Feds toss case against Bouquet Canyon man; DA picks up charges 

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A Bouquet Canyon man is facing 11 weapons charges in L.A. County Superior Court next week, connected to a case that was dismissed from a federal courthouse after the defense raised questions about a search and how evidence was collected. 

About two weeks after the attorneys for the Department of Justice filed a motion Jan. 25 to dismiss one charge against Franz Grey, 58, for allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm — which carries a maximum 10-year sentence — the District Attorney’s Office filed 11 charges, alleging felony possession of ammunition by a convicted person, felony possession of a firearm, grand theft of a firearm and assembly or maintenance of a booby trap. 

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding why the case was dropped. 

Law enforcement version 

In a court request for a warrant to search Grey’s property and safes, an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy stated the Special Assignment Team was investigating a U-Haul box truck that the rental company had reported stolen on Dec. 5.  

The investigator’s report stated that records showed Grey rented the truck Nov. 14 and never returned it. 

The deputy reported that Grey was found underneath the vehicle when officers arrived on his property the night of Dec. 16. 

“We detained and arrested Suspect Gray (sic) for being in possession of the embezzled vehicle. The suspect gave us verbal consent to enter his unlocked residence to retrieve his cell phone and house keys,” according to a copy of the warrant request filed by the Sheriff’s Department. 

The deputy reported that, upon entering the residence, “drug paraphernalia and a bag containing methamphetamine” could be seen in plain sight.  

The officer also reported that, prior to locating the keys, during “a protective sweep of the residence for officer safety,” they observed live ammunition rounds on the suspect’s bed, according to an application for a warrant to search two safes they found during their sweep. 

Grey is legally prohibited from possessing weapons due to a Jan. 3, 2008, conviction for hit-and-run resulting in injury or death and possession of a controlled substance, according to the federal complaint filed Jan. 24, 2023, against Grey. 

The ATF report filed on the weapons found at Grey’s home stated, “he was a convicted felon, had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for 245(a)(4) PC: Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and was on the FBI terrorist watch list.” 

The indictment states 10 firearms were found, some of which were reportedly manufactured out of state and had their serial numbers “obliterated.”   

Grey told officers he never received any contact from U-Haul because he believes some people who shot at his house recently cut his lines. 

Grey said he had evidence of the shooting on his phone, which was in his house. A deputy asked for permission to retrieve the phone for him, to which Grey responded, “Yes,” according to the report.  

“Shortly thereafter, deputies …. entered Grey’s residence to retrieve Grey’s cellular phone that was on a table in the living room, approximately 15 feet from the front door. Upon retrieving the phone, deputies … saw, in plain view, a large glass bulbous pipe containing a burnt white crystal-like substance, resembling methamphetamine, and a plastic baggie containing suspected methamphetamine, on the table near the cellular phone. At this time, LASD deputies proceeded to conduct a protective sweep of the residence for officer safety. Upon entering the only bedroom in the residence, LASD deputies saw, in plain view, eleven (11) rounds of .223 caliber ammunition and two (2) rounds of 5.56 caliber ammunition lying on the bed. There were also two (2) gun safes present in the bedroom.” 

The case was initially investigated by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office but ultimately dismissed the charge in January after conversations with the USAO, according to a spokesman from the LADA on Jan. 17, 2023. 

The DA’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story. 

Grey’s challenge 

Grey’s attorney filed a motion on Aug. 25 seeking to suppress the evidence and statements obtained, claiming they violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.  

A 41-page filing from federal public defender Charles Snyder that preceded Grey’s case getting tossed from federal court, claimed the Dec. 16, 2022, search of his property reflected a yearslong pattern of harassment from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the LASD against the defendant. 

“In 2018, a team of LASD deputies working with federal agents conducted multiple illegal searches of his home, resulting in the seizure of valuable property and federal weapons charges,” according to the filing on Grey’s behalf. “Not only didn’t that case end with a conviction, however, Grey obtained an adverse-credibility finding in district court, and a published Ninth Circuit win in his favor. Grey then aggressively litigated forfeiture, lodged personnel complaints, and accused the FBI and LASD of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and cash. That litigation resulted in the return of his property and, among other things, an embarrassing mea culpa from an FBI agent who was forced to admit that he’d made false statements about Grey on a podcast.” 

The motion to suppress the evidence referred to that situation as the “state of play” when Grey’s home was searched Dec. 16, claiming that Grey’s wins earned him “attention but not friends within the regional law enforcement community.” 

He shared a different recollection of the search in his motion: 

His attorneys argued deputies committed “serial Fourth Amendment violations” during their investigation, “each of which seeds an independent poisonous tree,” according to the filing. 

“Upon arriving at the scene, the two lead officers, Rios and Francisco, approached the U-Haul by walking down a driveway in Grey’s yard with guns drawn,” according to his statement.  

Grey claimed he was arrested on his own property without a warrant by responding officers, who placed him in a patrol vehicle while conducting a search of his property for approximately 35 minutes. 

Deputies were able to see why the truck wasn’t returned, according to the filing — it was still stuck on a hill within Grey’s property. 

“After receiving Grey’s alleged authorization to enter the home — which, if valid, was exceedingly narrow,” according to the defense motion, “officers immediately disregarded it and resolved to conduct an illegal protective sweep before even entering the home; once inside, deputies bypassed the phone and keys, which were on the table steps inside the door, and conducted a warrantless search of the home.” 

The defense motion further argues the “government will not be able to show that Grey’s warrantless arrest within the curtilage of his home was reasonable,” and that “the government will not be able to show that deputies had probable cause to believe that Grey committed the crime of embezzlement.” 

After a series of filings between both sides, federal prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges in January of this year, prior to its February re-filing in San Fernando at the county level. 

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