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State v. Johnson

Superior Court of Delaware

January 13, 2017


          Submitted: January 5, 2017

         Upon Consideration of Defendant's Motion to Suppress, DENIED.

          Marc C. Petrucci, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for the State.

          Eugene J. Maurer, Jr., Esquire, and Cynthia L. Ruggiero, Esquire, Eugene J. Maurer, Jr. P.A., Wilmington, Delaware. Attorneys for the Defendant.


          Vivian L. Medinilla Judge

         AND NOW TO WIT, this 13th day of January, 2017, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion to Suppress, the State's response thereto and the testimony offered at the suppression hearing on January 5, 2017, it appears to the Court that:

         1. Defendant Cecily Johnson ("Defendant") is charged with Drug Dealing, Aggravated Possession, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Conspiracy Second Degree. Defendant was arrested on May 12, 2016 upon meeting with a confidential source ("CS"). The CS was arrested earlier that same day and provided information to police that lead to Defendant's arrest.

         2. On May 12, 2016, after the CS's arrest, the CS identified "a light skin black female, who the CS knows only as 'Candy, ' as a marijuana source of supply."[1] The CS knew Candy because the two were involved in an earlier romantic relationship. After their relationship ended, the CS and Candy continued to engage in regular drug transactions. The CS also indicated to police several other aspects of Candy's alleged drug operation. For instance, Candy and her associates reportedly obtained between 100-200 pounds of marijuana through freight shipments. Additionally, the CS identified her phone number and the vehicles that she used to conduct drug transactions. These vehicles were a maroon Lexus and a silver/gray Infinity. The CS further identified the area where Candy lived and the location where the CS usually met with Candy to purchase drugs: a parking lot at Becks Pond in Newark, Delaware. With the CS's information and cooperation, members of the Wilmington Residence Office DEA, including Task Force Officer Paul Lawrence and Resident Agent David Hughes, decided to engage Candy in a controlled drug transaction with the CS.

         3. On May 12, 2016 at 3:30 p.m., the CS made the first of two recorded phone calls to Candy at the behest of Officer Lawrence and Resident Agent Hughes.[2] When Candy answered the call, the CS told her that the CS "had some bread on [the CS's] bill."[3] Officer Lawrence, present for both recorded calls, testified that this terminology meant that the CS had money to pay off an outstanding debt to Candy.[4] The CS then asked if everything was "cool." Candy replied affirmatively. Both Officer Lawrence and Resident Agent Hughes testified that, based on their training and experience, this dialogue was code for whether Candy was prepared to conduct another drug transaction. At that time, however, Candy could not meet because she did not have access to either of her vehicles and the call ended with a tacit understanding that they would speak later about arranging a meeting when Candy had access to a car. During this first phone call, no explicit drug transaction was arranged.[5]

         4. Officer Lawrence and Resident Agent Hughes had earlier confirmed that the CS normally purchased three to four pounds of marijuana from Candy. Accordingly, when the CS made the second recorded call to Candy at 6:20 p.m, the CS asked Candy to sell the CS a "tres or a four." The officers testified that this was slang for "three or four" pounds of marijuana. The CS asked where Candy wanted to meet. Candy stated, "By the pond." The phone call ended with an understanding that Candy would call when she could meet with the CS.

         5. DEA Wilmington Resident Office officers, including Officer Lawrence and Resident Agent Hughes, then arranged surveillance at the parking lot at Becks Pond following the second call. The CS accompanied the officers in the CS's vehicle.[6] At 7:09 p.m., while the officers were with the CS, Candy called to inform the CS that she was arriving at the parking lot. Special Agent Joseph Rosati simultaneously radioed to Officer Lawrence that he observed a silver/gray Infinity with a person matching the description of Candy entering the lot at that time.

         6. At 7:11p.m., the CS was instructed by the officers to meet with Candy. Officer Lawrence, trailing the CS to the meeting place, parked across the street from the entrance to the parking lot. At 7:15 p.m., Officer Lawrence and the other stationed officers observed the CS arrive in the CS's vehicle and park next to the silver/gray Infinity. At no time did the officers lose sight of the CS's vehicle. Officer Lawrence then radioed the other officers to arrest Candy, who was later identified as Defendant.[7]

         7. A search incident to arrest of Defendant's vehicle revealed in plain view a cloth bag on the backseat clearly showing the presence of marijuana. The search also uncovered a purse containing several credit card statements to "Cecily Johnson;" an address of 2419 Porter Road, Bear, Delaware; a set of house keys and statements to Marvin Knight; and a gray cell phone. This phone matched the number dialed in the two earlier recorded phone calls.

         8. Defendant has moved to suppress the evidence from the search of her person and automobile, filing this Motion on October 27, 2016. The State responded on December 7, 2016. An ...

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