Federal Court Blasts Lying Cop Using His Warrantless Search Of A Room To Fraudulently Obtain A Search Warrant

from the I-didn't-have-probable-cause-for-a-search-until-after-I-searched dept

It's not often you see a court actually call a police officer a liar, but it happened in this case [PDF], via FourthAmendment.com. While investigating a murder, Puerto Rico PD Homicide Division Agent Pedro Medina-Negron performed a sweep of the house to ensure there were no more victims or dangerous perpetrators inside.

While performing his sweep of the scene, Agent Medina claimed to have seen several things in plain view:

He described seeing raw rice on the floor, a gun magazine on top of the dresser, a large amount of cash in a gray bag on the floor, and bags of rubber bands, boxes of ziplock bags, and empty instant coffee packets on the bed. He also described finding a large quantity of rice in plain view in the kitchen trashcan. Agent Medina explained that rice and coffee are often used to conceal the smell of drugs and that the size of the coffee packets he observed—approximately one pound bags—matched his professional experience with the size of coffee bags used in drug trafficking. He also noted that, in his experience, ziplock bags, rubber bands, firearms, and cash are associated with drug trafficking. He confirmed with defendants that they did not have gun permits.

Building from his supposed "plain view" observations, Agent Medina called in a drug dog to perform a search of the room. It alerted on a suitcase in the closet and officers discovered two guns in the closet after moving clothing to get to the suitcase. Medina then applied for a search warrant to search the home and open the suitcase, establishing probable cause with all the stuff he claimed he saw in plain sight when he performed the sweep. Eight hours after his first "observations," Medina obtained a search warrant. This search turned up a large quantity of drugs and cash.

The search was challenged by the defendants, who were pretty sure everything Medina claimed to have seen in plain sight wasn't actually out in the open. Utilizing the metadata from the ~600 photos the PD's forensic team took of the house during their murder investigation, the defendants exposed Agent Medina for the liar he is.

This is only one of Medina's many lies, undercut by the forensic team's photos of the crime scene.

Although Agent Medina asserted in his sworn statement and evidentiary hearing testimony that he saw the grey bag of cash in plain view, he later testified to the opposite. He stated on cross‐examination that he did not see the grey bag during his protective sweep. Rather, Agent Medina testified that the forensics officers alerted him to the bag while they were “working the room,” a phrase he clarified meant “searching.” According to a 4:54 p.m. photograph, officers found the bag on the bedroom floor, wedged between the wall and a large armchair and obscured by a floor‐length curtain. The bag appears to be a small, nylon, reusable grocery tote. In a photograph taken at 5:29 p.m., the armchair had been pushed away from the wall, better revealing the gray bag, which was tied shut. Its contents were concealed. By 5:37 p.m., investigators had moved the gray bag onto a countertop and placed a yellow evidence tag next to it. The bag is still closed in that photo, but the photograph taken one minute later shows the bag open. Inside the bag is a roll of cash and what appears to be a brown paper bag containing a rectangular object. Agent Medina confirmed that he had to open the bag to ascertain its contents and he admitted that he opened the bag before obtaining a search warrant. Evidence on record shows that all cash had been seized, counted, displayed and a picture taken by 7:31 p.m.; hours prior to the request and issuance of the search warrant.

Photographs further proved Medina was lying about the gun magazine he claimed to have seen in plain sight, along with the coffee bags and rice he said he saw out in the open. Here's the court being a bit more polite about Medina's inability to tell the truth.

Agent Medina’s testimony about the items found in the locked bedroom is rather remarkable. He admitted he did not see the grey bag in his safety sweep and that its incriminating contents were also not in plain view. He testified that forensics found the bag around 4:54 p.m. while “searching” the locked room. And he affirmed that he opened the bag before obtaining the search warrant, so he could rely on its contents in support of his warrant application. He swore in the search warrant application that he observed a “large sum of money,” which is clearly refuted by the photographs and now by his testimony on cross‐examination.

Every search performed by Puerto Rican law enforcement officers at the scene was tainted.

According to Agent Médina, the entire house was clear when he found the gun magazine on the dresser, coffee on the bed, and the grey bag of money behind the chair. The metadata on the photographs indicate that the government’s search occurred several hours after Agent Medina arrived on the scene, after the home was secured, took several hours, and was not limited to places where a person may be hiding, such as, e.g., inside a small reusable bag.

[...]

