Pennsylvania v. Katona (majority)Annotate this Case
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review in this case to consider the Superior Court’s application of the Independent Source Doctrine as a basis for upholding the trial court’s order denying the suppression motion filed by appellant Dennis Katona. Secondarily, the Court considered the validity of an intercept order issued under Section 5704(2)(iv) of the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act (“Wiretap Act”), which permitted the recording of in-home conversations when only one party consented, so long as the intercept was approved by an authorized prosecutor and the president judge of a court of common pleas finds that probable cause supports the order. In 2009, the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) began working with a confidential informant (“CI”) who was a member of the Pagan Motorcycle Club. The CI, who had previously provided reliable evidence in other criminal investigations, informed Trooper Matthew Baumgard that appellant was also a member of the Pagans. In 2011, the CI contacted Trooper Baumgard to alert him appellant had unexpectedly arrived at his house that evening and offered to sell him three one-half ounce packages of cocaine for $650 per package. The following day, the CI again reached out to Trooper Baumgard, this time to inform him appellant had made a similar unsolicited stop at another Pagan member’s house in an attempt to sell the cocaine. Several weeks later, the CI was invited to appellant's home, and was again offered to purchase cocaine. The CI took the cocaine, left appellant’s home, immediately called Trooper Baumgard and turned it over to the PSP. The Commonwealth applied for a wiretap order allowing the CI to wear a recording device inside of appellant's home. Wearing the device, the CI made various controlled payments to appellant at appellant's home. During each encounter, Trooper Baumgard and his team surveilled the home and, thereafter, met with the CI to retrieve the recording device. Appellant filed an omnibus pre-trial motion seeking suppression of all evidence recovered from his home. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court properly involved the Independent Source Doctrine, and therefor did not reach the various statutory and constitutional challenges appellant raised relative to the Wiretap Act.