followed by his arrest late on the night of September 11, 2017, after he was found by law enforcement officers with heroin on a street outside a Bridgeport hotel. The officers subsequently searched his hotel room in the early morning hours of September 12, 2017, and found more heroin as well as packaging materials.

         Joyner has moved to suppress the evidence found on him at the time of his arrest as well as the evidence found in his hotel room. All this evidence was obtained in conjunction with the execution of search warrants for Joyner's person and for the hotel room. Because the adequacy of these two search warrants is the focus of Joyner's motion to suppress, I will describe them in some detail.

         The affidavit in support of the first search warrant for Joyner's person was co-signed by Detective Dennis Martinez and Officer Chris Martin of the Bridgeport Police Department. Doc. #36-1 at 14 (¶¶ 1-2). The affidavit recounted information received from a “Confidential Informant, ” who was described as a “known credible and reliable informant” and who told the affiants that there was someone by the nickname of “Weezy” who “was selling heroin” in Bridgeport, that the Confidential Informant himself had bought heroin “in the past” from “Weezy, ” and that “Weezy” used a certain telephone number. Id. (¶¶ 3-5).

         The Confidential Informant identified a photograph of Joyner as “Weezy.” Id. at 15 (¶ 7). The Confidential Informant also agreed to make a controlled purchase of heroin from Joyner, and the affidavit describes how he went through with a controlled purchase of heroin from Joyner during the week of September 6, 2017, all of which was monitored by law enforcement agents. Id. at 15-16 (¶¶ 8-12). This controlled purchase occurred outside a house at 164 Cleveland Avenue in Bridgeport, and Joyner was seen by law enforcement agents emerging from the house to meet the Confidential Informant and then returning back to the house afterwards. Id. at 15 (¶ 10). On the basis of all these facts, the search warrant affidavit alleged there was “probable cause to believe that evidence of Possession of Narcotics with Intent to Sell, 21a-278(b), is located on the body of” Joyner. Id. at 17 (¶ 16).

         A Connecticut state court judge signed this search warrant for Joyner's person at 10:51 p.m. on the night of September 11, 2017. Id. at 12; Doc. #45 at 27-28. In the meantime, law enforcement officers had Joyner under continuing surveillance. At around midnight, they saw Joyner leave 164 Cleveland Avenue and drive to the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport. Doc. #45 at 33- 34; Doc. #76 at 61. After he parked his car on the street next to the hotel, the officers closed in to execute the search warrant. They searched Joyner and the area immediately around him and found about $1, 300 in cash, 10 glassine folds of heroin, a bag with a leafy substance, a half-pill of Viagra, four cellphones, and a Holiday Inn hotel key card. Doc. #36-1 at 20; Doc. #45 at 36-37, 39, 49.[1]

         The officers placed Joyner under arrest and then went inside the Holiday Inn with the key card to ask to see if Joyner had a room there. Doc. #45 at 40-41, 83, 132; Doc. #76 at 37, 88; Doc. #83 at 37. The desk clerk ran the card, and then printed out a receipt with Joyner's name and room number, and the officers told the clerk that they were going to obtain a search warrant for this room. Doc. #45 at 41; Doc. #76 at 89, 93; Doc. #83 at 38.

         The officers also decided to do a protective sweep of the room. One of the supervising agents-ATF Special Agent Michael Oppenheim-testified at the suppression hearing about his reason for doing a protective search, because of his concern that Joyner had recently been involved in an armed robbery of narcotics, and the agent was concerned about the possibility that Joyner might have armed confederates in the hotel room. Doc. #45 at 123-25. The protective sweep lasted approximately one minute and did not reveal that there was anyone else in the room or involve the search for or seizure of any evidence. Id. at 127-31.

         Neither of the search warrant affiants-Detective Martinez and Officer Martin-took part in the protective sweep. Doc. #45 at 43-44; Doc. #83 at 39. Agent Oppenheim testified that nothing was communicated to the affiants about what was seen during the protective sweep, Doc. #45 at 129, and Officer Martin credibly testified that he planned to apply for the search warrant regardless of the protective sweep, Doc. #45 at 109.

         Detective Martinez and Officer Martin then drafted another search warrant affidavit that recounted essentially the same facts from the first affidavit as discussed above for the search warrant of Joyner's body but also added more facts specific to their reasons for believing that there would be narcotics evidence in Joyner's hotel room. This second affidavit recounted the search of Joyner on the street outside the Holiday Inn and the recovery from him of suspected heroin in glassine bags packaged for street level sales, four cell phones, a quantity of money “consistent with the sale of narcotics, ” and “a swipe card key belonging to the Holiday Inn.” Doc. #36-1 at 27 (¶ 16).

         The second affidavit further alleged that “during the course of this investigation source information had indicated that Dwayne [sic] Joyner had been staying at the Holiday Inn and using the hotel to store narcotics.” Ibid. (¶ 17). In addition, it described how during the investigation Joyner was seen “[o]ver the course of several days” both “coming and going” from 164 Cleveland Avenue and also that “[s]urveillance conducted at the Hoiliday [sic] Inn observed Dwyane Joyner entering and exiting the hotel.” Ibid. The affiants alleged on the basis of their training and experience that “[i]ndividuals that are involved in the sale of narcotics frequently change their routine and patterns in order to avoid detection by police and further routinely utilize addresses and areas not associated with them in effort to keep and maintain their narcotics trade.” Ibid.

         The second affidavit additionally noted that “[t]hat upon locating the key on the person of Dwyane Joyner, officers contacted the Holiday Inn, ” and “[a] check would reveal that Dwyane Joyner date of birth [redacted] had rented room #723 on 09/10/2017 and was to check out on 09/12/2017.” Ibid. (ΒΆ 18). On the basis of these facts, the affiants alleged there was probable cause to believe that evidence of ...

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