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United States v. Richon Sayles

April 16, 2012

UNITED STATES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHON SAYLES, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court is defendant Richon Sayles' motion to suppress any and all evidence seized in connection with defendant's detention and arrest on January 5, 2011, by members of the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA"), the Fairview Heights Police Department, and by any other law enforcement personnel, including all evidence seized from defendant's person and clothing, from his vehicle, and from a residence he "shared" with his girlfriend, Wydell Smith (Doc. 74). The government filed a response (Doc. 88), and the Court held a hearing on April 16, 2012 , to consider the issues raised in defendant's motion to suppress.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Richon Sayles was charged by a grand jury with: Count (1) distribution of 28 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(iii); Counts (2-4) distribution of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C); and Count (5) possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C).

The record reveals that on January 5, 2011, defendant was arrested following a controlled buy conducted by the DEA. According to the DEA-6 report, the agents observed the defendant in a van parked outside the barbershop where co-defendant Robert Griffin ("Griffin") worked. Griffin allegedly spent time in the vicinity of defendant's vehicle just before and just after Griffin's interaction with the confidential source ("CS"). The DEA agents reported that previous investigation had established that defendant was Griffin's source of supply, and that they had observed defendant's presence during previous narcotics transactions between the CS and Griffin.

After the interaction between Griffin and the CS on January 5, 2011, the CS left the parking lot and met with agents, and soon thereafter, Sayles was stopped by law enforcement, secured in handcuffs, and transported from the scene. The DEA-6 report states that an officer removed defendant's van from the roadway and transported it to the FHRO for a search of the vehicle incident to arrest. The report further states that the van's exterior and interior were damaged, including loose door panels and dash panels, and a partially pulled away head liner on the roof area above the passenger and driver sides of the vehicle. TFO Rohlfing located a plastic bag containing a purple tablet above the driver's head area, under the head liner, and SA Rehg located two plastic bags containing a substance believed to be crack cocaine, although the report does not indicate where these bags were found. Defendant claims that prior to his arrest, his vehicle's door panels, dash panels, and head liner were not damaged, and that the damage occurred when agents searched his vehicle.

According to defendant, after his arrest, agents also searched a residence "characterized" by agents as defendant's residence, after obtaining permission and a signed consent form from defendant's girlfriend, Wydell Smith ("Smith"). As a result of the search of the residence, agents seized marijuana, currency, cocaine, a scale, and ammunition. Defendant claims that any consent given by Smith was only given as a result of significant coercion by agents.

Finally, in the course of defendant's arrest and release from the Fairview Heights Police Department, officers seized items from defendant's person and clothing, including currency.

Defendant challenges the admission of any and all evidence seized in connection with his detention and arrest on January 5, 2011, based upon his contentions that: (1) his detention and arrest were illegal because they were made without warrant, without consent, and without lawful authority; (2) any subsequent searches of defendant's vehicle, person, or clothing were tainted by the illegality of his detention and arrest; (3) the search of defendant's vehicle was executed without a warrant, without probable cause, without lawful authority, and was not justified pursuant to exigent circumstances, a search incident to arrest, a lawful inventory search, or any other exception; and (4) the search of the residence was illegal because defendant did not consent to the search of the residence, Smith did not voluntarily consent to the search, but was coerced by agents, and the search was executed without a warrant, without probable cause, without lawful authority, and was not justified pursuant to any exception.

ANALYSIS

I. Legality of Defendant's Arrest and Detention

Defendant asserts that his arrest and detention were illegal because they were made without a warrant, without consent, and without lawful authority. Defendant provides absolutely no support, legal or factual, through affidavits, evidence, testimony, or otherwise, to support this particular assertion. Without a showing of illegality, the government asserts that the Court need not even entertain this claim, citing United States v. Randle, 966 F.2d 1209, 1212 (7th Cir. 1992), which provides that "[a] defendant who seeks to suppress evidence bears the burden of making a prima facie showing of illegality." The Court gave the defendant the opportunity to present any such evidence at the hearing, but the defendant provided nothing more than the cross-examination testimony of Special Agent Rehg, which did not provide support for defendant's allegation of illegal arrest or detention.

The government further asserts that defendant's arrest on January 5, 2011, was "undisputably" supported by probable cause because officers observed four controlled drug transactions involving the defendant before arresting him. On each of the four occasions a CS contacted Griffin to purchase crack; the CS went to Twins Barbershop to meet with Griffin and purchase crack; a tan van bearing license plate number K880209 arrived at the barbershop; Griffin met with the driver of the van and then delivered a package from the driver of the van to the CS, which was later confirmed to be crack; the CS gave Griffin recorded "buy money" provided to the CS by law enforcement; and, Griffin would, after the CS paid for the crack cocaine, return to the van and meet with the driver. Law enforcement identified the defendant as the driver of the van after the first buy on August 3, 2010, and identified him as the driver of the van at each of the following three drug transactions. On the date of defendant's arrest, officers watched the above described events occur, received confirmation from the CS that a drug transaction occurred, and then followed the defendant as he drove away from the barbershop. His car was stopped and the defendant was arrested.

A warrantless arrest of an individual is consistent with the Fourth Amendment if officers "have probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime" United States v. Mosby, 541 F.3d 764, 767 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 370 (2003)). Police have the requisite probable cause if "the circumstances known to the officers would justify a prudent police officer's belief that [the defendant] had committed a crime." Id. Stated another way, "[p]robable cause exists when, at the time of arrest, the arresting officer possesses 'knowledge from reasonably trustworthy information that is sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that a suspect has committed, or is committing a crime.'" United States v. Villegas, 495 F.3d 761, 770 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Breit, 429 F.3d 725, 728 (7th Cir. 2005)). The Court assesses "the determination of probable cause for a search or an arrest under the commonsense 'totality of the circumstances' analysis established in Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983), which requires us to ...


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