HUDSON COUNTY, NEW JERSEY — At approximately 10pm on Thursday night, January 24, 2013, 33-year-old Keith Pantaleon of Jersey City, New Jersey, was in the bedroom of his apartment after a full day’s work – when he heard thumping noises coming from his living room.
Believing that his residence may be being broken into, he grabbed his soft-bound Day Planner case (which also held a lawfully purchased handgun), and cracked open his bedroom door to investigate.
In the center of his living room, he saw a man dressed entirely in dark clothing who had his back towards him. He cracked open his door slightly further and saw near the entrance to his apartment a police officer, his landlord, and an EMT worker. When the man dressed in dark clothing in the middle of his living room turned around, he saw it was another police officer.
One of the officers immediately ordered Pantaleon to come out of his bedroom. Pantaleon tossed his unopened Day Planner case onto his bed. As he went to close his bedroom door behind him, one of the officers pushed him into his living room. The officer then ordered Pantaleon to face a corner of his living room and handcuffed him.
As one of the officers watched Pantaleon (who remained in custody in Pantaleon’s living room), the other officer warrantlessly searched Pantaleon’s bedroom.
Officers took Pantaleon to police headquarters, where he was charged with unlawful possession of: two handguns, a rifle, an “assault rifle,” a large capacity magazine, and certain ammunition.
On the night in question, Pantaleon’s upstairs neighbor complained to police about insufficient heat in his apartment. The boiler for the apartment building is adjacent to the kitchen area of Pantaleon’s residence. Despite the late hour and lack of consent by Pantaleon, police had the landlord open Pantaleon’s residence on their behalf.
In November 2013, a full suppression hearing was held before the Honorable John A. Young, Jr. of the Hudson County Superior Court, at which Louis P. Nappen, Esq., of Evan F. Nappen, Attorney at Law PC, represented Pantaleon. At the hearing, testimony was taken from two officers, an EMT, Pantaleon’s landlord and the upstairs neighbor.
On January 15, 2014, Judge Young filed a written decision (which may be downloaded by clicking here), finding:
“Here, the police conduct and entering Defendant’s apartment, without a warrant, and without satisfying an exception to the warrant requirement, violated Defendant’s federal and state constitutional rights. As a result, all evidence seized as a result of the Officers’ warrantless entry and search of Defendant’s apartment must be suppressed.”
The Court found that the officers’ testimony “simply did not have a ring of truthfulness to it.”
The Court struck down every exemption to the warrant requirement that the State contended —
The Court struck down “emergency aid,” finding “No testimony that [the upstairs neighbor] required immediate assistance” and “no immediate risk to [the upstairs neighbor’s] safety that would justify a warrantless entry or search of Defendant’s apartment.”
The Court struck down “exigency,” finding “Under these circumstances, I cannot find an objectively reasonable emergency that would vindicate or support the Officers’ warrantless entry. No exigency existed on the night in question that would justify the entry into Defendant’s apartment, at 10:30pm on a weekday night, to examine the heating unit.”
The Court found that Pantaleon never consented to a search of his apartment, and that the landlord did not have authority to allow officers entry into Pantaleon’s apartment.
Lastly, the Court struck down the State’s contention that “plain view” applied, as the Officers were not in a permissible vantage point to view Pantaleon in the first instance, and that, even if they had been, nothing was “’immediately apparent’ to the Officer that was contraband or evidence of a crime.
Furthermore, an Officer inexcusably moved an item in Pantaleon’s bedroom in order to better view what was inside.
Louis P. Nappen, attorney for Pantaleon, stated, “I am glad that the Court sent a strong message that people’s privacy, especially in their homes, must be protected in New Jersey. And, in particular, Mr. Pantaleon deserved better treatment. Although he spent a month in jail for no reason, I am extremely proud that we were first able to reduce his $75,000 bail to have him freed, and now even happier that he will likely soon no longer face these wrongful charges.”
In New Jersey, permits to purchase firearms are not required for possession of firearms within one’s home. Possession of firearms within one’s residence is exempted under N.J.S. 2C:39-6e, as well as protected under the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on the Second Amendment in D.C. v. Heller and Chicago v. McDonald, and the ruling in the December 2013 New Jersey Appellate Division IMO Wheeler.
Pursuant to statute, the ammunition in question is also legal to possess since New Jersey’s ammunition prohibition only applies to handgun ammunition and the ammunition at issue is specifically designed for use in a rifle. The rifle at issue was allegedly an AR-15, one of the most commonly possessed type of rifle in America.
