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United States v. Robins

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 29, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
BYRON ROBINS ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          Brian A. Jackson Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Ricky Joseph's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 201) wiretap evidence. Joining in the motion are Defendants Byron Robins, Shanard Banks, Reuben Crawford, Chris Davis, Le'Alan Banks, Toddriquez Bradley, and Charlene Brock. (Docs. 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261). For the reasons that follow, the Motion (Doc. 201) is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This drug-conspiracy case arises from the activities of the FreeBandz organization in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Doc. 1). A grand jury returned a 68-count indictment charging 21 FreeBandz associates with drug-related crimes. (Id.).

         Three United States District Judges entered orders authorizing the use of wiretaps to investigate the FreeBandz organization. See Doc. 1-3 in No. 17-MC-40 (Brady, J.); Doc. 1-4 in No. 17-MC-64 (Jackson, J.); Doc. 1-6 in No. 17-MC-148 (deGravelles, J.).

         Defendants move to suppress evidence derived from these wiretaps on the ground that the wiretap applications failed to satisfy 18 U.S.C. § 2518(3)(c). (Doc. 201).[1] That provision creates a necessity requirement: a wiretap applicant must show that "normal investigative procedures have been tried and have failed or reasonably appear to be unlikely to succeed if tried or to be too dangerous." 18 U.S.C. § 2518(3)(c).

         Defendants concede that the first wiretap application is dispositive: if it meets the necessity requirement, then the second and third do, too. (Doc. 201-1). So the Court recites only those facts relevant to the first application. See Doc. 1 in No. 17-MC-40.

         The United States applied for the wiretap about six months after it began investigating the FreeBandz organization. See Doc. 1 in No. 17-MC-40. In its application, the United States stated that "normal investigative techniques have been tried and have failed, or reasonably appear unlikely to succeed if tried or are too dangerous to employ." Doc. 1 in No. 17-MC-40.

         To support that assertion, the United States offered the 52-page affidavit of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. See Doc. 1-2 in No. 17-MC-40. The affidavit describes the "normal investigative procedures" the United States tried or considered before applying for the wiretap. Id. Those procedures include: confidential sources, controlled purchases, physical surveillance, pole cameras, undercover agents, search warrants, vehicle tracking devices, subject interviews, grand jury subpoenas, trash searches, pen registers, police records, mail cover requests, and financial investigation. Id.

         Discrediting the affidavit's assertions, Defendants argue that the United States cannot show necessity because "normal investigative procedures" yielded "significant evidence." (Doc. 201-1). The United States rejoins that its limited success using "normal investigative procedures" does not preclude it from applying for a wiretap. (Doc. 291).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendants bear the initial burden of showing that the United States illegally obtained the wiretap. See United States v. De La Fuente, 548 F.2d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1977). If Defendants meet that burden, then the burden shifts to the United States to "prove that the evidence in question was obtained from another source and is not tainted by the illegal surveillance." Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 governs the interception of wire communications. See 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 2510 to 2520. It has twin purposes: '"(1) protecting the privacy of wire and oral communications, and (2) delineating on a uniform basis the circumstances and conditions under which the interception for wire and oral communications may be ...


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