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United States of America v. Ronald Johnson

September 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow


Ronald Johnson is charged with one count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Johnson has moved to quash the search warrant and suppress evidence. For the following reasons, Johnson's motion [#21] will be denied.


I. Application for Search Warrant

On April 12, 2011, Special Agent Paul Matuszczak of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") applied for a warrant to search Unit 310 in the condominium building located at 728 West Jackson Street in Chicago ("Unit 310"). The affidavit requested permission to search Unit 310 for evidence of a conspiracy to possess and distribute a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).

The application begins by describing the circumstances surrounding the arrest of an informant referred to as Individual A. Individual A had been indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute heroin. He was arrested by AFT agents at his apartment on the morning of April 12, 2011. Later that day, the AFT obtained a search warrant for Individual A's apartment. The application and warrant for the search of Individual A's residence was incorporated by reference in Special Agent Matuszczak's affidavit.*fn2

The two warrant applications show that, during a protective sweep of Individual A's apartment, AFT agents observed a substance on a bedroom dresser that appeared to be heroin. Individual A told the agents that the substance was heroin and that it was for his personal use. Individual A also told the agents that he had last used heroin the night before and that he was going to get "sick" in about two hours. Based on their training and experience, the AFT agents understood Individual A to be referring to heroin withdrawal. After Individual A was read his Miranda rights, he told the officers that he had a gun and 100 grams of heroin in his apartment. He gave consent to search the apartment and was then taken to the hospital. AFT agents later recovered 168 grams of a tan substance that tested positive for heroin, plastic baggies, plastic baggies containing a substance that appeared to be heroin, a digital scale, spoons, and two guns from Individual A's apartment.

AFT agents also interviewed Individual B, the spouse of Individual A. Individual B told the agents that Individual A was part of a "crew" of five or six heroin dealers who were also members of the Gangster Disciple gang. Individual B stated that Johnson was the leader of the crew. She stated that Johnson and Individual A had been involved in selling heroin for about twenty years. During the past year, Individual A had obtained heroin from Johnson, which Individual A would then resell. Individual A told his spouse that he and Johnson regularly traveled to downtown Chicago to obtain heroin from "some Mexicans."

Individual B stated that up until a few months ago, her husband and Johnson would "bag" the heroin at their residence. Individual B stated although she was instructed to leave the room when the men started bagging, she often came out of the other room to go to the kitchen. Individual B remembered seeing Johnson and her husband in the kitchen with heroin, guns, and money in October or November 2010. A few months ago, Individual A had told his wife that he and Johnson had begun to bag heroin at Johnson's new residence in Greektown. In his affidavit, Special Agent Matuszczak testified that based on his training and experience, he knew that the residence was located across the highway from the Chicago neighborhood known as Greektown.

At some point on April 12, the AFT agents also conducted a post-Miranda interview with Individual A.*fn3 Individual A stated that he purchased approximately 150 to 200 grams of heroin per week from Johnson and that Johnson provided most of the heroin that he sold. Individual A stated that he purchased the drugs from Johnson at his condo, which was located at Unit 310 in the building at 728 West Jackson Street in Chicago. Individual A's most recent purchase from Johnson had occurred two days prior, on April 10, 2011. He had purchased 200 grams from Johnson at his condo, paying him $6,500 at the time and promising to pay the remaining $6,500 after he sold the heroin. Individual A positively identified Johnson when the agents showed him a photo.

That same day, agents searched for information about Johnson on Westlaw and on the public database Accurant. The databases showed that the registered owner of Unit 310 was Francine Johnson and that Johnson was a person who was "associated" with the address. Special Agent Matuszczak testified that based on his training and experience, "when Accurant lists someone as associated with this address, it can mean a number of things, including that someone has listed a residence as their address on a utility bill, a credit card application, or even a library card."

Special Agent Matuszczak further testified that, according to law enforcement officers with the money laundering unit of the Chicago Police Department, Johnson was currently under investigation for money laundering. The CPD officers who were investigating Johnson had concluded that Francine Johnson, the owner of Unit 310, was Johnson's sister. The officers believed that Francine Johnson did not actually live in Unit 310. They had followed Johnson to and from the building on several occasions, as recently as February 25, 2011. CPD records showed that Johnson had received a parking ticket outside the building in December 2010.

Law enforcement databases showed that Johnson had previously been convicted in 2002 in state court for manufacturing and delivering a controlled substance. Special Agent Matuszczak stated that based on his training and experience, individuals who possess 150-200 grams of heroin are distributing drugs and that ...

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