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State v. Thompson

Supreme Court of South Carolina

February 22, 2017

The State, Respondent,
v.
Alphonso Chaves Thompson, Petitioner.

          Heard December 1, 2016

         Appeal from Spartanburg County J. Derham Cole, Circuit Court Judge Appellate Case No. 2015-002221

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

          Michael Patrick Scott, of Nexsen Pruet, LLC, and Chief Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek, both of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Assistant Attorney General Mark Reynolds Farthing, of Columbia, and Solicitor Barry J. Barnette, of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

          PLEICONES ACTING JUSTICE

         Petitioner Thompson was convicted of trafficking in cocaine in excess of 400 grams, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, and possession with intent to distribute ("PWID") marijuana. He was sentenced to concurrent sentences of twenty-five years' imprisonment, and two terms of five years' imprisonment, respectively.

         At a pre-trial hearing, Thompson challenged the admissibility of the evidence recovered during a search conducted at his parents' home located in Spartanburg County at 120 River Street, [1] arguing the affidavit supporting the search warrant for the property was invalid. The trial judge found the affidavit was sufficient, and denied the motion to suppress the evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed Thompson's convictions and sentences. See State v. Thompson, 413 S.C. 590, 776 S.E.2d 413 (Ct. App. 2015). We granted Thompson's request for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision. Because we find the affidavit supporting the search warrant fails to establish a fair probability that the evidence sought would be found at 120 River Street, we hold the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial judge's denial of the motion to suppress the evidence recovered there.

         FACTS

         Prior to trial, Thompson moved to suppress the evidence seized from 120 River Street. Thompson challenged the search warrant under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article I, § 10 of the South Carolina Constitution, and S.C. Code Ann. § 17-13-140 (2014). Specifically, Thompson argued the affidavit in support of the search warrant was insufficient because it: relied on information that was stale; provided information from informants without any indicia of their reliability or basis of knowledge; and offered defectively unspecific facts as to whether the evidence sought would be found at Thompson's parents' home.

         The affidavit supporting the search warrant for the premises, which was provided to the issuing judge on May 13, 2010, states:

In June of 2007 Investigators from the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office[2] Narcotics Division had two different Confidential Reliable Informants (CRI) give information that they had been buying large amounts of cocaine from a black male that they only knew as "POO BEAR." These two CRI's [sic] stated that several large cocaine transactions took placed [sic] over the course of several months. These CRI's [sic] furnished information that was able to be corroborated such as vehicle descriptions and photo identifications. Both CRI's [sic] stated that they knew POO BEAR to drive a gray in color Honda Accord Station wagon when he would conduct these drug deals. It was learned through this Investigation that "POO BEAR" was positively identified as Alfonso Thompson and he also had an F350 Ford Dually [sic] blue and Gold in color. In August of 2007 the SCSO Narcotics Division arrested Keith Jeter who stated that he was being supplied 4 ½-9 oz. of cocaine at a time from Alfonzo Thompson aka "POO BEAR." Jeter further stated that "POO BEAR" would bring the cocaine to his residence on Huxley St. in Spartanburg City. In September of 2008 the SCSO Narcotics Division interviewed a [sic] individual named Fred Meadows who stated that he was being supplied cocaine from "POO BEAR" and that "POO BEAR" drove a blue and gold Ford F-350 Dually [sic]. Meadows further stated that he grew up with "POO BEAR" in the city and has known him for a long time. Meadows stated that "POO BEAR" would deliver the cocaine to his house on Virginia St. in the city of Spartanburg. Also in late 2008 Spartanburg City Police Narcotics had an informant who came forward and stated the [sic] "POO BEAR" had a residence at the end of River St. on the left hand side and that "POO BEAR" was a large scale cocaine Trafficker [sic]. In January of 2009 the Spartanburg County Narcotics Division had two more different CRI's that came forward and stated that they had purchased 18 ounces of cocaine from "POO BEAR." They identified Alfonzo Thompson in a photo lineup as being the "POO BEAR" that they had dealt with. These two CRI's also confirmed that "POO BEAR" had an F-350 Ford Dually [sic] and it was Blue and Gold in color. On February 11, 2009 The [sic] Spartanburg County Narcotics Division arrested Jose Luis Diaz-Arroyo with a kilo of cocaine. During the interview with Arroyo he stated that his brother in law Alejandro Sosa Galvan was supplying a black male named "POO BEAR." Arroyo further stated that Sosa Galvan had multiple Kilos of cocaine delivered to "POO BEAR" at this River St. address on several different occasions. On July 30, 2009 a fifth CRI stated he was being supplied by a Deangelo Young aka "LITTLE MAN" and that Young was getting his cocaine from his cousin "POO BEAR." This CRI made a controlled buy from "LITTLE MAN" by taking him $4000 in Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office recorded funds. "LITTLE MAN" left the buy location and was followed to 1868 Tamara Way where he met with "POO BEAR" (THOMPSON). Thompson was driving a white in color Honda Civic Sc [sic] tag []. This Civic is registered to a Pamela D. Jones of 1868 Tamara Way. Pamela Jones is a known girlfriend of "POO BEAR." "LITTLE MAN" left "POO BEAR" and met with the CRI at the buy location where he turned over 4 ounces of Cocaine to him.
Over the past 6 months the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Division has conducted surveillance on 120 River St. and on several occasions has seen Thompson driving different vehicles to include the Ford F-350 Dually [sic] blue and gold in color and the white in color Honda Civic to and from this location. Investigators have also seen the gray in color Honda Accord station wagon come and go from this residence.
Over the past 6 months Investigators have witnessed Thompson visit this 120 River St. address just before making cocaine ...

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