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USA v. Victor Goodwin, et al., 06-3057.  A jury convicted Victor Goodwin, Leo Brown, Jr., Timothy Doerr, and Jermal Phillips of multiple counts of drug trafficking and other related offenses stemming from a multi-state conspiracy. Following their convictions, the four defendants filed a consolidated appeal challenging various aspects of their respective convictions and sentences. We affirm.

On April 29 and May 27, 2004, the district court authorized the electronic wire surveillance of two telephones used by Michael Hardiman and a second individual. During the course of the electronic telephone wire surveillance, law enforcement authorities intercepted numerous conversations involving the Appellants, which detailed their distribution of cocaine base and cocaine.

On appeal, the Appellants first collectively challenge the district court’s orders of April 29, 2004, and May 27, 2004, that authorized and then re-authorized electronic telephone wire surveillance on certain members of the conspiracy.

Specifically, the Appellants argue that it was unnecessary for the government to use electronic telephone wire surveillance in its investigation of the conspiracy because the continued use of confidential informants would have been more than sufficient to expose the entirety of the criminal activity and enterprise.

This court reviews a district court’s decision regarding the necessity of electronic telephone wire surveillance for abuse of discretion, “giving substantial deference to the determination of the issuing judge.” United States v. Zambrana, 841 F.2d 1320, 1329-30 (7th Cir. 1988).

While probable cause is all that is needed for the government to obtain a search warrant, to obtain a warrant for electronic telephone wire surveillance under 18 U.S.C. § 2518(1)(c), the government must demonstrate a factual basis for its ” ‘statement as to whether or not other investigative procedures have been tried and failed or why they reasonably appear to be unlikely to succeed if tried or to be too dangerous.’ ” Zambrana, 841 F.2d at 1329 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 2518(1)(c)). “In this circuit, we will affirm a district court’s finding that normal investigative procedures [were] unlikely to be successful . . . [as long as] there exist[ed] a factual predicate in the affidavit.” Id. at 1330

Here, the government’s original forty-two-page affidavit in support of its application, and its sixty-four-page affidavit in support of its re-application, reasonably explained why the continued use of confidential informants would not accomplish the goals of the investigation and why a new method of surveillance was necessary. The government’s affidavits also stated that, while the government initially had success using confidential informants, that technique likely would yield limited future results because of the informants’ reluctance to testify, their inability to identify suppliers within the organization outside of Evansville, their inability to identify all of the local distributors within the organization, and their lack of information concerning locations used by the organization to store drugs outside of Evansville. Finally, the govern-government’s affidavits stated that information gleaned from the electronic telephone wire surveillance could be used to recruit future confidential informants who subsequently could be used instead of relying on future electronic surveillance.

Based upon the information contained in the government’s affidavit-the validity of which the Appellants have not challenged-we find that the district court did not abuse its discretion in authorizing the electronic telephone wire surveillance, which was necessary for the government’s investigation.


For the full opinions visit the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Web Site.

For more about attorney Michael J. Petro, visit