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United States v. Garcia

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

December 1, 2014



AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Before the Court are the motions of Defendants Guadalupe Garcia ("Garcia") and Juan Perez ("Perez") to suppress evidence obtained by law enforcement on December 11, 2013. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendants' motions.


An indictment charged Defendants Guadalupe Garcia ("Garcia") and Juan Perez ("Perez") with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. ยง 841(a)(1), and a related forfeiture count.[1] (R. 29, Indictment.) Garcia now moves to suppress the physical evidence recovered and statements obtained from him on the basis that law enforcement entered his apartment on December 11, 2013 in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (R. 77, Am. Mot. to Supp.) Perez moves to quash his arrest and suppress the physical evidence recovered and statements obtained from him during that same incident. (R. 66, Mot. to Quash.)

"Evidentiary hearings are warranted 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." United States v. Villegas, 388 F.3d 317, 324 (7th Cir. 2004).

In support of his motion, Garcia swore to its truth. Defendant Perez did not submit an affidavit or otherwise swear to the truth of his motion, but attempted to raise material factual disputes based on alleged inconsistencies in the officers' reports and testimony. Since Garcia's sworn motion and the officers' reports and testimony created a material factual dispute, the Court held a suppression hearing in order to make evidentiary determinations on Garcia's motion. As discussed in more detail below, the Court also granted Perez an evidentiary hearing, but only on one limited issue. The Court held a combined hearing on both motions on October 27, 2014.


The following witnesses testified at the suppression hearing: Officer Hector Rivera, Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), Enforcement and Removal Operations ("ERO"); Officer Charles Carter, DHS, ERO; Defendant Guadalupe Garcia; and Nancy Alejandro, Garcia's common-law wife and the mother of four of his children. Defendant Perez did not testify. During the hearing, the Court had the opportunity to carefully evaluate the demeanor and credibility of each witness. The government introduced numerous documentary exhibits, including photographs taken from inside Garcia's apartment. The Court makes the following factual findings based on the evidence presented at the suppression hearing, as well as the other evidence submitted with the briefing on the motions to suppress. Although the parties disputed a number of factual issues regarding the events at Garcia's apartment on December 11, 2013, the Court only addresses those necessary to resolve the pending motions to suppress.

On December 11, 2013, at approximately 12:15 p.m., DHS immigration officers arrived at Garcia's apartment at 5555 S. Washtenaw Avenue in Chicago, Illinois to execute an administrative arrest warrant for his deportation. (R. 91-3, at 1.) The officers approached Garcia outside his residence near the rear entrance. (10/27/2014 A.M. Tr.) After initially attempting to speak with Garcia in English, Officer Hector Rivera switched to Spanish, and identified the officers and asked Garcia to provide identification. ( Id. ) After the officers verified Garcia's identity, Officer Rivera began to place handcuffs on him. ( Id. ) With his hands behind his back, Garcia tried to pull away his left hand. ( Id. ) Officer Rivera responded by very briefly placing Garcia's arm in a "goose hold"[2] to gain his compliance. ( Id. ) He then successfully handcuffed him. ( Id. )

Officer Esteban Rivas asked Garcia about his current immigration status, and Garcia admitted to being unlawfully in the United States and having previously been deported. ( Id. ) The officers searched Garcia, and asked him if anyone else was inside. ( Id. ) Garcia responded that his two buddies were in the house. ( Id. ) Officer Rivera asked if they could talk to him inside, and Garcia consented. ( Id. ) The officers then entered Garcia's apartment.[3]

Officers Rivas and Carter entered Garcia's apartment, and Officer Rivera stayed behind with Garcia. ( Id. ) As the two officers entered Garcia's apartment, Officer Carter saw Defendants Perez and Salazar-Sandoval in the back of the apartment. ( Id. ) The officers identified themselves as the police, and Perez and Salazar-Sandoval ran into an adjoining room. ( Id. ) Both Perez and Salazar-Sandoval had items in their hands-Perez was carrying a box. ( Id. ) Officer Carter and Officer Rivas followed Perez and Salazar-Sandoval into the next room, as Officer Carter testified in his experience that "when you announce police' or let me see your hands' and someone runs from you, something's not right and you need to find out what the problem is." ( Id. ) When Officer Carter reached Perez, Officer Carter turned to look over his shoulder into the next room and saw a package wrapped in duct tape and cellophane, which he believed was consistent with the packaging of narcotics. ( Id. ) As he scanned the room in front of him, Officer Carter also noticed drug paraphernalia on the table. ( Id. ) Specifically, he saw a white powder with cutting agents, cellophane, and baggies. ( Id. )

At this time, the officers read all three Defendants their Miranda warnings in Spanish, which Defendants indicated they understood. ( Id. ) The officers then searched them. ( Id. ) At approximately this same time, Officer Carter conducted a protective sweep of the apartment. ( Id. ) As part of this sweep, he entered the bedroom outside of which Salazar-Sandoval and Perez had initially been detained. ( Id. ) Officer Carter found a kilo-sized brick next to the television stand, and two other bricks resting on a chair in plain view. ( Id. ) Officer Carter also saw the box which Perez had carried into the room when the officers arrived. ( Id. ) Officer Esteban Rivas then contacted the Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") narcotics unit and the Chicago Police Department. ( Id. )

Officer Rivera questioned Garcia as they awaited the arrival of the HSI agents. Officer Rivera asked Garcia about the drugs, and after initially denying they belonged to him, Garcia admitted they were his. ( Id. ) Officer Rivera then asked Defendants who lived in the apartment. (R. 91-3, at 2.) Garcia responded that he lived in the apartment with a roommate who was not present. ( Id. ) Neither Salazar-Sandoval nor Perez claimed to live in the apartment. ( Id. )

At approximately 2:30 p.m., agents from the HSI narcotics unit arrived. (R. 91-2, at 3.) HSI Special Agent Travis Goff spoke with Garcia, with Officer Rivera translating. Special Agent Goff presented Garcia with a consent form written in Spanish to search his entire apartment, which Officer Rivera read to Garcia in Spanish. (10/27/2014 A.M. Tr.); ( see Gov. Hearing Ex. Consent Form.) Garcia also stated that he would be willing to cooperate with the officers, but he feared for his life, and so he did not want to cooperate with the other Defendants present. (10/27/2014 A.M. Tr.)

After Garcia signed the written consent to search, the HSI agents entered the bedroom where Officer Carter had initially encountered Salazar-Sandoval and Perez and discovered the kilo-sized, taped bricks. (R. 91-2, at 4.) In addition to the two bricks lying on the chair and the one brick lying on the floor next to the television stand, the agents discovered four additional bricks. ( Id. ) The HSI agents field-tested the bricks, which tested positive for the presence of cocaine. ( Id. ) The agents also recovered 1.87 kilograms of marijuana, 2.49 grams of methamphetamines, a scale, and $2, 422 in U.S. currency from Garcia's apartment. ( Id. )

After the search was completed, the HSI agents again read Perez his Miranda rights in Spanish, which Perez agreed to waive. ( Id. ) Perez stated that he resided ...

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