WIRETAP IN TAMPA BAY RICO DRUG TRAFFICKING PROSECUTION THROWN OUT, SIGNIFICANT APPELLATE VICTORY
Narcotics detectives from the Tampa Police Department had long cultivated a clandestine wiretap operation on several individuals suspected of drug trafficking and being members of a large scale RICO conspiracy in the Tampa Bay area. Nicholas G. Matassini has been litigating the case, both in the trial court and the court of appeals, for 8 years now and is again victorious in his third straight appellate victory over the prosecution.
The latest interlocutory appeal originated from the Hillsborough County trial court granting a motion to suppress the wiretap filed by Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer Nicholas G. Matassini in State of Florida v. Jonathan Fernandez, et al 10-CF-9043. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling of the trial court Per Curiam on May 25, 2018 in State of Florida v. Jonathan Fernandez, 2D17-2435. The wiretap has now been officially suppressed in this major Tampa drug trafficking prosecution (barring any last minute Hail Mary by the prosecution seeking an unlikely rehearing). The remaining evidence (snitch testimony) is sparse and lacks credibility.
In the recent appeal Matassini argued that the trial court correctly concluded that his client’s communications were unlawfully intercepted and that the approval of the wiretap application was based on an application to the magistrate that was fundamentally defective and therefore legally insufficient. Specifically, Matassini argued that the trial court correctly concluded that the wiretap application failed to meet the specific requirements of Fla. Stat. 934.09(1)(c) by, inter alia, failing to provide an independent statement of facts regarding investigative techniques used as it related to Jonathan Fernandez.
In this case the cops were lazy and tried to again get away with what they have become accustomed to doing for years – using boilerplate language from the original wiretap application of a different suspect to establish that other investigative procedures were not feasible for this particular suspect (Matassini’s client) in violation of Fla. Stat. 934.09(1)(c).
Matassini successfully argued that the application supplement for his client attempted to incorporate the prior wiretap application used to obtain a wiretap of another suspect’s phone – a totally different person. However, of critical significance in this case is that the Fernandez wiretap application provided no independent statement of facts regarding any investigative techniques used as it related to him specifically. To put it simply – the cops didn’t even try other investigative procedures (like informants, knock & talk, trash pulls, etc), they just went straight to an additional wiretap. This error was fatal to the legality of the wiretap application and that is why the wiretap has now been suppressed from any criminal trial in this matter. More litigation in the case is expected on a motion to suppress derivative evidence obtained as fruit of the poisonous tree.
The Florida wiretap rules are explicit and have been around a long time. When the cops don’t follow these rules and infringe upon Fourth Amendment protections, a wiretap can be suppressed in a criminal prosecution. This case is, therefore, an excellent example of how cops can routinely cut corners in drug trafficking prosecutions by failing to follow well established statutory rules.
Contact Nicholas G. Matassini, a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer, for a free confidential consultation regarding your State or Federal motion to suppress evidence. Since 1976 The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. has provided comprehensive representation in State and Federal criminal investigations, including post-conviction and appellate litigation.
Visit us at www.matassinilaw.com.