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United States v. Veal

July 3, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
SAMUEL VEAL A/K/A ICE SAMUEL VEAL, APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Criminal Action No. 03-cr-00709-1) District Judge: Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambro, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) March 8, 2006

Before: AMBRO and STAPLETON, Circuit Judges,and STAGG,*fn1 District Judge

OPINION OF THE COURT

Samual Veal appeals from a judgment and sentence entered by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. After the District Court denied his motion to suppress evidence, Veal entered a conditional guilty plea reserving his right to challenge the adverse suppression decision. Veal now challenges the denial of his motion, arguing that the police did not have probable cause to believe that he was located and residing at the residence of his wife; thus his arrest inside that residence was unlawful and the evidence seized cannot be used against him. For the reasons set out below, we affirm the judgment of the District Court.*fn2

I.

In January 2003, two Philadelphia detectives were interviewing the nephew of a murder victim as part of a homicide investigation. The nephew stated that he had been selling drugs supplied by Samuel Veal, and he owed Veal money for drugs. The nephew also gave the detectives a description of Veal's car. When the detectives ran a background check on Veal, they discovered he had two open arrest warrants issued in 2002 -- one for, inter alia, attempted murder and aggravated assault, and one for a parole violation.

The parole violator warrant was issued by Veal's parole officer, Jerome Coleman, when Coleman learned that Veal was no longer residing with his mother as required by the conditions of his parole. The parole warrant identified Veal's wife, Tina Veal, as a possible lead. On January 6, 2003, the Philadelphia detectives called the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("PBPP") to determine if the parole warrant was still valid. PBPP confirmed the validity of the warrant and informed the detectives that Veal no longer resided with his mother. Later that same day the detectives visited several addresses provided by the murder victim's nephew, the PBPP, and police files, in an effort to find Veal. On January 7, 2003, they were able to speak with the owner of a building at one of the addresses, who informed them that Tina and Samuel Veal had previously rented that property but had since moved.

The detectives next conducted a check of Philadelphia Housing Authority records, and discovered that Tina Veal was listed as living at 1848 South Conestoga Street. The detectives went to that address between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. on January 8, 2003, and observed a vehicle, described by the nephew of the murder victim as Veal's, parked near the house. A check of the vehicle's registration showed it was registered to Tina Veal. The detectives then prepared a report for the Police Department's Homicide Fugitive Squad that stated, inter alia, Veal was wanted on a parole violation and an arrest warrant, and that he was living at 1848 South Conestoga Street. The report requested the Fugitive Squad to make an early morning arrest at that address.

The detectives' report was picked up later that morning by Michael Walter, a member of the Fugitive Squad. At 6:00 a.m., accompanied by two other detectives and uniformed police officers, Walter went to 1848 South Conestoga Street. He confirmed that the vehicle described by the nephew was still in the driveway, and banged on the door of the house. After the officers identified themselves as police and stated they were there to serve a warrant on Veal, Tina Veal opened the door and admitted the officers into the residence.*fn3 She claimed Veal was not there. However, the officers heard noises from the second floor of the home and went upstairs, where they found Veal under a bed. After Veal requested help in getting out from underneath the bed, Walter lifted it up and Veal, bearing a pistol in each hand, pointed them at Walter and another detective. Walter slammed the bed back down on Veal. This began approximately forty minutes of negotiation that led to Veal's surrender and arrest. The officers thereafter seized evidence from the bedroom, including the two handguns wielded by him.

Veal was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He moved to suppress all evidence that was seized by police following the arrest, including the two handguns. The District Court held a suppression hearing and denied the motion. Veal then entered a conditional plea of guilty, reserving his right to challenge the denial of his suppression motion, and was sentenced to 120 months in prison. He filed a timely notice of appeal.

II.

Veal argues that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy while in his wife's residence in which he was arrested, and the police did not have probable cause to believe he was residing at and present in the residence.*fn4 We review the denial of a motion to suppress for clear error as to the underlying factual determinations and exercise plenary review over the application of the law to those facts. United States v. Lockett, 406 F.3d 207, 211 (3d Cir. ...


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