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United States v. Rivera

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 2, 2019





         Pending before the court is defendant Jonathan Rivera's Motion to Suppress (“Mot. Suppress”) (Doc. No. 38), Amended Motion to Suppress (“Am. Mot. Suppress”) (Doc. No. 53), and Supplemental Motion in Support of Oral Argument (“Suppl. Mot. Oral Arg.”) (Doc. No. 54). Rivera seeks the suppression of “all evidence seized as a result of the execution of the tainted search warrant for the 3rd floor apartment at 120-122 Fairfield Avenue. Am. Mot. Suppress at 9. Rivera argues that a search warrant obtained by law enforcement was tainted by illegal police action that occurred prior to the issuance of the search warrant. Id. at 4. In addition, Rivera requests that the court hold a hearing to determine whether the evidence seized pursuant to the search should be suppressed pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). The court held oral argument on June 12, 2019.

         For the reasons stated below, Rivera's Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 38) is terminated as moot, Rivera's Amended Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 53) is denied, and Rivera's Supplemental Motion in Support of Oral Argument (Doc. No. 54) is denied.

         II. FACTS

         The court finds the following facts. Between November and December 2018, a registered confidential informant (“CI”) contacted Hartford Police Department detectives Abhilash Pillai (“Pillai”) and Jeffrey Moody (“Moody”). See Affidavit and Application for Search and Seizure Warrant (“Affidavit”) (Doc. No. 46-1) at 3. The CI informed detectives that he/she was aware of drug trafficking occurring in the area of Roxbury Street and Fairfield Avenue, in Hartford, Connecticut. Id. The CI stated that he/she had seen a Hispanic male using two vehicles: a white Toyota Rav 4 and a black Infiniti sedan. The CI reported that the Hispanic male was selling large quantities of crack cocaine and heroin in the area. Id.

         On December 5, 2018, Pillai and Moody, along with other law enforcement officers, conducted surveillance in the area of Newbury Street, Mapleton Street, Fairfield Avenue, and Roxbury Street. Id. Pillai observed a white Toyota Rav 4 parked in the driveway of 120-122 Fairfield Avenue. Based on the CI's statements, Pillai conducted surveillance on the Toyota Rav 4. Id. Pillai later observed a Hispanic male leave 122 Fairfield Avenue, enter the Toyota, and drive east on Roxbury Street and south on Newbury Street. Id. at 4. The Toyota came to a stop on McKinley street, after which a surveillance unit observed the driver of a blue Hyundai Sonata exit his vehicle, approach the Toyota, reach into the Toyota, and then place an unknown object in his sweatshirt pocket. Id. Officers followed the Hyundai and observed the driver commit a traffic violation. Id. Uniformed officers conducted a motor vehicle stop on the Hyundai. Id. Officers also conducted an investigative stop of the Toyota. Id.

         After officers asked whether he was in possession of anything illegal, the driver of the Hyundai stated that he was in possession of illegal drugs. Id. at 5. The driver turned over a clear plastic bag filled with wax paper sleeves, some of which sleeves were stamped with a “Gatorade” symbol. Id. The sleeves contained a white substance and white rock-like substance. Id. The white, powdery substance tested positive for fentanyl, and the rock-like substance tested positive for cocaine. Id. After being informed of and acknowledging his Miranda rights, the driver of the Hyundai told officers that he had purchased the substances from “a guy in a white SUV on McKinley street.” Id.

         Upon conducting the motor-vehicle stop on the Toyota, officers placed the driver, Rivera, under arrest for sale of narcotics. Id. After arriving on scene, Pillai informed Rivera of his Miranda rights, which rights Rivera waived. Id. Upon questioning as to his residence, Rivera informed Pillai he did not live at 122 Fairfield Avenue, and that the address was his “girl's” residence. Id. When asked if there was anything illegal at 122 Fairfield Avenue, Rivera replied that a firearm was stored there, but that he had a permit for the firearm. Id. Rivera told officers a few minutes later that the firearm was actually stored in his vehicle, an Infiniti parked at 120-122 Fairfield Avenue. See Government's Supplemental Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Suppress (“Govt. Suppl. Mem. in Opp.”) (Doc. No. 56) at 2. Pillai informed Rivera that officers had witnessed him conduct a suspected hand-to-hand drug transaction on McKinley street, to which Rivera replied that he was just trying to make some extra money. Affidavit at 5. Rivera also stated that he knew he made a mistake by selling drugs. Rivera repeated that he did not live at the Fairfield Avenue address, told officers that he did not have keys to the address, and stated that his “girl” lived in the third-floor apartment along with her children. Id. at 5-6.

         Officers travelled to 120-122 Fairfield avenue. Id. at 6. Using keys recovered from the Toyota, they opened the locked south entryway door to 120-122 Fairfield Avenue. Id. Officers proceeded up a staircase to the second floor and knocked on the door to the second-floor apartment. Id. Officers spoke with an elderly Hispanic woman who stated that she lived in the second-floor apartment, and that her granddaughter resided on the third floor with her children and her boyfriend. Id. Officers approached a second interior door, and used a key recovered from the Toyota to open the door. Id. Upon proceeding up the staircase to the third-floor, officers realized that the interior second-floor door led directly into the third-floor apartment. Id. at 6-7. Officers announced their presence, after which a woman, identified as Melissa Diaz, called out that she was naked in a bedroom. Id. at 7. After Diaz dressed herself, officers conducted a protective sweep of the apartment. Id. Adult male clothing was seen in the bedroom where Diaz had been located. Id.

         When Pillai and Moody arrived at the third-floor apartment, Pillai informed Diaz of her Miranda rights, which she acknowledged. Id. Diaz declined to consent to a search and informed the detectives that she wished to speak to her attorney. Id. Pillai and Moody returned to the Vice and Narcotics Office to draft a search warrant affidavit, while other officers remained on scene to secure the apartment. Id.


         The government argues in its Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion to Suppress (“Mem. Opp. Suppress”) (Doc. No. 46), that Rivera has failed to establish standing to challenge the search of 120-122 Fairfield Avenue. See Mem. Opp. Suppress at 7-8. The government argues that Rivera denied living at the Fairfield Avenue address and instead stated that his girlfriend lived there. See id. at 7. The government also argues that, when officers spoke to Melissa Diaz, the “owner-occupant of the of the third[-]floor apartment, ” she told law enforcement that Rivera did not live in the apartment. Id.

         However, Rivera filed an Amended Motion to Suppress on June 7, 2019. See Am. Mot. Suppress. Attached to the Amended Motion to Suppress, which is in all other material respects identical to the original Motion to Suppress, is an Affidavit swearing that, “[a]t or around December 5, 2018, [he] was a resident of the 3rd floor apartment of 120-122 Fairfield Avenue in Harford CT . . . .” See Affidavit of Jonathan Rivera (“Rivera Affid.”) (Doc. No. 53-1) ¶ 1. Given Rivera's sworn statement, the court concludes he has standing to challenge a search of the third-floor apartment. Moreover, because the ...

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