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Judge rules detectives' search was illegal

Emilie Astell

WORCESTER- A Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that three detectives without a search warrant overstepped their bounds when they entered the apartment of a city man allegedly involved in a telephone sex scheme.

James Fournier, 47, of 866 Main St., is accused of three counts of attempted extortion for allegedly making obscene phone calls to three Auburn women last July, telling them he was holding their friends or relatives hostage. He allegedly told the women to undress and to masturbate while he talked to them, or the hostages would be harmed.

One of the women complied, according to Auburn Detective Sgt. Andrew Sluckis, who testified yesterday during a hearing to determine if any evidence obtained when he and two Worcester detectives entered the apartment would be suppressed. A motion to exclude evidence was made by defense lawyer Sean M. McGinty.

"Police officers are not entitled to enter an apartment without an invitation or request," said Judge Jeffrey A. Locke.

He ruled to suppress at trial information obtained from a caller identification box attached to Mr. Fournier's telephone inside the apartment and from posters on the walls depicting New England Patriots' cheerleaders and other scantily clad women.

The case goes to trial May 3.

The judge's ruling does not forbid the use of information officers gathered from observances made outside the apartment, which allows them to testify as to what they saw before stepping over the threshold.

Mr. McGinty also submitted a motion to exclude statements made by his client to police. The judge denied the request, saying there was no basis to suppress Mr. Fournier's statements admitting to one of the calls. The defendant was "at all times" cooperative when questioned by Sgt. Sluckis and was read his Miranda rights appropriately, the judge said.

During testimony yesterday, Sgt. Sluckis said police obtained telephone records from Verizon to trace the calls to Mr. Fournier. On July 24, the Auburn detective and two Worcester detectives went to the Main Street address where they found Mr. Fournier standing outside wearing shorts and sandals.

Sgt. Sluckis told the defendant he would not be arrested, but requested that Mr. Fournier accompany him to the Auburn police station for questioning.

Mr. Fournier agreed, first saying he would like to change his clothes. The detectives followed him to his single-room apartment. The officers waited inside the room while he got dressed. They did not remove anything from the room, Sgt. Sluckis said.

Assistant District Attorney Blake J. Rubin said there was no seizure of evidence, but answered "yes" when Judge Locke asked him if he planned to introduce at trial evidence from the room's interior.

At the station, Mr. Fournier said he placed calls randomly, nodding in agreement when asked if he masturbated while on the phone, the sergeant said.

Mr. Fournier could only remember calling one woman, telling the sergeant he has alcohol and sex problems and needs help.

Mr. McGinty pointed out that the officers did not have a search warrant when they entered the room, did not tape record the interview and did not obtain a signed statement.

"Any evidence should be suppressed," he said.
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