In State v. A.T., Palm Beach County Case No.: 11 CF 1935-AXX the Defendant was charged with multiple criminal counts including violation of the Racketeering (RICO) statute; Money Laundering: Conspiracy to Traffic in Controlled Substances, Trafficking in Controlled Substances, Unauthorized Practice of Medicine, and Sale of Steroids, among other charges.
On February 23 2011, members of a joint “task force” consisting of Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement agencies, after an approximately fifteen (15) month ‘undercover operation’, obtained search warrants which entitled them to search the Defendant’s business, his home, his 17th story condominium on the intercoastal waterway, and a warehouse located in western Palm Beach County.
Arguably incriminating evidence was recovered from his home, the warehouse, and the condominium, including, but not limited to, over 2 million dollars in cash, eight vintage cars, including a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Ford GT40, an Audi 8, a new Dodge Challenger, and three (3) additional vehicles.
A.T. handpicked a defense team including Jonathan Jay Kirschner, Robert Gentile, and Peter Gianino, each specialists in differing areas, to represent him in this extremely complex case.
After carefully reviewing the four (4) search warrants, the lawyers concluded that three (3) of them were arguably flawed, and fatally so.
The “exclusionary rule” provides that when law enforcement illegally obtains evidence, that the ‘punishment’ for acting illegally is to “exclude” any and all evidence illegally obtained, from any trial of the Defendant. To invoke, counsel must draft and file a “motion to Suppress” the illegally obtained evidence, and then have an evidentiary (arguably a ‘mini-trial’) on whether or not the evidence was legally or illegally obtained.
In A.T.’s case, the lawyers argued that although law enforcement was able to adequately establish the requisite “probable cause” that would allow a magistrate to issue a search warrant for the business, the other three (3) warrants did not establish a “nexus” (a ‘link’) sufficient enough to allow the judge to issue warrants for those premises.
At the hearing on A.T.’s motion to suppress all of the evidence obtained from the three (3) premises other than the business, the State of Florida vigorously argued that an adequate “nexus” connecting the business to the other premises had been described when law enforcement obtained the warrant from the Judge.
The Judge disagreed.
In a six (6) page Order granting A.T.’s motion to suppress all of the evidence from the three (3) locations other than the situs of his business, the Court succinctly stated:
In this case, each warrant application in question appears to be nothing more than a “cut and paste” copy of each other with changes only as to the address or identity of the property to be searched.
The warrant applications to no more than provide an overview of the entire case, as well as significant details as to the investigation asso- ciated with other locations.
However, each share one thing in common, namely a total lack of any nexus established between the location searched and the alleged crim- inality charged in this case. [emphasis added].
It should have been readily apparent to an officer reviewing these warrants that there was a complete lack of allegations that evidence relevant to the probably criminality was likely to be located at the place searched.
Accordingly, the Defendant’s motion is GRANTED.
With those six (6) words, the Judge ‘threw out’ from the case all of the evidence recovered in the three (3) searches. And even though the State knew that it could appeal the Judge’s order…..it chose not to do so.
The case is not over. The State of Florida claims that it can still successfully prosecute A.T., and that it intends to do so.
What this example illustrates is that a successful defense strategy involves methodical and systematic probing that eventually leads to undermining the State’s theory of the case. At some point in that process, in many instances, the foundation of the State’s theory of prosecution becomes so weak as to become unsustainable.
That is what good Criminal Defense Counsel do.