M, Stevens, Esquire Fuqua, Willard, Stevens & Schab, P.A.
G. Gay, Esquire Department of Justice
P. Murray, Esquire Office of the Public Defender
A. KARSNITZ JUDGE
opinion one of the finest jurist our State has seen was
Chancellor Grover Brown. He once told me that he believed
when parties took the time and effort to appear before him,
they deserved a written articulation of his decision making.
I agree and for that reason, as well as because defense
counsel referenced a case that had not been cited in her
papers, I decided to give this matter additional thought and
provide a written decision. For the following reasons, 1
remain of the view that both Defendants' motions to
suppress evidence should be denied.
facts are taken from the testimony of the police officers who
testified at the hearing as well as from the affidavit of
Detective Timothy Gallagher prepared in support of the arrest
warrants. I found the officers' testimony succinct and
Police Members of the Governor's Task Force received a
tip from a confidential informant (C.I.) that defendant
Russel J. Hurst ("Hurst") was dealing drugs. The
police officers then quickly set up a "controlled
buy" operation. Detective Gallagher traveled in his
unmarked vehicle with the C.I. who was communicating
electronically in "real time" with Hurst. The
electronic communications with Hurst, which were preserved
and provided to me, detailed the drug transaction. Price and
quantity terms for the purchase of heroin were described. The
C.I. suggested that the place for consummation of the
transaction be the Walmart store in Seaford. Hurst initially
balked at the location, apparently fearing that he was being
set up. In short order he agreed to the location.
other police officers in unmarked cars positioned themselves
in the Seaford Walmart parking lot, and observed Hurst, in a
maroon Honda Accord, pull into the parking lot. Hurst had
with him an unknown fellow traveler who turned out to be his
co-defendant Earl McGlotten ("McGlotten"), Hurst
left his vehicle and went into the store. He shortly exited
the store and stood in its entrance way. Walmart security
video, which was presented at the hearing, shows Hurst
standing in front of the store talking on his cell phone. He
was speaking to, or electronically communicating with, the
C.I. Detective Gallagher was able to hear and/or see the
communications as he rode in his vehicle with the C.I..
Detective Gallagher and the C.I. rode by the front of the
store and both were able to identify Hurst. When the
identification was made, Gallagher notified the officers with
whom he was working, and they acted quickly.
DeMato and Detective Jackson immediately drove in a separate
vehicle to the front of the store. Again captured on video is
Corporal DeMato throwing open the door to his vehicle,
running from it, and tackling Hurst. The action was quick and
dramatic, and it was obvious the officers' intent was
serious. To me the actions were more than
justified. The officers had, through the information
provided by the C.I., probable cause to believe Hurst was in
the middle of committing a number of crimes. While there was
no evidence the C.I. previously had provided reliable
information, everything the C.I. said and did was observed by
the police, and confirmed as it occurred. Hurst discussed
price and quantity of drugs and Detective Gallagher observed
the electronic discussion. Hurst appeared where the C.I.
requested that he be. He still was arranging the drug deal
when he was arrested.
officers who arrested Hurst testified he intentionally broke
his cell phone just prior to the tackle by Corporal DeMato. I
could not see that in the video, but those facts are not
relevant to this decision.
coordination with the arrest of Hurst was the officers'
approach to, and arrest of, McGlotten. The only information
to police had at that time was that McGlotten had traveled to
the area of the drug deal with Hurst. Importantly, the
officers did not know where any drugs might be. The officers
had more than a reasonable suspicion drugs might be in the
was taken from the vehicle, placed on the ground, and cuffed.
He was "patted down" for weapons and then pulled to
his feet. McGlotten told the officers he wore a back brace
which had moved to an uncomfortable position, and asked that
the cuffs be removed so he could adjust it. The officer
complied, but in addition to adjusting the brace, McGlotten
fiddled with the front of his pants. Detective Jackson, who
had just finished arresting Hurst, approached McGlotten and
noticed a bag with what appeared to, and turned out to be,
drugs on the ...