U.S. v. Corey Golson, PICS Case No. 14-0289 (3d Cir. Feb. 11, 2014) Greenaway, J. (22 pages).

Defendant-Appellant Corey Golson appealed the district court ruling upholding the search warrant and requested the parcel contents be suppressed. The appellate court affirmed the district court holdings.

On July 21, 2010, a postal inspector at the Phoenix branch of the United States Postal Inspection Service intercepted a parcel on suspicion of narcotics trafficking based on the return address being fictitious and non-deliverable. Phoenix contacted postal inspector Joseph Corrado of Harrisburg, PA whom agreed to investigate upon receipt of the parcel. Corrado enlisted the assistance of the state police to provide a database check on the parcel recipient as well as provide a trained narcotics canine. Corrado than sought out the U.S. Attorney’s Office who applied for a search warrant. A search warrant was issued for the parcel, which contained approximately twenty pounds of marijuana.

The parcel was reconstructed and equipped with GPS capability. The Pennsylvania State Troopers assisted with surveillance and intelligence as well as obtaining an anticipatory warrant to expedite delivery of the parcel and search of the residence upon delivery. A disguised postal inspector delivered the package to the alias “Derek Brown” to whom Golson’s son claimed identity. When the GPS indicated the parcel was opened, state and federal agents entered the residence and arrested the members of the residence, including Golson.

Golson entered a plea of not guilty on a three-count indictment and filed a motion to suppress the seizure of evidence allegedly obtained through two separate Fourth Amendment violations. The motion was denied and Golson entered a conditional guilty plea reserving his right to appeal.

Golson requested appeal on two issues: (1) violations of Rule 41(b) which mandated either a federal judge or a judge of state court of record issue a warrant in a federal prosecution, and (2) suppression of evidence following prolonged retention of the parcel. USA opposed, arguing that the magistrate was a judge of a state court of record.

The appellate court affirmed the district court’s ruling and found that the anticipatory warrant was issued pursuant to an investigation under state law, which was therefore not governed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Based on the facts, the court held the anticipatory warrant was issued upon a state trooper’s application, for a violation of Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substance, Drug Device and Cosmetic Act, 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. §480-113, championed by a state trooper, and evidence placed into the custody of state police. Further the court affirmed the district court holding the probable cause existed for the warrant. Despite the warrant failing to indicate the parcel was replaced with non-marijuana products, the warrant would have been issued had such disclosure occurred. Further, the court found that a “triggering event” was not needed for the warrant to be valid as there was probable cause that additional controlled substances would be present based on the contents of the parcel and the parcel would be delivered. Finally the court affirmed the district court holding that a four-day seizure of the parcel pending a warrant was reasonable as there was reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, an investigation was required and there was a prior scheduled leave of the investigating officer. The court affirmed the district court’s denial of Golson’s motion to suppress.