A federal judge hilariously mocked Hawaii police and his colleagues in a blistering dissent to a ruling on a drug case.
U.S. Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski disagreed with the majority, who agreed Honolulu police lawfully searched a drug suspect because he texted a suspected meth trafficker that he was going to Costco to buy food — which officers believed was a secret code.
“If talking about shopping for food at Costco were sufficient to justify a search, many of us would be searched by the police twice a week — thrice right before Thanksgiving,” Kozinski wrote. “Nor does it make any sense to substitute food for drugs when talking about where to meet.”
Police had been conducting surveillance on Jake Del Mundo-Faagai and others connected to a suspected drug ring out of California, and nine suspects were indicted in June 2013 on methamphetamine conspiracy charges, which carry a potential life sentence.
The majority found the search was justified because Faagai and another suspect, John Penitani, had passed other Costco stores to their arranged meeting place — but Kozinski cited the grocery’s website to knock down their argument.
“As savvy shoppers know, not all Costcos are the same,” Kozinski argued. “For example, the Kapolei location is twenty years newer than its downtown Honolulu counterpart, and
features a ‘fresh deli.'”
The research apparently made Kozinski hungry, and he finished his dissent by signing off with the same statement police said had incriminated Faagai.
“Here’s what this case boils down to: Officers had a hunch that a drug transaction was going down,” Kozinski wrote. “They saw nothing obviously suspicious, but got tired of waiting, watching and wiretapping. They then jumped the gun by executing a warrantless search. Until today, this was not enough to support probable cause, but going forward it will be. This is a green light for the police to search anyone’s property based
on what officers subjectively believe — or claim to believe — about someone’s everyday conduct. That puts all of us at risk.”
“Accordingly, I dissent, and I’m off to Costco to buy some food,” he concluded.