Pantaleon lawfully purchased his firearms as a prior resident of Pennsylvania. He also possesses permits to carry firearms from Nevada and Florida. Pantaleon has no prior criminal convictions and no mental health history. He is not accused of misusing or threatening to use any firearms. No unlawful purpose for said possessions has been alleged.
This case has been highly profiled on programs such as Glenn Beck’s The Blaze. Moreover, a friend of Pantaleon’s brought awareness of his matter on the Internet, which raised funds to hire the Nappen law firm to represent Pantaleon. (See https://www.gofundme.com/
He needs to sue the officers personally & the landlord for violating his civil rights. cops/bureaucrats have no incentive to behave so long as the taxpayers foot the bill. They need to be held individually accountable for their actions.
I would never say this except in such an agregious miscarriage of justice and blatant disregard for a man’s civil rights, but I hope he is able to sue the hell out of everyone involved in this crime, and I hope he wins big. Vindicated or not, he will be personally paying for this for some tome to come.
I would sue ever dirtbag involved and splash their names all over the web with FASCIST under their pictures.
So, when will Mr. Pantaleon get his firearms back? Or does the state intend to keep them unlawfully?
So we are supposed to belive Mr. Pantaleon’s upstair neighbor calls the police department at 10:30 PM to complain about his apartment being to cold and they send two officers and an EMT to check it out. Unlikely. It is my opinion the police probably just used that as an excuse to gain access to Mr. Pantaleon’s apartment. A far more beliveable reason the police wanted access to his apartment is, someone probably new Pantaleon had guns and reported that to the police. It would explain why the police upon seeing Pantaleon immediately restrained and handcuffed him. Then proceeded to… Read more »
The man living upstairs called the police because he was cold? That man, obviously, needs a psychiatric evaluation as opposed to having emergency “warrants” issued on the basis of his neurotic whims. The police entered his home guns drawn because his neighbor was cold? This is obviously not believable. Why didn’t they take him a few blankets–and check on his cat in the process? The local prosecutor took this case to court given these spurious circumstances? This too is not believable. Did the prosecutor get his credentials in a cereal box? This case is dying to have more questions asked… Read more »
Too many police, Feds, state and local, rely on perjury to justify their illegal activities. In this case, fortunately, the judge saw through their BS. Perjury and conspiracy to commit perjury should cost any Fed, state or local police to lose their job. It should then be published in a local rag, that the offending officer was dismissed because he/she was a hair ball.
Capn Jack: In our town in the past it seemed that you first had to be a taxi driver to be hired on the police force. I have no idea what that means.
This Judge needs to be recognized by all gun rights organizations!
A travesty of justice from the beginning of this case. Did he get his firearms back? I sure hope so, otherwise the travesty is ongoing. He should sue these tyrants for millions.
Mr. Pantaleon should end up owning the building he lives in as well as any punitive damages his legal team is able to get out of the rogue munincipal agencies. When the super let the law into the man’s apartment, he was acting as an agent of the owner.
Typical US vs THEM attitude. Do they have a Police Academy, or do the pick ’em off of the street and put them in uniform?
Those officers need to lose their jobs before their department loses its budget via a lawsuit because of them. Im sure the Police union wouldnt agree, but then they can go jump in a lake!
If the boiler for the apartment building wasn’t working properly why wasn’t a plumber or maintenance worker brought in to check it out? What the heck were two cops and a EMT (I’m guessing this stands for Emergency Medical Technician) going to do? Is this some weird New Jersey way of doing things? What does New Jersey do when a bank robbery is in progress, send in a carpenter? Also I don’t understand why the cops acted so agressively towords the tenant. After all they entered his home without consent/prior notification and then treated him like a criminal for being… Read more »
Only problem is that the bill will be paid by the citizens not by the officer and his supervisors. Until people are held personally responsible the this behavior will continue.
I smell a sizable lawsuit coming out of this one, those officers really screwed up all the way around as well as the apartment landlord. There were many mistakes that were made in this case and it could cost them a great deal.
I hope his legal team is preparing documents to sue the police force and anybody connected with this outrageous miscarriage of justice.
Another slave state, New Jersey. It would seem that suing the state, the police department, the police officers and the landlord should provide enough money to pay all court costs, any lost income as the result of an illegal search and arrest, plus punitive assessments for pain and suffering would provide a new car and vacation in some nice place would be in order. And finally, a public apology and mandatory additional training for everyone in the police department assuring they all understand who they are not and what the Constitution is.
Not a word about this in any of the local Bloomberg loving newspapers that smeared the original arrest story all over their pages when it happened a year ago. NOT A WORD!!