The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has suppressed evidence from a wiretap that targeted a cocaine ring allegedly headed by Henry Willie Quintana Jr.
Consequently, convictions of Quintana associates Michael Fres-quez and Randy Mondragon, obtained through guilty pleas, probably will be erased, said defense attorneys and prosecutors.The Denver-based appellate court concluded Salt Lake County detectives and prosecutors did not fulfill their legal obligations in obtaining a judge's approval for a wiretap on the Sandy home of Quin-tana's girlfriend, Suzzanna Vil-lar-rell.
The appeals panel said there was no problem with wiretap orders obtained from 3rd District Judge Michael Murphy for the apartment of Quintana's parents and for a car phone listed to Quintana's mother.
Defense attorneys James Gilson and Stephen McCaughey argued that when agents then applied for the Villarrell wiretap in November 1991, they did not fully justify the need.
The 10th Circuit agreed, saying the third wiretap application failed to meet statutory requirements.
"The documents do not refer to any alternate investigating procedures either undertaken or considered by police," the 2-1 decision states in reversing Utah federal Judge J. Thomas Greene.
Fresquez got a 12-month home confinement sentence and Mon-dra-gon received six months in a halfway house and six months' home confinement. Neither served the punishment while the appeal was pending.
As part of their plea bargain, Fresquez and Mondragon testified against Quintana, the only person of the accused 17 ring members to go to trial. The pair stated they obtained cocaine from Quintana for distribution - but denied being part of an organized network.
Quintana's lawyer, Robert Booker, said ruling for Mondragon and Fresquez also bodes well for his client's appeal.
Quintana was convicted in 1993 of 31 drug-trafficking counts and is serving a 20-year sentence.
Some evidence against Quintana was gleaned from the same Vil-lar-rell wiretap, Booker said.
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Schwendiman said that evidence also was garnered from the other wiretaps and from numerous associates who testified against Quintana.