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Evidence properly admitted under independent source doctrine

December 14, 2011

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found no plain error in a District Court’s decision to admit evidence of a telephone number on a defendant’s cell phone in 2007 at the man’s trial several years later.

In United States of America v. Andre Moody, No. 10-3924, Andre Moody was arrested in 2007 and convicted of possession of methamphetamine and given probation. At that time, a search of phone numbers in Moody’s phone included one in the memory as “G.” Nothing further was done with this information. Two years later, Moody was arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and distribution of five grams or more of methamphetamine. At this time, police were able to determine that the telephone number of “G” belonged to Gonzalo Gutierrez, who provided Moody with methamphetamine. Gutierrez was also arrested the same day as Moody and money found on Gutierrez matched the currency a confidential informant had delivered to Moody earlier that day for drugs.

Moody never sought to suppress the cell phone evidence prior to trial and didn’t object at trial to its admission, so the 7th Circuit reviewed the admission for plain error. Moody claimed the evidence was the fruit on an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment and that because the cell phone evidence was key to the government’s case that he was involved in a large methamphetamine distribution conspiracy, all evidence derived from that initial illegal search should be suppressed and his conviction overturned.

“We decline to consider the legality of Detective Rogers’s search of Moody’s cell phone because … even if we were to question the legality of the search, the evidence recovered in the initial search was ignored until later discovered by an independent source — the subpoenaed cell phone records — over two years after the initial search, thus freeing it from any taint that would require its exclusion at trial,” wrote Judge Daniel Manion.

 

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