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United States v. Nikrasch

October 5, 1966

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DENNIS ANDREW NIKRASCH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Hastings, Chief Judge, and Swygert and Cummings, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cummings

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

Defendant was charged with transporting a stolen 1957 Chevrolet convertible from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Skokie, Illinois, in violation of the Dyer Act (18 U.S.C. ยง 2312). Subsequently he filed a motion to suppress certain evidence seized without a search warrant. After the denial of the motion, defendant was found guilty on a bench trial and was sentenced to imprisonment. The only question raised on appeal is whether the District Court properly denied the motion to suppress evidence.

About 1:00 A.M. on December 12, 1964, defendant drove a 1957 Chevrolet convertible into a gas station in Skokie, Illinois. He was accompanied by Joe Carlson and Kay Smith. Defendant parked the automobile next to the gas station office instead of at the pumps. The three used the washrooms and defendant collected a roadmap and bought two bottles of Coca Cola for himself and Miss Smith.

Skokie Police Officer Frank Nierman was on patrol at this time and considered it "odd" and "funny" that a car would pull into the gas station, not near the pumps, at 1:00 A.M. Therefore he drove his squad car into the station behind defendant's car. When Nierman alighted from his car, defendant was coming from the soft-drink machine with a bottle of pop in his hand. Nierman asked the defendant what he was doing in Skokie, and defendant replied that he and his companions were on their way to Milwaukee.

Thereafter Carlson emerged from the washroom and Nierman asked him what he was doing there. Carlson replied that the three were just driving around with no particular place to go.

Thereupon Nierman radioed for a second police car. Officer Zerfass arrived a few minutes later and Nierman related the conflicting stories of defendant and Carlson.

Next Nierman spoke again to Carlson, who acknowledged that he had a record in Chicago, did not want any problems in Skokie, and did not know what the three were doing there, just driving around. Carlson admitted that he had spent approximately eight years in prison for kidnaping and other felonies.

Zerfass spoke to the gas station attendant and learned that Carlson had inquired if there were any laundromats open in Skokie at that hour. Previously that evening, the City of Evanston had radioed Officers Nierman and Zerfass to watch for burglars who were robbing laundromats in the area, Skokie being two miles from the city limits of Evanston.

Zerfass asked Kay Smith, who was sitting in the Chevrolet, if he could look in the car. She acceded. In the glove compartment, he found a screw driver and a canvas money bag of the type used by banks, and on the back floor of the car, he found a hacksaw and a screw driver. Miss Smith told Zerfass that the car was her mother's. She was unable to explain why the trio was riding around Skokie at 1:00 A.M.

Because the officers were given unsatisfactory explanations by the defendant and his companions, they were arrested for disorderly conduct pursuant to Section 28-7 of the Skokie Village Code prohibiting "all persons * * * [from] wandering or driving about the streets either by night or day * * * without being able to give a satisfactory account of themselves." Nierman then drove Carlson to the police station, while the defendant, accompanied by Miss Smith, drove the Chevrolet there, followed by the other police car. At the police station, the defendant produced the registration for the Chevrolet; it was in the name of Miss Smith. Upon request, the defendant tossed Zerfass the keys to the Chevrolet. Zerfass found another money bag and a metal strongbox in the trunk of the car.

At 9:00 A.M., Detective Reiter reported for duty at the police station. From the cell-block, defendant "permitted" Reiter to examine the car. Reiter "popped off" a false serial plate from the left-hand door frame. The plate had merely been glued to the door frame. Reiter, again with defendant's "permission", then had the confidential serial number of the car checked by having the car raised on a hoist at the Mancuso Chevrolet agency. The confidential number did not correspond with the plate that Reiter had removed from the door frame. At noon on December 12th, Reiter questioned the defendant about the discrepancy in the serial numbers, and defendant confessed that he had stolen the car in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, giving a written statement to this effect about 5:00 P.M.

FBI Agent Johnson saw defendant about 9:00 P.M. in the Skokie police headquarters, and defendant also gave him a written statement that he had stolen the car in Wisconsin and had transported it to Chicago.

The defendant's pre-trial motion to suppress evidence complained of the search and seizure of the 1957 Chevrolet and the items contained therein. The District Court found that the 1957 Chevrolet was seized at the filling station pursuant to a lawful arrest of defendant and his companions, that the Village ordinance was constitutional, that the officers had probable cause for making the arrests thereunder, and ...


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