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Court Determines if Delay between Incident and Arrest was Appropriate


The defendant in this case, Richard Connor, is appealing a judgment made by the Supreme Court of Suffolk County. The judgment convicted the appellant of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree. The appeal brings up issues of denial of the defendant’s omnibus motion that was to dismiss the indictment and to suppress identification testimony. This case is being heard in the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department.

Case Background

In June of 1984, in response to numerous complaints made by residents in the Wyandanch, Long Island, area that the community was becoming an open drug market, an undercover operation was conducted by the Suffolk County Police.

An undercover police officer was sent to the area and during the investigation made numerous purchases of illegal drugs with the help of several confidential informants. The operation ended in January of 1985 and seventeen arrests were made. One of these arrests was the defendant Richard Connor, who was a New York City Department of Corrections Officer assigned to C-95 on Rikers Island. On the third of June in 1984, the defendant sold 425 worth of cocaine (cocaine possession) to an undercover agent outside of a bar located in Wyandanch. This transaction took place in front of a confidential informant.

After the defendant was arrested he moved to have the case against him dismissed on the ground that a seven month delay between the time the crime occurred and his arrest deprived him of his constitutional right to due process of the law. He claimed that he had been prejudiced in his ability to defend himself due to the fact that his memory of the night in question had faded. Additionally, the defendant claimed that the bar where the transaction took place had closed, which made it difficult for him to find any other potential witnesses.

A hearing was granted and during the hearing the officer testified that it was necessary to delay the arrest until the entire investigation was completed because in a small town like Wyandanch, it was extremely likely that the dealers and informants would be known to each other and arresting anyone would risk the operation and potentially endanger the lives of the informants.

Court Discussion and Decision

The conclusion made by the hearing court was that the seven month delay between the incident and the drug possession arrest was necessary and not an unreasonable amount of time. The delay was not taken for any improper purpose, but rather in good faith in regard to the investigation. There was no demonstrated prejudice against the defendant and in fact both the defendant and the witnesses were able to testify in detail about their activities on the date in question.

The motion to have the in court identification by the undercover police officer suppressed was also properly denied.

After reviewing the case it is ordered that the judgment be affirmed. The appeal by the defendant is denied and the case will be remitted to the Supreme Court of Suffolk County for further proceedings.

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