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United States of America v. Juan Antonio Luna

February 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge


Defendant Juan Luna filed a motion to (1) quash his arrest, (2) suppress evidence that law enforcement agents obtained from his truck on March 2, 2010, and (3) suppress statements he made to law enforcement following his arrest on March 2, 2010. Based on the parties' briefs, the Court determined there was a disputed issue of material fact regarding when Luna was advised of his Miranda rights. The Court convened a suppression hearing on January 28, 2011 to address this limited issue.*fn1 See United States v. McGaughy, 485 F.3d 965, 969 (7th Cir. 2007) (on a motion to suppress "[e]videntiary hearings are not required as a matter of course; a district court need conduct a hearing only when the allegations and moving papers are sufficiently definite, specific, non-conjectural and detailed enough to conclude that a substantial claim is presented and that there are disputed issues of material fact which will affect the outcome of the motion.") (citing United States v. Villegas, 388 F.3d 317, 324 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also United States v. Juarez, 454 F.3d 717, 720 (7th Cir. 2006). The Court further determined that it could address the remaining issues based on the briefs given that Defendant did not raise factual disputes as to them.

At the suppression hearing, the government presented documentary evidence and four witnesses testified credibly: Kansas Highway Patrol Troopers Christopher Nicholas and Brian K. Smith, and Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agents Dana Suchma and Michael Wilhite. Each of those officers interacted with Defendant Luna on March 2-3, 2010 and has extensive experience in both law enforcement and drug interdiction.*fn2 After carefully examining the evidence presented in connection with Defendant's motion, including the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses who testified during the suppression hearing, the Court denies Defendant's motion.


I. Kansas Highway Patrol Stop On Interstate 70

On the morning of March 2, 2010, Kansas Highway Patrol ("KHP") Trooper Nicholas was patrolling Interstate 70 near Topeka, Kansas. At approximately 9:54 a.m., Trooper Nicholas observed a commercial semi-truck traveling eastbound on I-70 and ran a check of the United States Department of Transportation ("DOT") number identified on the side of the semi-truck.*fn4

The DOT number did not yield a "match" in the database. Trooper Nicholas activated his emergency lights and directed the semi-truck to the side of the road. As the semi-truck pulled over, Trooper Nicholas observed an irregular lock on the trailer door that he recognized as a cable lock designed for firearms.

Trooper Nicholas approached the driver of the semi-truck, who identified himself as Juan Antonia Luna, Jr. ("Luna" or "Defendant"). Upon Trooper Nicholas's request, Luna produced identification and a copy of the bill of lading.*fn5 Trooper Nicholas asked Luna about the trucking company for which he drove, and Luna stated that it was his own company. Trooper Nicholas informed Luna that the DOT number displayed on his semi-truck had not appeared in his computer database search, but suggested that perhaps it was because DOT numbers for new trucking companies are not always immediately reflected in the database. Trooper Nicholas asked Luna where the cargo had been loaded onto the semi-truck, and Luna named two cities, one in California and the other in Arizona. Luna's answer did not match the information on the bill of lading. Trooper Nicholas next inquired as to where Luna was delivering the cargo. Again, Luna's answer did not match the bill of lading.

Trooper Nicholas asked Luna for his driver's log book.*fn6 Luna produced the log book, but noted that there were some problems with it because of a truck inspection he had been subjected to in New Mexico. Trooper Nicholas examined the log book and noted that Luna had driven the semi-truck for significantly fewer hours than the number of hours permitted under federal safety regulations.

Trooper Nicholas informed Luna that he had noticed the gun lock on the trailer door. Luna explained that he had flown with the gun lock in his luggage. When Trooper Nicholas expressed confusion, Luna informed Trooper Nicholas that he had flown to Phoenix, where the semi-truck was parked before Luna began driving it. Luna informed Trooper Nicholas that it was his first trip. Luna also noted that he had not personally loaded the produce into the truck, which prompted Trooper Nicholas to ask to look at the load. Luna unlocked the gun lock and opened the back door of the trailer for Trooper Nicholas. Inside, the produce was stacked in such a way that it nearly reached the ceiling and the back door of the trailer. Trooper Nicholas removed inspection equipment from his vehicle and examined the load. He observed that the load from California was in the front and the back of the trailer, while the Arizona load was in the middle of the trailer. Trooper Nicholas inquired about the irregular loading of the cargo and Luna stated that someone else had loaded the trailer in Arizona.