The government offers no other justification for the warrantless search of the bedroom and the Court finds none. The government’s rummaging in the locked bedroom, moving furniture, clothing, blankets, and draperies and opening cabinets and drawers, violated the defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The court adds this rebuke to the Puerto Rican PD's assertions, as well as to any others who believe all Constitutional bets are off if the crime is severe enough:

The Supreme Court has definitively rejected this argument, holding that there is no “murder scene exception” to the Fourth Amendment.

After blasting the PD as a whole, the court focuses again on Agent Medina. This is one of the most thorough benchslappings I've read, one that says the court thinks Medina is a habitual liar who should not be allowed to wear a badge.

[T]he Court admonishes Agent Medina’s flagrant dishonesty before this Court and the court issuing the search warrant. Indeed, the Court considers his behavior sufficiently egregious to warrant a perjury and/or obstruction of justice investigation. The Court has no means to determine if this is the first time that Agent Medina lied to this Court. However, as it relates to this case, he blatantly lied to the state judiciary while submitting a sworn statement with firsthand information he clearly knew to be false. Secondly, he appeared in federal court and after taking an oath to testify truthfully, he once again testified falsely. Agent Medina’s behavior and testimony may be suggestive of a routinary practice as a law enforcement officer to lie under oath and mischaracterize evidence to serve his investigatory purposes. If so, Agent Medina’s disregard of constitutional rights and basic rules of criminal procedure and investigation, poses a threat to individual’s rights and to the community he purports to serve and needs to be addressed and investigated.

Everything Medina claimed to have seen with his own eyes out in the open is suppressed. So is everything else discovered during the warrantless searches of the house and the minimal amount of rummaging that occurred after the warrant finally showed up eight hours after Medina did. All the drugs. All the guns. Everything. And all because one officer, who was already on a murder scene, lied about his "plain view" discoveries to fraudulently obtain a warrant.

Filed Under: 4th amendment, pedro media-negron, police, puerto rico, puerto rico police department, warrantless search


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Mar 2020 @ 8:01pm

    Time to break out the cloning machine again...

    A judge that is not only willing to toss tainted evidence but rip into the corrupt cop who lied to get it, to the point that they note that an investigation into perjury and/or obstruction of justice would be merited? Yes, yes that will do quite nicely.

    Of course the real (rhetorical sadly) question is, having been called out as the liar that they are, and costing the department an easy win, what will the department do now? Pretend nothing happened, conduct an internal investigation that will find nothing worth a punishment occurred, or throw the corrupt cop who made the cardinal sin of getting caught under the bus in the hopes that people will accept whatever laughable punishment they hand out and not look any deeper into how corrupt the rest of them are?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 24 Mar 2020 @ 12:34am

      Re: Time to break out the cloning machine again...

      What will the department do now? Most likely, give the officers some training in how to do parallel construction right.

      Also known as, "The first part of the search was recorded on an SD card that accidentally got stepped on, set afire, and dropped in the sink grinder. Oops."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2020 @ 6:16am

      Re: Time to break out the cloning machine again...

      Maybe we really need judges literally blasting crooked cops. Maybe that would change a few things for the better in this country.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 23 Mar 2020 @ 8:37pm

    Eden: Definition; A place where the police are held to the same standard of conduct as everyone else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2020 @ 9:07pm

      Re:

      All you need is for there to actually be people watching the watchers. Once this fails to happen through a version of regulatory capture, you have the current system.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 23 Mar 2020 @ 9:14pm

    I wouldn't say his conduct merited a perjury and/or obstruction of justice investigation. I'd say it merited perjury and/or obstruction of justice investigation charges. The evidence is right there in the court records, clear as day. I'd bind him over for trial, and hand prosecution over to the public defender's office. I'd bet they'd love a chance to rip that officer apart.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2020 @ 10:04pm

      Re:

      Well, you’re a judge mental asshole.

      You should get down on your knees and kiss the dirty leather boots of the next police officer you encounter.

      Or face more demeaning and disgusting consequences.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 23 Mar 2020 @ 10:42pm

      Re:

      Oh an investigation is still warranted to get everything confirmed and lined up for bringing charges, it would just be the quickest investigation ever assuming those running it weren't also corrupt, given the court transcripts nicely prove both charges.

      Did they lie under oath? Yes, the transcripts confirm that.

      Did they do so in a manner that was likely to impact a case? Also yes.

