Submitted: October 10, 2018
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID. No.
appeal from the Superior Court. AFFIRMED.
M. Capone, Esquire, Assistant Public Defender, Georgetown,
Delaware, for Appellant, Brandon Ways.
Adams, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Georgetown,
Delaware, for Appellee, State of Delaware.
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
Brandon Ways, appeals from a Superior Court jury verdict
finding him guilty of Aggravated Possession of Heroin in a
Tier 5 Quantity, Drug Dealing in a Tier 4 Quantity, and
Conspiracy in the Second Degree. These charges were the
result of a year-long investigation by the Delaware State
Police and the Seaford Police Department into a large-scale
drug trafficking operation of Ways and his associate,
Torontay Mann. Ways's co-defendant, Angeline Metelus, was
also charged with these same crimes as a result of the
investigation. She was driving Ways's blue Jeep Cherokee
(the "jeep") when the police followed it to an area
in New Jersey. Through their investigation, the police had
been informed that Ways bought a large amount of cocaine and
heroin every two weeks from sources in New Jersey. They also
knew from experience that New Jersey was a source for drugs
transported into Delaware. Upon the jeep's return to
Delaware, Metelus was stopped and the jeep was searched
pursuant to a search warrant. Approximately 1, 300 grams of
heroin were found in a hidden compartment.
makes two claims on appeal. First, he contends that the
Superior Court abused its discretion by denying his motion to
suppress all evidence derived from the State's use of a
mobile tracking device ("MTD") to track the jeep in
the State of New Jersey. Ways argues that the out-of-state
tracking violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution, Article I, § 6 of the Delaware
Constitution, and 11 Del. C. § 2304 because (1)
those provisions do not permit a Delaware judge to issue a
warrant to track a vehicle after it leaves the state and (2)
no New Jersey judge authorized the use of the MTD in New
Jersey. Second, Ways contends that the Superior Court erred
by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal, arguing that
the State failed to prove the predicate element of venue for
any charge in the indictment.
that the Superior Court should be affirmed on both claims.
First, we conclude that even if the out-of-state tracking did
violate either of the constitutional provisions or the
statute, the heroin the police found when they searched the
jeep inevitably would have been discovered, and therefore
suppression was not required, because the search was
conducted pursuant to a valid search warrant that did not
depend upon any evidence derived from the out-of-state
tracking. Second, we conclude that the State presented
sufficient evidence for a rational fact finder to conclude
that at least one count in the indictment, the conspiracy
charge, occurred in Sussex County, and therefore, venue was
properly proved as to all counts under Superior Court Rule of
Criminal Procedure 18.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was arrested on November 5, 2016, and was charged with the
three crimes underlying this appeal. In the months prior to
his arrest (since October 2015), the police were
investigating Ways and Mann's large-scale drug
trafficking operation. As part of the investigation, on or
about September 23, 2016, they requested and obtained a
Superior Court warrant authorizing the police to install and
use an MTD on the jeep. The police were told by a
confidential informant that Ways and Mann had obtained the
jeep to transport large amounts of heroin and that the jeep
had a large aftermarket hidden compartment for that purpose.
the search warrant authorizing the police to install and use
the MTD on the jeep (the "MTD warrant") did not
contain an express geographic limitation for tracking, it
provided that the MTD "is to be installed within the
State of Delaware." It also noted, "Information likely
to be obtained by the [MTD] will relate to violations of the
Delaware Criminal Code, including but not limited to [drug]
offenses . . . transpiring within Sussex,
Delaware." The police installed the MTD on the jeep
in Delaware on October 14, 2016.
November 4, 2016, the police were alerted by the MTD that the
jeep had moved to the Walmart parking lot in Seaford,
Delaware (in Sussex County). They responded by sending
officers to conduct physical surveillance of the jeep at that
location. The officers arrived at approximately 11:00 a.m.
While surveilling the jeep, the police observed Ways arrive
in a green Dodge Ram, which was associated with Mann. Ways
exited the passenger side of the Dodge Ram and entered and
exited the jeep multiple times, moving from the rear seat to
the driver's seat and reaching deep into the cargo area.
At one point, they observed Ways transfer a large item
(possibly a duffel bag) from the Dodge Ram to deep inside the
cargo area of the jeep. This behavior, the police believed,
based upon their training and experience, was consistent with
storing drugs and currency inside a hidden compartment. The
police then observed Ways drive the jeep a short distance to
the Seaford Food Lion parking lot. The Dodge Ram followed.
The police then saw Ways toss an unknown object into the back
of the Dodge Ram and walk away. The Dodge Ram then departed.
approximately 4:20 p.m. on that same day, while visually
surveilling the jeep in the Food Lion parking lot, the police
observed an unknown female, subsequently identified as
co-defendant Metelus, get into the jeep and drive away. They
followed Metelus north through Delaware, over the Delaware
Memorial Bridge into New Jersey, and up the New Jersey
Turnpike to northern New Jersey, while the chief
investigating officer tracked the MTD from Troop 4 in
approximately 7:40 p.m., Metelus took an exit off the New
Jersey Turnpike. Sometime before then, the police lost MTD
functionality but continued to maintain physical surveillance
as they followed behind her. After she turned off the exit,
however, they also lost physical surveillance in the
high-density area off the Turnpike. About 20 minutes later,
MTD functionality was restored, which enabled the police to
reestablish physical surveillance. The police continued to
follow her through the streets of the high-density area.
at about 8:26 p.m., she stopped at a residence at 71 Mitchell
Street. The police conducted drive-by surveillance and
observed an unknown man speaking with Metelus as she was
seated in the jeep. After about nine minutes, Metelus drove
off. After the jeep left the residence, it was driven around
"aimlessly without a destination," repeating the
same pattern three times. After stopping briefly at a location
known as Pilot Place, where the police observed nothing
unusual, the jeep returned to 71 Mitchell Street at
approximately 9:01 p.m. The jeep was there for about 51
minutes. The police again conducted "drive by"
surveillance rather than stationary surveillance and observed
nothing of significance. The jeep then departed and was later
seen to stop in a parking lot on Central Street, where it
remained for several minutes. Nothing of significance was
seen while the jeep was stopped there.
jeep then left that location and began its return to
Delaware. The police continued to follow the jeep. In
argument before the trial court, the State also indicated
that the police had approximately three units stationed near
the Delaware Memorial Bridge awaiting the jeep's return
to Delaware and that they could have set up a "geo
fence" to alert them when ...