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U.S. v. WENDT

June 10, 2005.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES T. WENDT, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

I. Introduction

In August 2004, James Wendt was indicted for possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841.*fn1 At his arraignment, Wendt was released on bond, and trial was set for October 25, 2004. Wendt successfully moved to continue both the deadline for filing a suppression motion and the trial date (the latter was continued to December 13, 2004).

  On October 25, 2004, Wendt filed a motion to suppress evidence and quash arrest (Doc. 25) and memorandum in support (Doc. 26). In the wake of several continuances, that motion was set for hearing February 18, 2005, with trial to commence the following month. The United States of America ("the Government") responded to Wendt's motion on January 29, 2005 (Doc. 43).

  Ten days later, Wendt moved to supplement his suppression motion, actually seeking to reverse his position on the question of whether probable cause supported his traffic stop. Wendt claimed that the receipt of certain "newly discovered evidence" caused him to withdraw his earlier concession that probable cause existed for the traffic stop/seizure.

  The Court permitted the "supplementation," with the understanding that Wendt would promptly produce to the Government whatever newly discovered evidence triggered the change in positions. See Doc. 55.*fn2 On February 17, 2005, defense counsel obtained another continuance, which resulted in the suppression hearing being moved to February 25, 2005.

  At the February 25th hearing, defense counsel (complaining of having just received certain tape recordings requested just one week earlier) orally moved to continue the suppression hearing and trial yet again. Over the Government's objection, the Court granted Wendt's oral motions, continued the suppression hearing to June 6, 2005, and continued trial to June 7, 2005.

  Wendt moves to quash his arrest and suppress all evidence discovered (and statements made) during a July 2004 traffic stop and search of his vehicle. A hearing was held on the suppression motion on June 6 and June 7, 2005 and the parties were permitted to submit written closing arguments. Having heard the evidence and reviewed the various legal memoranda, the Court finds that the evidence establishes the following.

  II. Analysis of Motion to Suppress Evidence and Quash Arrest

  On July 22, 2004, members of the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois ("MEGSI") and the Collinsville, Illinois Police Department placed signs on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes of Interstate 55/70 about a half-mile west of Exit 9 (the "Black Lane" exit). The signs stated that a drug checkpoint lay one mile ahead. Decoy police cruisers (which actually contained no officers) were positioned down the highway with their lights activated. The officers and agents positioned themselves off the interstate, down Exit 9 near the intersection of Fairway Drive and Black Lane/Fairmont Avenue.

  Just before 3:00 p.m., MEGSI Agent Michael Parkinson (using binoculars, sitting in his Jeep Cherokee, and acting as a "spotter" observing the eastbound lanes of 55/70) radioed the officers that he had seen a white Ford Expedition cross two lanes of traffic without using a turn signal and exit the interstate without using a turn signal.

  As the Expedition drove onto the exit ramp for Black Lane, MEGSI Agent Jon Brett Boerm saw the vehicle straddling the center line of the roadway. Agent Boerm initiated a stop at the intersection of Fairmont Avenue and Fairway Drive. The vehicle had Missouri license plates.

  Boerm approached the driver of the Expedition, explained the reason for the traffic stop, and asked for the driver's license. Defendant James Wendt provided a Missouri driver's license. Wendt's hands were visibly trembling as he handed over the license. Boerm asked where Wendt resided. Wendt did not make eye contact. He responded in a shaky voice that he was living in Springfield, Missouri. Wendt then volunteered that he was traveling to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Through the open driver's side window of the Expedition, Boerm saw what looked like a license plate sticking out from the passenger floor mat.

  While this exchange was taking place, Collinsville Police Officer Charles Mackin approached the rear driver's side of Wendt's vehicle and noticed fresh black paint on the rear wheel well. This aroused Mackin's suspicion, because his training in drug interdiction had taught him that fresh ...


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