When the Court’s decision came out, I jumped in my car and raced with my co-counsel to go see Phillips. I knew we would likely be the first one to break the news to him. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally brought Phillips into the visitation room.
It was an unexpected visit and Phillips was surprised to see the look of anticipation on my face. Without even saying hello, I held up the Court’s decision and yelled, “WE WON THE MOTION!”
Not wanting to get too excited, he asked “We won the motion? What motion!?”
I said, “WE WON THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS. YOUR CONVICTION IS OVERTURNED!!!”
Phillips, in disbelief: “We WON the Motion to Suppress!?”
Me: “YES! LIFE SENTENCE IS OFF THE TABLE!!!”
Phillips: “WOOO! We Won the Motion to Suppress!!!”
It was the culmination of one of the hardest fought cases in my career.
Phillips was accused of sending three pounds of methamphetamine from California to Louisiana through a UPS Store. But it turned out that the Government had been paying the UPS store owner to find and search packages for them without a warrant. This was a not so subtle attempt to get around the Fourth Amendment’s protection against warrantless seizures by the Government.
Upon investigating the case, we learned that there was even a written contract between the law enforcement and the store owner to help them find drug packages. The California sheriff’s deputies initially attempted to deny the full extent of their relationship and their knowledge that packages were being opened without a warrant.
But in later testimony, the store owner stated without reservation that she was opening all of the suspected drug packages that came through her store for the past decade, without a warrant, and that law enforcement knew about it all of this. Later testimony from the sheriff’s office deputies admitted that they did in fact know about the warrantless opening of packages and that they continued to work with and pay the store owner for her work on their behalf.
After a series of heavily litigated battles before, during, and after trial, we finally prevailed for our client. The court agreed with us that this case was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of illegal searches and seizures.
Before the Court’s ruling, Phillips was days away from receiving an automatic life sentence having lost at trial with prior convictions on his record. Yet as a result of the Court’s ruling that burden was lifted. Phillips’ conviction was vacated.
Currently, we are waiting to see if the Government will appeal the judge’s ruling or if they will drop the case entirely against Phillips.