Friday, December 21, 2018
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Suspended Sherman Oaks attorney Chaka H. Grossman has won a bid in the Court of Appeal for this district for reversal of a felony conviction stemming from a 2015 search of his house by Los Angeles police officers, pursuant to a warrant, because the warrant was based, in part, on statements made by the lawyer during an unlawful detention.
The lawyer pled no contest to possessing heroin and methamphetamine while armed. The unpublished opinion by Justice Gail R. Feuer of Div. Seven, filed Wednesday, reverses the conviction and instructs that if Grossman withdraws his plea on remand, the motion to quash a search warrant, previously denied by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Dohi, be granted.
Officers, responding on Sept. 25, 2015, to a stolen vehicle report, spotted the vehicle on a street in Reseda. It was parked in front of Grossman’s home.
They also noticed a different stolen vehicle in his driveway.
The officers knocked on Grossman’s door and explained the situation; when an occupant opened the door, Officer Derrick Quals noticed someone moving quickly inside; the lawyer came to the door shortly after that and was cooperative but did not initially provide them with information.
The officers detained Grossman, his girlfriend, and a third person, on the lawyer’s front lawn, and conducted a protective sweep, during which they found stolen auto parts. During his detention, Grossman made the inculpatory statements that the vehicle and the parts were brought to his home by John Lavaie, a client.
Based on those statements and the discovered evidence, Officer Vincent Allard prepared an affidavit in support of a search warrant, which was issued in about 45 minutes. The search pursuant to that warrant uncovered heroin, methamphetamine and multiple firearms including a World War II-era surplus military bolt-action rifle.
Ensuing Criminal Case
Grossman was charged with possession of stolen property, possession of heroin and methamphetamine while armed, and one count each of possession for sale of methamphetamine and heroin.
He moved for an order quashing the search warrant and suppressing the evidence, contending that the protective sweep had been unlawful, and that as a result, the stolen parts in his residence and his statements to the police during his detention should not have been included in the affidavit.
Dohi found that the protective sweep was unlawful but that the presence of a stolen vehicle in the driveway and Grossman’s statements provided adequate bases for a search warrant.
Following that ruling, Grossman pled no contest to a felony count, receiving a suspended sentence. As a result, he was suspended from law practice of law on Feb. 26 pending resolution of his appeal in the criminal case.
Protective Sweep Unlawful
Explaining the reversal, Feuer wrote:
Here…there was no evidence the officers had any reason to suspect Grossman or another person in the house was armed or violent, or that there was ongoing criminal activity within the residence. Indeed, the suspected crime—receipt of stolen property—was not a violent crime. We defer to the trial court’s actual finding the ‘figure quickly mov[ing]’ inside the residence, who then approached the door, was Grossman….Further, after knocking on the door, the occupants were cooperative and did not take any action to show they were dangerous or harboring a dangerous person….
“In light of these facts, the trial court correctly found the warrantless search of Grossman’s house was not justified by the protective sweep exception and violated Grossman’s Fourth Amendment rights.”
Detention Was Unlawful
Feuer departed from the trial court’s analysis of Grossman’s statements during his detention. That detention, she reasoned, had been unlawful, and so the statements made during it, while made freely and voluntarily, should have been excluded.
“Here,” she said, “because the protective sweep of Grossman’s home was unlawful, the officers’ detention of Grossman to carry out the sweep was also unlawful….
“It was during Grossman’s detention that he made incriminating statements….
“Because Grossman only made the incriminating statements after he was detained, the statements are the fruit of the poisonous tree, and must be excluded.”
She went on to declare that the stolen vehicle parked in a driveway was not, standing alone, sufficient to support a warrant to search Grossman’s residence, because it “failed to create a nexus between the criminal activities and the residence.” Without the incriminating statements and stolen parts, she added, Dohi should have granted the lawyer’s motion to quash the warrant and suppress the evidence.
The case is People v. Grossman, B283101.
Michael L. Becker of Los Angeles represented the defendant. Deputy Attorney General Michael J. Wise, of Los Angeles, acted for the People.
The State Bar Court order imposing an interim suspension on Grossman indicates that the Office of Chief Trial Counsel, in advising of Grossman’s conviction, pointed out that the Health and Safety Code section to which he pled no contest “is a felony that may or may not involve moral turpitude.” Acting Presiding Judge Richard A. Honn, who signed the order, commented: “We have not found a Supreme Court or State Bar Court decision that has classified this crime.”
In 2017, Grossman was disciplined with actual suspension from the practice of law for violating the terms of a previously-imposed probation.
In 2016, he was suspended for failing to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination within the time prescribed by a Supreme Court order.
In 2015, the attorney was put on a two-year probation for failing to pay a court ordered sanction, failing to report that sanction to the State Bar, and failing to provide a substantive response to the State Bar’s letters regarding the matter.
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