      Investigation done, time to break out the charges.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      dadtaxi, 24 Mar 2020 @ 2:15am

      Re: charges

      I always thought the process normally went: Probable cause - arrest - investigation - charges

      There's more than enough probable cause for an arrest even if they think they require an investigation in order to lay charges.

      Obviously the law and process fundamentally change if it's a cop (/s obviously)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Patrick Jackson, 25 Mar 2020 @ 8:58am

      Re:

      Yes they’re going to try to rip him apart because he’s Puerto Rican because if he was lily white they’d be saying that no wrongdoing was done;but the cop who lied 🤥 about Lamar Wright was resisting and being combative even though video taped footage shows that he clearly had lied 🤥,no disciplinary actions were put upon him and then the lawsuit that Lamar Wright levied against the cops were dismissed even though the cops were caught lying.The shitstem has its picks and chooses to who they want to go after and I don’t give a damn who don’t agree because if y’all don’t agree y’all are just simply not allowing honesty to be a top priority on y’all’s list.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 7:17am

        Re: Re:

        "Yes they’re going to try to rip him apart because he’s Puerto Rican..."

        Not quite fair. A cop will always have the back of other cops. Even if they're brown.

        As long as they're being sufficiently "white" to realize civilians don't have any business Being Brown In Public.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daari, 23 Mar 2020 @ 10:47pm

    I find this story confusing,

    Police are caught perjuring themselves in court under oath all the time and judges and prosecutors routinely make excuses for their perjury and cover it up so the jury doesn't know about it during the trial. I wonder what this cop did to this particular judge that made him so angry that he would take the extremely unusual step of publicly criticizing a police officer for something as routine as breaking the law?

    Oh well, now that police officer will need to pay for his crime, and by that I mean the tax payers will need to pay up. Do we know how many days of paid vacation this police officer got as punishment before going back to work with a pat on the back from his boss?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2020 @ 12:10am

      Re:

      And a promotion and a raise, I would fully endorse both for this poor suffering victim of the socialistist justice system. Socialist justice is mainly comprised of phony pony assholes like you, and I think he has endured enough abuse. Raise and a promotion, that’s my recommendation. And btw, go fuck your public unrest encouraging socialist idiot assholeness.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 24 Mar 2020 @ 12:47am

        Cool, cool, you have no problem with police violating the Fourth Amendment. You…you do realize the Fourth protects you, right? Or do you not care if cops go full fascist and break into your home to beat you up because they can?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2020 @ 5:30am

        Re: Re:

        Socialist this, socialist that. Socialist, socialist, socialist.

        Seriously, learn a new fucking word.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2020 @ 7:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Every time he says "phony pony" I picture a grotesquely obese moron in diapers sitting on the floor whining about having dropped his ice cream cone. I find his posts amusing but not for the reason he intends.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2020 @ 6:20am

        Re: Re:

        Socialistist.. is that even a word?!!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Patrick Jackson, 25 Mar 2020 @ 9:01am

      Re:

      My point exactly,but the only reason why they’re going after this one is because of the skin he’s in.😡😎

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 24 Mar 2020 @ 3:34am

    Like criminals...

    The only cops who get caught are the stupid and/or lazy ones. It was a murder scene. A warrant will be issued regardless of what other stuff you find beforehand. If you're a lazy-ass and don't want to extend your shift to wait for the warrant, you pull bullshit like this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 24 Mar 2020 @ 9:46am

    Can somebody in LE explain to me again about how one bad apple isn't such a big deal?

    If police had peer accountability from fellow officers and supervisors, instead of after-the-fact in the form of IA investigations or wrist slaps, vacations and reemployment at the behest of police unions, we might actually get somewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    reader50 (profile), 24 Mar 2020 @ 11:22am

    After suppression orders like this one, are the seized items actually returned?
    Money - i assume 'yes', after separate suit.
    Guns - should be 'yes', but not sure.
    Drugs - ???

    If everything is not returned, then corrupt cops still benefit. They could even designate one officer as the 'bad boy' who does all the improper seizures. The evidence gets excluded, the court reprimands the Bad Boy each time - but the department still gets drugs/guns/money. Net win for cops, net loss for rule of law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Mar 2020 @ 3:51pm

      Re:

      I'm not following. I mean what use could corrupt cops possibly have for a bunch of drugs, it's not like there are any examples out there of cops trying to sell drugs or anything, so what good are a bunch of drugs going to do them such that they'd concoct a scheme like that?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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