Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Stewart

June 29, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
COREY STEWART



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Corey Stewart was indicted on various charges stemming from his alleged participation in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine. (Indictment, Doc. No. 110.) This matter comes before the court on Stewart's motion to suppress evidence obtained through a government wiretap. (Mot. to Suppress Title III Material, Doc. No. 221.)

I. BACKGROUND

According to the Government, Robert Atkins was the leader of a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing wholesale amounts of cocaine to mid-level dealers throughout Chicago's west and northwest suburbs. (Kays Aff. ¶ 5, Doc. No. 1.) Stewart was allegedly one of those mid-level dealers. (Id. ¶¶ 89-95, 143-47.)

The Government used a number of traditional methods to investigate the Atkins organization, including physical surveillance, cooperating witnesses, pen registers, and "trash covers." (Biegalski Aff. ¶¶ 49-73, TIII_001-00019.) According to the Government, these methods were of limited utility and failed to uncover the full scope of the Atkins conspiracy. (See id.) On February 21, 2007, the Government applied for a wiretap on one of the cell phones used by the Atkins organization, which was subsequently granted by Chief Judge Holderman. (Application for An Order Authorizing Interception of Wire Communications, TIII_001-00001, et seq.; Order Authorizing the Interception of Wire Communications, TIII_001-00075, et seq.) Between March and June of 2007, the Government submitted applications for additional wiretaps on other phones used by members of the Atkins organization, all of which were granted. (See, e.g, Application for An Order Authorizing Interception of Wire Communications, TIII_002-00001, et seq.; Orders Authorizing the Interception of Wire Communications for Phones 3, 5-8, TIII_003-00145, et seq.) Some of the conversations intercepted by the Government allegedly involve Stewart discussing drug deals with Atkins. (Kays Aff. ¶¶ 89-95, 143-47.)

Stewart was subsequently indicted for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, along with Atkins and several other members of the Atkins organization (collectively, "Defendants"). (Indictment Cts. I, XI, XVI.) Stewart now moves to suppress all recordings and transcripts obtained as a result of the government wiretaps. (Mot.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

18 U.S.C. § 2518 requires that "[e]ach application for an order authorizing or approving the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication . . . shall include . . . a full and complete statement as to whether or not other investigative procedures have been tried and failed or why they reasonably appear to be unlikely to succeed if tried or to be too dangerous." 18 U.S.C. § 2518(c)(1). This has become known as the "necessity requirement," though it "should not be understood as requiring absolute necessity." United States v. Campos, 541 F.3d 735, 746 (7th Cir. 2008). The Government's burden of proving necessity is "not great," and the requirement is "reviewed in a practical and common-sense fashion." Id. (quoting United States v. McLee, 436 F.3d 751, 763 (7th Cir. 2006)). "To receive a wiretap order, the government need not demonstrate that prosecution would be impossible without it or that evidence possibly sufficient for indictment could not conceivably be obtained through other means." McLee, 436 F.3d at 763. Nor does the Government have to demonstrate "'that any other investigative procedures be tried first before an order is issued for the interception of wire communications,' or that a wiretap be used as a last resort." Campos, 541 F.3d at 746 (quoting United States v. Anderson, 542 F.2d 428, 431 (7th Cir. 1976)) (internal citations omitted). Rather, section 2518 "requires only that the success of other methods of investigation appears unlikely or too dangerous." Id. Section 2518 "was not intended to ensure that wiretaps are used only as a last resort in the investigation, but rather that they are 'not . . . be routinely employed as the initial step' in a criminal investigation." McLee, 436 F.3d at 762-63 (quoting United States v. Thompson, 944 F.2d 1331, 1340 (7th Cir. 1991)) (emphasis in original).

III. ANALYSIS

A. The February 2007 Wiretap

Stewart argues that "the government failed to show that normal investigative procedures were either inadequate or too dangerous," and that the Government's explanation for its "failure to utilize proven techniques such as suspect interviews and warranted searches relied on boilerplate generalizations, and did not address the specifics of the instant investigation." (Mot. at 2-3.) The Government argues that its application for the wiretap sets forth with sufficient specificity why a wiretap was necessary to reveal "the full scope of Atkins['] organization or the roles played by other members of the conspiracy." (Resp. at 14, Doc. No. 232.) The court agrees with the Government.*fn1

In the affidavit supporting the Government's application for a wiretap, FBI Agent Michael J. Biegalski explains why "normal investigative procedures" would be insufficient to determine the full scope of the Atkins conspiracy. (See Biegalski Aff. ¶¶ 49-73.)

First, Agent Biegalski avers that the Government's attempts to use physical surveillance were limited by various tactics Defendants used to avoid detection by law enforcement, such as meeting in different public locations, using cell phones to discuss drug deals, employing "runners," and making hand-to-hand transfers in their automobiles. (See id. ¶¶ 51-55.) Defendants also engaged in counter-surveillance by keeping a lookout for unfamiliar cars and requiring customers to call from home after completing a drug transaction to confirm that they had not been intercepted by law enforcement. (See id.) To complicate matters further, Atkins operates a recording studio called "Krunch Tyme Entertainment" as a front through which he launders drug proceeds. (See id.) Because Krunch Tyme operates at least in part as a legitimate business, simply monitoring the comings-and-goings of Atkins' associates offered no clue as to whether their dealings with Atkins were legitimate or illegitimate. (See id.) The Government's inability to determine the full scope of the alleged conspiracy from physical surveillance therefore supports Chief Judge Holderman's determination of necessity. See Campos, 541 F.3d at 747 (holding that limitation on information that could be obtained from physical surveillance, and defendants' counter-surveillance, supported necessity of wiretap); United States v. Price, 418 F.3d 771, 778 (7th Cir. 2005) (holding that defendants' counter-surveillance supported necessity of wiretap).

(Mot. at 1-2.) Because the court finds that the Government's wiretap application satisfies the requirements of 18 U.S.C. ยง 2518, we ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.