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U.S. v. HAMPTON

December 3, 2004.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
NIKITA HAMPTON, ADEDEJO OKUNOLA and CRYSTAL BLAIR, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are Defendants Nikita Hampton (hereinafter, "Hampton") and Adedejo Okunola's (hereinafter, "Okunola") Motions to Suppress. For the following reasons, Hampton's Motion is denied and Okunola's Motion is denied in part and granted in part.

I. INTRODUCTION

  Defendants' Motions arise from the October 10, 2003 search of an apartment located at 869 North Cambridge in Chicago, Illinois ("the residence"). On the morning of October 10, 2003, police officers received a tip from an informant that a suspected bank robber, who had robbed a series of Chicago-area banks at gunpoint over the preceding months, was located at the residence. A group of Chicago police officers and FBI agents assembled outside the residence and at approximately 3:50 p.m. knocked on the door. Frankie White ("White"), Okunola's mother and Hampton's fiancé, opened the door. The respective stories differ significantly from this point forward. According to the Government, White immediately cooperated and allowed agents to search her home for the suspected bank robber. Defendants contend that White did not consent to the police officers' initial entry and search. During the search and protective sweep of the home, police officers located and immediately arrested Hampton on an upstairs floor. They also observed a handgun in the upstairs bedroom used by Hampton and White. Okunola was apprehended on the downstairs floor, where he was sitting on a sofa. After searching White's purse outside the home, where they found a baseball cap purportedly used in some of the bank robberies, police officers detained White. Both White and Okunola were then taken into custody for questioning.

  Once at the police station, at approximately 4:50 p.m., Okunola signed a written consent to search the residence. Approximately thirty minutes thereafter, White signed a similar written consent. (Both White and Okunola are leaseholders on the residence.) Following Okunola's written consent, police then searched the residence and seized various evidentiary materials purportedly related to a variety of bank robberies. Police officers did not obtain arrest or search warrants. Defendants contend that White's written consent to search was improperly obtained because, among other reasons, police officers wrongfully threatened White with eviction from her public housing. Defendants also contend that Okunola's written consent to search was invalid because it was the product of an unlawful arrest and, moreover, that he was coerced into signing it.

  During his detention, Okunola also provided incriminating statements pertaining to his and Hampton's involvement in a prior bank robbery. Okunola seeks to suppress his statements on the basis that he was illegally detained and police officers improperly failed to provide him with Miranda warnings.

  Defendants now move to suppress all evidence obtained from the residence on October 10, 2003. Okunola also moves to suppress all statements made by him while in custody on October 10, 2003. An evidentiary hearing was held on October 28, 2004, during which several police officers and FBI agents testified on behalf of the Government, and White, Okunola, and Morrison Hunley testified on behalf of the Defendants.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. White's Initial Consent to Search the Residence

  Defendants first argue that the Government has not shown that White's initial consent to search the residence for Hampton was voluntary. Defendants rely primarily on testimony from White, in which she claims that consent was never requested, and police instead rushed into the home. See Hr'g Tr. at 191-92. The Government, in turn, relies primarily on the testimony of Detective Graeber, and also certain corroborating testimony from other officers and agents, which collectively indicate that consent was requested and received. See Hr'g Tr. at 24, 102, 107, 127-28, 147.

  The Court finds that the Government met its burden on this issue. Detective Graeber's testimony was credible, and was buttressed by the testimony of Detective Matias and Agent Araya, although these two individuals admitted that they did not hear the specifics of White's consent. See id. In contrast, White's testimony was less credible. In addition to an obvious (and understandable) potential bias to protect her child (Okunola) and her fiancé (Hampton), White's other testimony pertaining to the discovery of a baseball cap in her purse and other evidentiary material was simply not credible, and provided a general sense of obfuscation. Thus, the Government established by a preponderance of the evidence that White's initial consent was valid.

  B. Okunola's Unlawful Arrest

  A threshold issue here is whether the detention of Okunola at the 18th District police station was lawful. Upon the police officers' entry to the residence, Okunola was immediately handcuffed and was then quickly transported to the police station. He remained handcuffed to the wall in a holding room at the police station for more than six hours. It is not clear from the Government's briefing whether it concedes that Okunola's detention was, from the outset, effectively an arrest, or whether there was some particular point in time when the temporary detention transformed into an arrest. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968); Gov. Reply Br. at 3-4. The Government, however, appears to acknowledge in its reply brief that at some point probable cause was required to continue to detain Okunola. See Gov. Reply Br. at 3-4.

  In any event, the undisputed testimony at the evidentiary hearing demonstrates that, certainly at the point that Okunola was handcuffed to the wall at the Chicago police station, his detention was the functional equivalent of an arrest. See Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811, 816 (1985); Kaup v. Texas, 538 U.S. 626, 630 (2003); United States v. Cellitti, 387 F.3d 618, 622 (7th Cir. 2004); Maxwell v. City of Indianapolis, 998 F.2d 431, 433 (7th Cir. 1993). That is, it is patently clear that any reasonable person, upon being handcuffed, transported to a police station, restrained to a wall, and then interrogated, would not feel at "liberty to ignore the police presence and go about ...


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