Man Freed Over Issue With Search Warrant

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 7, 2009

A 22-year-old District man charged with federal gun and drug trafficking offenses was freed on bond yesterday after a federal judge threw out evidence tied to a search in the case.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth took the unusual step of suppressing the evidence because an FBI agent had relied on outdated information to obtain a search warrant. After a brief hearing yesterday, Lamberth ordered Ricky D. Lindsey released on personal recognizance. Lindsey has been held at the D.C. jail since his arrest a year ago.

Without the evidence seized in the search, which included a submachine gun, ammunition and hundreds of grams of crack and powder cocaine, prosecutors probably will have to drop the case. They declined to comment yesterday.

Lindsey's attorney, Billy Ponds, said Lamberth "made the correct decision."

The problem with the search, Lamberth ruled, stemmed from the use of a photograph depicting another man placing two guns into the hands of his daughter.

That photograph was apparently taken in early 2006 in Lindsey's apartment in the 4600 block of A Street SE. The same year, authorities used the photograph to obtain a warrant to search the father's house, where they found an assault rifle, Lamberth wrote in a 12-page opinion.

But investigators did not get around to obtaining a warrant to search Lindsey's place until February of last year.

The FBI agent handling the investigation used the photograph as a piece of evidence in his application to obtain a warrant, Lamberth wrote.

But the agent, Daniel Sparks, did not disclose when the photograph was taken to the U.S. magistrate judge who later issued the warrant, Lamberth wrote.

Lamberth wrote that there was no evidence that Sparks intentionally misled the judge and complimented the agent's "generally exceptional work."

Nevertheless, Lamberth wrote, the agent and federal prosecutors should have known better and should have included more information about the photograph, the key piece of evidence in the warrant application.

Even then, the judge wrote, the photograph was too old to do investigators much good. He noted that guns are "extremely portable objects" and that Lindsey was never seen with one by any witnesses.

"There was not probable cause to issue a warrant for the residence of Ricky Lindsey, because the evidence used to obtain the warrant was stale," the judge concluded.

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