United States v. Ojeda Rios

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Ojeda Rios
LOCATION: Doby’s Motel Court

DOCKET NO.: 89-61
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 495 US 257 (1990)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1990
DECIDED: Apr 30, 1990

ADVOCATES:
Richard A. Reeve - on behalf of the Respondents
William C. Bryson - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Ojeda Rios

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1990 in United States v. Ojeda Rios

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 89-61, United States against Filiberto Ojeda Rios.

Mr. Bryson.

William C. Bryson:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case involves the federal wiretapping statute, and in particular, the provision of that statute that deals with the requirement that at the termination of interceptions or extensions thereof, a judge must seal the wiretap... the products of the wiretap or oral interceptions.

I'll use the term "wiretap", if I may, just as a shorthand to cover both wiretaps and oral interceptions.

The case arose from a lengthy 16-month wiretap investigation in Puerto Rico, where a total of about a thousand, somewhat in excess of a thousand, tapes were generated in the course of the investigation.

When the prosecution was initiated in Connecticut, the defendants moved to suppress the wiretap evidence on a large number of grounds.

The district court denied the vast bulk of those grounds, but granted the suppression motion in part with respect to two groups of tapes on one ground.

And that ground was that the tapes with... those two sets of tapes had not been sealed quickly enough after the termination of the interceptions and the extensions, as the district court construed the term 2518(8)(a) of the wiretap statute.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Bryson, the offense occurred in 1983?

William C. Bryson:

That's right, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And has the defendant ever been brought to trial?

William C. Bryson:

Well, a number of the defendants have been brought to trial.

The ones who are before the Court here are the ones that were severed out at the time of the... or following the loss of the evidence from suppression because these were the defendants as to whom that evidence was deemed to be essential.

There were a number of other defendants who have already been tried and most of them have been convicted.

One was acquitted.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

But, at least, Mr. Ojeda Rios has never been tried?

William C. Bryson:

That's right.

He... he remains at large--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And you... you take the position that the Speedy Trial Act does not preclude trial at this junction?

William C. Bryson:

--Oh, that's right, Your Honor, because we have... there has been ongoing litigation on this issue ever since.

There's never been a point in which nothing was going on.

In fact, this case has had an enormous amount of activity all the way through.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The statutory provision under which the exclusion was made says basically that the presence of the seal--

William C. Bryson:

That's right.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--provided for by this subsection.

That's the language used.

William C. Bryson:

That's right.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Doesn't that phrase have the effect of incorporating the timing requirement provided for in this subsection?

William C. Bryson:

We don't think so, Your Honor.