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United States v. Carter

August 12, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall


Defendant David R. Carter ("Carter") has moved to suppress all fruits of a search conducted by officers of the Chicago Police Department ("CPD") on February 20, 2008 allegedly in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3). For the reasons set forth below, Carter's motion to suppress is granted in part and denied in part.


On February 20, 2008, the Chicago Community Bank at 1110 W. 35th Street in Chicago was robbed. The lone robber, a white male in his late 40s to early-to-mid 50s approached a teller in the bank, stating "Shut up. This is a bank robbery. Give me all your large bills," while reaching into his jacket as though to indicate that he possessed a pistol or other weapon. The robber took $1,050 in cash, including several pre-marked bait bills and then fled the bank on foot.

The CPD responded to the robbery, as did certain agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"). After obtaining a description of the robber from bank employees, a "flash" message was sent out via the CPD radio and computer terminal networks, advising of the robbery and providing the physical description of the robber. Meanwhile, officers at the scene canvassed the surrounding area. At a Chicago Food Court (the "food court") located close to the bank, employees reported that an intoxicated man had entered the food court the night before the robbery and demanded money. When one of the employees stated that she was going to call the police, the man threatened her, saying, "How about I blow all your brains out?" The man left shortly thereafter; however, the food court employees stated that the same man returned to the food court the following morning, stared at the register for a moment or two, and then left. The investigating officers believed that this individual was likely the same man who robbed the bank later that morning.

Based on the "flash" message description, CPD Officer Alfred Thome ("Thome") believed that the description of the bank robber fitted that of an individual he recalled from an incident of domestic violence occurring two weeks prior to the robbery at 937 W. 34th Street, a short distance from the bank. Thome did not recall the name "David Carter," but he had had contact with Carter from previous calls investigating alleged domestic violence incidents at that address. Thome therefore proceeded to the 34th Street address to talk to the individual he recalled.

The property at 927 W. 34th St. has three residences: a front unit facing onto the street with a back yard leading to a two-flat residential unit. Thome recalled that the location of the domestic violence call from which he remembered the suspect was on the upper floor of the two-flat unit in the back (the "apartment"). However, when Thome approached the apartment he observed a dog in the back yard of the front unit. Thome then backtracked to the front unit and spoke there with Barbara Hunter ("Hunter"), the girlfriend of the landlady's son. Thome informed Hunter that he was looking for a male who supposedly lived in the apartment. Hunter responded that the man did not live in the apartment, but only stayed there off and on with his girlfriend. Hunter also stated that she believed that the man's girlfriend had moved out of the apartment but that he and his girlfriend occasionally returned. According to Hunter, no one was living in the apartment at that time and the owner was currently in the process of "kicking them out."

Hunter then accompanied Thome to the apartment with a set of keys but, upon arriving, found that the apartment door, although closed, was unlocked.*fn1 Thome noticed that there were fresh footprints in the snow that led to the door and called for an "assist car" as backup. After calling for assistance, Thome asked Hunter if she would mind if he entered the apartment. Hunter stated that she did not mind, and that she was going to call the landlady, Beverly Montgomery ("Montgomery"). Once the requested assistance arrived, Thome and other CPD officers entered the apartment, searching for any occupants. The apartment was in a state of advanced squalor, with feces on the bedroom floor and kitchen appliances missing. Thome noticed a Cook County Inmate identification card (the "identification card"), lying on a table. The identification card bore the photograph of a white male and the name "David Carter." Thome recognized the photograph as being that of the individual that he recalled from the prior domestic violence calls and whom he was seeking in the apartment.

At or about this time, Mark Alvarado ("Alvarado"), one of Montgomery's sons, arrived and identified himself as one of the owners of the property. Alvarado told Thome that Carter's girlfriend and her son were the only individuals named in the apartment's lease. He further stated that the rent had not been paid in four months and that the landlord had initiated eviction proceedings against her. Alvarado claimed that Carter and his girlfriend had recently moved out, but might still be "squatting" in the apartment. He added that Carter had been staying at the apartment from time to time and, along with various others, had received mail at that address. Recent Commonwealth Edison electrical bills addressed to Carter were also delivered to the apartment's address.

Shortly after entering the apartment and finding the card, Thome received another "flash" message via his radio with the food court employees' description of the individual who had threatened them the previous night. Thome turned the card over to two other CPD officers who eventually showed the card to the food court employees. The food court employees stated that the photograph on the identification card resembled the man who had threatened them on the evening of February 19th, and who had returned on the morning of the 20th prior to the bank robbery.

Later that day, as the investigation continued, CPD officers generated a photographic lineup, including a photograph that closely resembled, if not identical to, the photograph of Carter on the identification card. The lineup was shown to the bank teller at the bank, who stated that she was 95% sure that the photograph of Carter was also that of the robber and that she was 100% sure that none of the other individuals depicted in the lineup was the robber.

Based upon information from various sources, Carter was arrested at another apartment later that day in possession of five of the pre-marked bills. After being taken into custody and informed of his Miranda rights, Carter admitted robbing the bank.

Carter now claims that the warrantless search of the apartment that resulted in the finding of the identification card violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, he now seeks to suppress the identification card, the identifications made by the food court employees, the ...

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