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United States v. Baggett

March 24, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BERNARD BAGGETT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Bernard Baggett faces one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He has moved for suppression of the firearm he allegedly possessed, contending that police recovered it during an illegal search of his home. The court held a hearing on Baggett's motion, during which the parties presented testimony from two police officers who arrested Baggett, as well as from Baggett's daughter. After reviewing the parties' briefs and hearing from their witnesses, and for the reasons that follow, Baggett's motion to suppress is GRANTED.

Background

The parties tell markedly different stories about the events that led up to Baggett's arrest. Because of the sharp contrast between the stories, resolution of Baggett's motion to suppress turns entirely on the testimony and credibility of the parties' witnesses. Therefore, the court will recount in detail the testimony offered during Baggett's suppression hearing.

Testimony Of Police Officers

The government offered testimony from the two officers who arrested Baggett, Kristopher Rigan and Richard Losik. According to Rigan and Losik, on the evening of April 9, 2005, they received word of a 911 call reporting shots fired and a baby crying inside a home on the block where Baggett lived. At the time, Rigan and Losik were in a patrol car just a couple of blocks away and were the first to respond to the call. When they arrived they found Baggett on his front porch holding a baby. As they approached, Rigan asked Baggett if he could put the baby down so that officers could talk to him. In response, Baggett turned around either to place the baby down or to take the child inside. As he turned, a revolver fell from his waist through his pant leg and onto the ground. Police recovered the gun and arrested Baggett.

Testimony of Baggett's Daughter

The defense offered the testimony of Baggett's 14-year-old daughter, Faye Simms. She testified that she was in the kitchen washing dishes when she heard her father call to her from the front porch, where he had gone with his infant son to see if Simms' mother had arrived home. When Simms got to the front porch, Baggett handed her the baby and officers told Baggett and Simms to remain on the porch, which they did for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, police searched inside the family's home without consent. When the officers eventually emerged, they were holding a gun, told Baggett they were going to claim that it was his, and arrested him. Baggett told a similar story in an affidavit attached to and in support of his motion to suppress.

Analysis

Baggett argues that the gun should be suppressed because police searched his home without consent. The government, on the other hand, argues that no search occurred because police saw the gun in plain view after it fell from Baggett's pants. The court must therefore determine whose testimony was the most credible.

The court had the opportunity to observe the demeanor of Baggett's daughter, Simms, during her testimony. She sounded and appeared to be sincere. It has not escaped the court's notice that Simms is apparently a devoted daughter and might have an incentive to recall events in a way that would not implicate her father. But even with that in mind, the court finds that her testimony was credible. Her story was consistent to the one told by Baggett in his affidavit. Although the allegations she made about the officers barging into her home without her father's consent were disturbing, such illegal searches unfortunately occur and so her story is not implausible.

During closing arguments, the prosecutor argued that Sims' story made no sense because the officers would never have admitted planting a gun on Baggett, and would not have needed to enter Baggett's home to do so. But Sims never testified that the officers planted the gun, and never denied that the gun was in the house. She testified only that police found the gun only after entering the home without consent. Although Sims testified that the officers told Baggett that they were going to say the gun was his, the officers' alleged statement is a far cry from admitting that they had planted the gun on Baggett.

The prosecutor also argued that Sims' story made no sense because, according to her testimony, the officers left her and Baggett-the suspected shooter-alone on their front porch for 20 minutes. But, according to Sims, other officers had responded to the call of shots fired and were still on the scene. Rigan and Losik confirmed that other officers had arrived on the scene. In light of the presence of the other officers, Sims' testimony that Rigan and Losik left her and her father on the porch is not implausible.

On the whole, the court finds that Sims' testimony and her description of events was reasonable. Furthermore, based upon the court's observation of her demeanor, she appeared credible and sincere. Accordingly the court ...


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