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United States v. Wright

United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 23, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LONNIE G. WRIGHT, SR., Defendant.

ORDER

Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Lonnie G. Wright, Sr.’s Motion to Suppress. [Dkt. 61.] In his motion, Mr. Wright seeks to suppress as evidence property seized from his residence in Muncie, Indiana on December 30, 2011 by officers of the Muncie Delaware County Drug Task Forces. He argues the search and seizure of his home violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Specifically, he asserts that, although the search was authorized by a warrant, the affidavit in support of the warrant did not establish “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found [at the residence]. Thus, there was no substantial basis for determining the existence of probable cause by the issuing magistrate.” [Id. at 2.] The Government has responded, [dkt. 65], and Mr. Wright did not reply. The matter is now ripe for ruling. For the reasons explained below, the Court DENIES Mr. Wright’s motion.

I.

Background

On December 30, 2011, Detective Jeff Stanley of the Muncie Delaware County Drug Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Task Force, presented an Affidavit of Probable Cause in Support of a Search Warrant for Mr. Wright’s residence located in Muncie, Indiana to The Honorable Linda Ralu Wolf, Delaware County Circuit Court Judge. On that same date, Judge Wolf determined that the affidavit established probable cause and, accordingly, approved the warrant.

Neither party has requested a hearing, and indeed Mr. Wright only challenges the sufficiency – not the veracity – of the facts in the affidavit supporting the issuance of the warrant. The affidavit, [dkt. 61-1], establishes the following:

The FBI Task Force began a drug trafficking investigation after receiving information from a confidential human source (CHS) that the defendant, Lonnie G. Wright, Sr., (Wright) was selling marijuana, cocaine, and prescription pills from Wright’s residence located in Muncie, Indiana.

In December of 2011, Detective Stanley conducted surveillance and observed Wright coming and going from the residence on several occasions. Detective Stanley also researched Wright’s criminal history and determined that Wright had three drug related arrests and one arrest for a parole violation.

On December 22, 2011, while conducting surveillance on Wright’s residence, law enforcement observed an individual named Eugene Teal drive a car and park outside of the Wright’s residence. Teal briefly met with an unknown individual, who after meeting with Teal, went directly inside Wright’s residence and stayed for less than two minutes. The unknown individual returned to Teal’s car and appeared to hand Teal an object. A short time later, a traffic stop on Teal’s vehicle was conducted. During the course of the traffic stop, Teal told Detective Stanley that he had just purchased 22 pain pills from someone named “Eddie” outside of Wright’s residence. A search of Teal’s car revealed a pill bottle containing 22 Hydrocodone pills.

Teal subsequently gave a taped statement to Detective Stanley in which Teal admitted to purchasing pills from “Eddie” two times within the past week. Teal said during each purchase he gave “Eddie” money and “Eddie” went inside Wright’s residence. “Eddie” returned a short time later with pills.

On the day the warrant was obtained, December 30, 2011, law enforcement utilized an informant to make a controlled purchase of marijuana from Mr. Wright inside his residence. During the controlled purchase, law enforcement fitted the informant with a video recorder and observed the informant walk directly to Wright’s residence and go inside. A short time later, the informant was seen leaving Wright’s residence and walk directly back to law enforcement. The informant turned over a plastic bag containing suspected marijuana to law enforcement and said that he/she had obtained the marijuana from Lonnie Wright while inside Wright’s residence. The substance provided by the informant was field tested and tested positive for marijuana.

Detective Stanley reviewed the video recording of the marijuana transaction between the informant and Wright that occurred inside Wright’s residence. Detective Stanley saw Wright on the video weighing marijuana on a scale. Detective Stanley could also see a safe which appeared to contain more marijuana, pill bottles, and a large amount of money.

II.

Discussion


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