Approximately twenty-three minutes into the stop, Trooper Nicholas asked Luna if the truck contained anything illegal. Luna answered "no." Trooper Nicholas asked Luna for consent to search the semi-truck, and Luna consented.*fn7 Trooper Nicholas searched the driver's cabin and observed three cell phones. Trooper Nicholas noted that there was very little clothing, and no scale or weight tickets. Trooper Nicholas also noted a power drill and an extension with a socket on it, which he observed appeared to have been recently used.

Nineteen minutes after obtaining Luna's consent to search the semi-truck, Trooper Nicholas returned to his patrol car and asked the KHP dispatch to run a computer check of Luna's driver's license and criminal history. Trooper Nicholas learned that Luna's driver's license was valid, that the semi-truck was lawfully registered, and that Luna had no criminal history. Trooper Nicholas called another officer to discuss the situation. Following that conversation, which was not recorded on the video, Trooper Nicholas returned to the semi-truck and directed Luna to drive to a nearby public rest stop so that Trooper Nicholas could complete the search of the semi-truck. When Trooper Nicholas gave this direction to Luna, he noticed a small hacksaw and a set of "Torx bits" (screwdriver heads) in the cabin that appeared freshly used. Luna voiced a concern about "being late" but complied with Trooper Nicholas's request. Luna drove the semi-truck to the rest stop unaccompanied. Following him, en route to the rest stop, Trooper Nicholas spoke on the phone with one of his colleagues and made repeated comments about the suspicious nature of Luna's conduct.

A KHP truck containing x-ray technology (a "backscatter truck") arrived at the rest stop and scanned the exterior of the semi-truck.*fn8 According to the scan, a concealed compartment in the driver's cabin contained thirty-two packages. After inspecting the driver's cabin and confirming the existence of the concealed compartment, the KHP officers arrested Luna and placed him in handcuffs. Approximately five minutes later, the KHP officers removed Luna's handcuffs and ordered him to drive the semi-truck to KHP Troop B Headquarters ("Troop B") in Topeka, Kansas. KHP Trooper Brian Smith rode with Luna to Troop B. They did not discuss the contents of the hidden packages during the drive. When they arrived at Troop B, law enforcement agents searched the concealed compartment and discovered thirty-two individually wrapped one-kilogram packages which, when sampled, tested positive for cocaine.

II. Luna's Interviews With Law Enforcement

Following Luna's arrival at Troop B, at approximately 1:30 p.m., DEA Task Force Officer Brian Hogelin and DEA Special Agent Dana Suchma interviewed Luna. It is undisputed that during the course of those communications, Luna made incriminating statements regarding the thirty-two kilograms of cocaine that were hidden in the concealed compartment of his semi-truck. Among other things, Luna confessed that he was transporting the cocaine from the Los Angeles area to the Chicagoland area, and that he was working with other individuals. At approximately 5:15 p.m., Luna signed a "Written Waiver of Rights To Be Taken Before A Federal Magistrate And To Have Counsel," see R. 70-4, in which he stated that he would immediately cooperate with the DEA. The Waiver further stated that Luna did not want to talk to a lawyer until after his cooperation with the DEA. Luna signed a Confidential Source Agreement with the DEA at approximately 5:36 p.m., see R. 70-5, and agreed to carry out a controlled delivery of the thirty-two kilograms of cocaine to his intended purchaser in Chicago. Law enforcement officials transported Luna and his truck to the Chicago area that night. In transit, Luna made multiple telephone calls -- some of which were consensually recorded -- regarding the controlled delivery.

On March 3, 2010, at approximately 8:03 a.m., after arriving in Chicago, Luna met with DEA Special Agent Michael Wilhite and signed an "Illinois State Police Statement of Constitutional Rights and Waiver Rights," waiving his Miranda rights. See R. 70-6. Immediately thereafter, federal agents from the Chicago area interviewed Luna. The controlled delivery occurred at approximately 7:40 p.m.

The parties disagree on a significant factual issue: namely, whether and when law enforcement agents Mirandized Luna. Luna denies that anyone advised him of his Miranda rights in Kansas. Luna alleges that the first time he was read his Miranda rights was when he met with Special Agent Wilhite in Chicago. According to the government, KHP Trooper Smith advised Luna of his Miranda rights at approximately 11:43 a.m. on March 2, 2010, when Luna arrived at Troop B, and Luna waived those rights. The government further contends that when Task Force Officer Hogelin and Special Agent Suchma interviewed Luna at Troop B, they first conferred with Trooper Smith to confirm that he had advised Luna of his Miranda rights, and that Trooper Smith so confirmed. The government rejects Luna's claim that he was not Mirandized prior to arriving in Chicago. Because the Court found this disagreement to constitute a "significant, disputed factual issue" that required resolution, see United States v. ...

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