Sunday, December 22, 2013

United States v. Tzannos case brief

United States v. Tzannos case brief summary
460 F.3d 128 (1st Cir. 2006)

Defendant was indicted on charges of violating 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(1), which prohibited possession of firearms by convicted felons. The government appealed from the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which suppressed evidence, seized pursuant to a state court warrant, based on defendant's allegations that the affidavit by a state trooper in support of the warrant application contained material misrepresentations.

The affiant asserted that he knew defendant was involved in the bookmaking business from past investigations coupled with intelligence from informants, including the confidential informant central to the motion to suppress. In essence, defendant argued, the affidavit referred to a confidential informant who did not exist.


  • On appeal, the court reviewed de novo the district court's ultimate decision and reversed the suppression order. 
  • Defendant failed to show that the affiant made a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth. 
  • The court also evaluated the procedure used at the Franks hearing and ruled that the district court abused its discretion when it refused to hear, ex parte and in camera, the government's explanation of why that procedure was flawed.
  • The district court in essence shifted the burden of proof to the government: short of proving the confidential informant's existence, there was no way to disprove defendant's allegations. 
  • The court determined that the district court's position effectively eliminated the government's privilege under Roviaro v. United States to protect the identity of confidential informants.

The court reversed the district court's order suppressing the evidence and remanded the case with instructions to deny the motion to suppress.

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