Back in September, the Vanguard reported on a multi-jurisdictional force which served high-risk warrants on five residences in the Royal Oak Manufactured Home Community. The search warrants and subsequent arrests were the result of a four-month investigation into narcotics dealing in that neighborhood.
Police recovered 168 marijuana plants, 3 lbs. of marijuana, and a concentrated cannabis lab. A related search warrant carried out in Sacramento netted 1.5 lbs. of methamphetamine.
On Wednesday, two of the defendants from that raid, Kenneth Moriarty and Amanda Tibbs were in court as their defense attorneys, Bob Spangler and Jeff Raven, moved for evidence to be thrown out due to an improper warrant.
Judge Paul Richardson listened to evidence from Justin Raymond, a Davis Police Officer working with YONET who acknowledged that he has learned since the raid that, while the warrant described the residence at 1412 Morris Way, the actual residence that they raided was 1416 Morris Way.
Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson, Officer Raymond testified that he had been investigating Kenneth Moriarty for around four months. He had received information about where he resided, describing the residence as a double-wide trailer.
He testified that in his four months of surveillance, he personally saw Mr. Moriarty around ten times at the location. He saw the residence another five times without him present. Officer Raymond testified that he would sometimes conduct drive-bys, and other times he was there for hours.
He also conducted aerial surveillance of the property, where there was marijuana growing behind both a chain link fence and what was described a bamboo fence in front of the chain link. Officer Raymond said they made the tactical decision to remove the fencing upon making entry on September 24.
Officer Raymond testified that Google Maps had identified the residence as 1412 Morris Way. He also obtained a map from the manager of the trailer park, who he said wrote “1412” on the map.
However, as he acknowledged, the two residences on Morris Way, as it turns out, are located within the confines of the mobile park, but are actually separately-owned properties.
On January 20, 2015, the officer and the prosecution went back out to the site and took additional photographs. It was his testimony that the residence “looked different” when they raided in September than when they returned in January nearly four months later.
Under examination from Mr. Spangler, the officer testified that numbers were not on a mailbox in front of the residence at 1416 Morris Way – the residence they searched – back in September. He said those numbers were newly-added.
The warrant describes the building as crème-colored with white trim. He testified that on January 20, 2015, he saw a partial address on the post in front of 1412 Morris Way. He said he didn’t see the full address when he came by during the investigation. He said, “Those numbers weren’t there.”
He said, “I never saw those numbers” on the vertical post, and added, “I never would have been able to see something that small.”
It was his testimony that the appearance of the two places changed from September 2014 to January 2015.
Officer Raymond acknowledged that he did not attempt to go to the court, the District Attorney’s office or the owner in order to ascertain the address.
Mr. Spangler asked if he had checked with the DMV, and Officer Raymond responded that he was not sure. Mr. Spangler then produced a traffic citation from four months prior that cited Mr. Moriarty’s address as 1416 Morris Way.
Following the conclusion of Officer Raymond’s testimony, DDA Johnson stated that she would file a legal brief responding to the motion to suppress. She stated that the case law on warrants is clear.
Ms. Johnson will file her response on Monday and the court will hear arguments on Friday, February 13.
The US Supreme Court in a number of rulings understands that mistakes will be made by law enforcement at times, and is willing to overlook these errors and allow erroneously obtained evidence to be used for criminal prosecution.
The exclusionary rule developed under court precedent applies to evidence gained from an unreasonable search or seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. A good faith exception has come out of a 1995 case that finds that evidence need not be not excluded if it is obtained by officers who reasonably rely on a search warrant that turns out to be invalid.
While we have yet to hear argument from the attorneys in this, it seems that the prosecution is attempting to set the stage that Officer Raymond simply made an honest mistake in attempting to learn the actual address of the known suspect’s home.
This was not a case where they raided the wrong home, the prosecution might argue, but simply a case where they got the number wrong.
The Vanguard was subsequently invited to the residences on Morris Way. Both residences – 1412 and 1416 – have been abandoned and are in poor condition.
Officer Raymond testified that he pulled up 1412 using Google Earth and that the residence is mislabeled.
However, when the Vanguard pulled up 1412 Morris Way and 1416 Morris Way with Google, they are correctly identified. Moreover, the images below show that the date of the photo was from May 2012, implying that nothing has been changed on Google any time recently.
The Vanguard went out to the site on Thursday morning and found that, while the condition of property had changed, the appearance of both the house at 1412 and the trailer at 1416 were basically the same in terms of coloring.
The photo below shows the mailbox in front of the home with “1416” on it. Family members and appearance would confirm that Officer Raymond was correct when he stated that the numbering was not there in September. The numbers look new.
However, when we inspected the mailbox in front of 1412 we found the “12” with the first two numbers missing, as well as the “1412” clearly marked on the side. Closer inspection clearly shows that two of the numbers had been peeled off or fell off on the badly-weathered mailbox. There is a very faded and dirty “Morris” on the right side and the “1412” across the post vertically are clearly old and weathered. Unlike the numbers at 1416, these were not recently added.
More importantly this shot was taken from the road that Officer Raymond would have had to have walked or driven by at least 15 times according to his testimony, and this camera shot shows that the address on the street would have been clearly visible to the Officer.
Officer Raymond testified that the appearance of the home changed from September 2014 to January 2015, but, other than the added address on the mailbox in front of 1416 Morris Way and the bamboo fence the police removed, there is little evidence of that.
The 2012 photos bear that out.
Moreover, we inspected the property, as well, as the officer testified that there was new paint and trim.
On the contrary, the Vanguard found crumbling and decaying wood on the side of the trailer with very old paint and no new paint job or changed coloring. What the officer described as trim around the windows appears to be a decaying and crumbling window frame.
Far from a new paint job, the overwhelming evidence is one of neglect.
The Vanguard is seeking to acquire a copy of the search warrant and possibly the transcript from the proceeding, to get a more complete description.
—David M. Greenwald reporting