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United States v. Terrell

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 22, 2014



ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Arturo Terrell's motion to suppress statements [59]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court declines Defendant's request to set this matter for a suppression hearing and denies Defendant's motion to suppress [59].

I. Background

A. Request for Evidentiary Hearing

The Seventh Circuit has described "the resolution of a motion to suppress" as a "fact-intensive inquiry" in which the district court must make "credibility determinations" based on "its opportunity at the suppression hearing to hear the testimony and observe the demeanor of the witnesses." United States v. Kempf , 400 F.3d 501, 503 (7th Cir. 2005); see also United States v. Springs , 17 F.3d 192, 194 (7th Cir. 1994) (explaining the deference given to the credibility determinations of the district judge who has "heard the conflicting testimony, observed the witnesses, and then reached a determination about whom to believe"). However, before a suppression hearing is warranted, a defendant has the burden of presenting "definite, specific, detailed, and nonconjectural facts" to establish that there are disputed issues of material fact sufficient to warrant an evidentiary hearing. United States v. Rodriguez, 69 F.3d 136, 141 (7th Cir. 1995). The defendant must make this prima facie showing of illegality without relying on vague or conclusory allegations. See United States v. Randle, 966 F.2d 1209, 1212 (7th Cir. 1992). As set forth below, after considering Defendant's motion to suppress, the Court concludes that Defendant has not met his burden.

B. Facts

The indictment charges Defendant Arturo Terrell with three narcotics-related violations (Counts I-III) and with unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Count IV), arising from Defendant's arrest on the evening of January 19, 2012, inside his home in Dolton, Illinois. The FBI executed a search warrant at Defendant's home following the alleged purchase by a confidential informant of approximately ten ounces of crack cocaine from Defendant. Agents arrested Defendant almost immediately after the informant left Defendant's house with the crack cocaine. When the warrant was executed, Defendant's son and girlfriend were present in the house. The affidavit in support of the search warrant summarized a recorded meeting the previous day between Defendant and the informant, in which Defendant allegedly agreed to sell ten ounces of crack cocaine to the informant for $10, 000.[1] The search warrant affidavit also recited information from the informant concerning Defendant's past possession of firearms, as well as Defendant's history of firearm-and-narcotics-related convictions, including a 2004 conviction for a home invasion involving a firearm.

The motion to suppress avers that agents started to search Defendant's house at approximately 8:30 p.m. Defendant attests that, after agents detained him but before he was given Miranda warnings, agents asked him whether and where any weapons were located in the residence, as well as whether he had a Firearm Owners Identification card. According to the complaint affidavit, the search yielded drug paraphernalia, approximately two additional ounces of suspected crack cocaine, and a semi-automatic pistol that Defendant allegedly indicated was stored in the master bedroom. Then, at approximately 8:53 p.m., agents transported Defendant from his residence to "a law enforcement facility" in Chicago. There, the motion to suppress avers that Defendant waived his Miranda rights before making both an oral and a written statement to agents.

II. Analysis

Defendant asserts two claims in his motion to suppress. First, Defendant seeks to suppress statements that he made at the search location (his home) in response to questions about the presence and whereabouts of weapons. Second, Defendant seeks to suppress both his pre- and post- Miranda statements on the basis that his Miranda waiver was not knowing, voluntary, or intelligent because he was "under the influence of drugs and alcohol" and thus incapable "of understanding the rights waiver document"; in other words, Defendant maintains that his use of drugs and alcohol rendered him incapable of knowingly and voluntarily waiving his privilege against self-incrimination.

A. Statements at Defendant's Home

Defendant maintains that following his arrest, agents asked him about weapons without first administering Miranda warnings. However, even accepting Defendant's version of events, under the public safety exception to Miranda , the agents conducting the search of Defendant's residence were entitled to ask him about the presence of weapons. In fact, applying the public safety exception, the Seventh Circuit has upheld the denial of a suppression motion on remarkably similar facts. In United States v. Are , officers executed an arrest warrant at the home of Antwan Daniels, who was wanted on drug conspiracy charges and had several prior drug- and weapons-related arrests. 590 F.3d 499, 504 (7th Cir. 2009). After the arrest team had conducted a protective sweep, handcuffed Davis, and gathered the other occupants of the home in a single room, officers asked the Daniels "whether there were any weapons in the house, to which he replied that there was an AK-47 under the dresser in the bedroom." On appeal of the district court's denial of his motion to suppress these statements, Daniels argued that the public safety exception was inapplicable "because he and the house were secured * * * by nine armed officers who had performed a protective sweep and had no reasonable concern for their safety or for that of anyone else." 590 F.3d at 505.

The Seventh Circuit disagreed, holding that "[t]he FBI agent's question to Daniels about the presence of a weapon in the house falls within the public safety' to Miranda ." 590 F.3d at 506. "Though Daniels was cuffed and the officers and agents had conducted a brief protective sweep, " the appeals court reasoned,

they knew that Daniels was a drug dealer who was being arrested for drug conspiracy charges. They also knew that he had several prior drug and weapons offenses. But they did not know the location of any weapon that he may have had in the house. A weapon might have been hidden near the place where the officers placed Daniels before taking him outside and thus would have been within his reach * * * * Therefore, it was reasonable for the officers and ...

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