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During a hearing in January, defense attorney Joseph Fanduzz vowed to suppress key parts of the government’s criminal case against Leon Houston.
He’s proven to be a man of his word.
Last week Fanduzz filed motions to suppress footage from the video camera agents installed, Houston’s alleged statement to law enforcement and evidence obtained from his residence.
In October of last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives started looking into allegations that Houston’s younger brother, convicted felon Rocky Houston, was in possession of firearms.
As part of the investigation, a video camera that provided a clear view of the Houston property was quietly installed on a nearby utility pole.
“Because law enforcement agents violated Mr. Houston’s rights under the Fourth Amendment by conducting surveillance of his residence from Oct. 11, 2012, to Dec. 19, 2012, without first applying for or obtaining a search warrant, any evidence resulting from that surveillance is fruit of the poisonous tree and should be suppressed accordingly,” Fanduzz wrote.
The video camera allegedly captured Rocky carrying and shooting weapons. He was arrested in Kingston at United Community Bank on Jan. 11.
“Shortly thereafter, ATF agents sought search warrants for 373, 391 and 412 Barnard Narrows Road, three residences located on the Houston property,” Fanduzz wrote. “However, before obtaining any search warrants, ATF agents entered the Houston property at 373 Barnard Narrows Road to secure the premises.”
While that was happening, Leon approached agents on a four-wheeler armed with three loaded firearms.
He stopped his approach when the agents aimed their weapons at him.
Leon was questioned and allegedly admitted to “getting high.” He also allegedly made a reference to some “wacky tobacco.” He was arrested for possession of firearms while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance.
Fanduzz argues agents took Leon’s statement unlawfully.
“As a result of this unlawful seizure, any evidence obtained thereby should be suppressed,” Fanduzz said.
He also contends evidence should be suppressed because agents didn’t have a warrant when they arrived.
“As ATF agents had no reason to believe that evidence on the Houston property was at risk of being destroyed, there was no exigent circumstance to permit the warrantless entry,” he contends.
Agents eventually obtained a warrant to search all three residences.
Fanduzz said agents found marijuana and firearms when they searched Leon’s place at 391 Barnard Narrows Road.
“Because the issuance of the warrant authorizing the search of Mr. Houston’s residence rested primarily on video evidence obtained as a result of an unconstitutional surveillance, and because the remaining information contained in the search warrant was insufficient to connect Mr. Houston’s residence to Rocky Houston’s criminal activity, any evidence seized as a result of the search of 391 Barnard Narrows Road should be suppressed,” Fanduzz argues.
He is requesting an evidentiary hearing on each of his motions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had yet to file a response.
The case against Leon is tentatively set for trial on March 25.
Fanduzz has also filed a motion to have a jury questionnaire.
“Given the years of media coverage related to the activities and affairs of the Houston brothers, Mr. Houston’s concern is that unfair bias will undoubtedly be present among members of the jury pool,” Fanduzz said.
The Houston brothers have long alleged they are the victims of a vast conspiracy that involves local, state and federal officials. In the past, they’ve sought to subpoena Tennessee governors and U.S. presidents.
The brothers also fought first-degree murder charges in state court for the 2006 deaths of Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along Mike Brown.
Leon was acquitted of the charges in 2009. A state appeals court ruled that an error made by the judge during Rocky’s trial in 2008 barred him from being tried again.
In January U.S. Magistrate Bruce Guyton appointed Fanduzz to represent Leon in the federal case.
So far Rocky has been acting as his own attorney. He faces 14 counts of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.