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United States v. Sanford

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

October 17, 2014



JON STUARE SCOLES Magistrate Judge.


On the 14th day of October 2014, this matter came on for hearing on the Motion to Suppress (docket number 18) filed by the Defendant on October 2, 2014. The Government was represented by Special Assistant United States Attorney Lisa C. Williams. Defendant Dontay Dakwon Sanford appeared in person and was represented by his attorney, Anne M. Laverty.


On July 23, 2014, Defendant Dontay Dakwon Sanford was charged by Indictment with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon. Defendant appeared on September 4 and entered a plea of not guilty. Trial was scheduled before Chief Judge Linda R. Reade on November 3, 2014; however, due to the pending motion to suppress, trial was continued to December 15.

On October 2, 2014, Defendant timely filed the instant motion to suppress. The Government filed its resistance on October 9.


Responding to the scene of a reported threat, Officer Ryan Muhlenbruch ordered Defendant to get out of a parked vehicle. After placing Defendant in handcuffs and putting him in the back of his squad car, Muhlenbruch discovered a handgun under the seat of the parked car where Defendant had been sitting. Defendant asserts that the search of the vehicle was unconstitutional. Defendant also argues that certain incriminating statements made by him while sitting in the squad car "were taken under circumstances violative of his constitutional rights."


During the early morning hours of July 6, 2014, Officers Ryan Muhlenbruch and Dustin Yates of the Waterloo Police Department were on routine patrol, driving separate vehicles. At approximately 1:15 a.m., "dispatch" advised over the radio that an employee at Club 319 had reported that someone at the bar told employees he was "going to do something to someone" when the bar let out. The officers were not given any further information regarding the nature of the threat, but described the area as a "high crime area." According to Muhlenbruch, there had been numerous violent crimes in the area, including large fights and shootings. Yates testified that Club 319 has a "very high call volume" with "higher risk" calls, such as fights, shootings, and stabbings. Muhlenbruch testified he was concerned there may be a shooting. The subject making the threat was described as a black male with dreadlocks, wearing a white shirt and blue shorts.

Officer Muhlenbruch arrived on the scene first. "Halfway down the block" from Club 319, Muhlenbruch spotted a man matching the subject's description in an alley. Muhlenbruch pulled his squad car into the alley and stopped. Muhlenbruch did not activate his emergency lights or siren. A video taken from the front window of Muhlenbruch's squad car shows a man matching the subject's description walking toward a nearby parked car.[1] The subject, who was later identified as Defendant, was only a few feet from the back of the car when Muhlenbruch stopped.

As Defendant rounded the right rear of the vehicle and headed toward the passenger door, another man, who had been sitting on the driver's side with his feet out the door, exited the vehicle. Officer Muhlenbruch got out of his car and yelled "hey, partner." The man exiting the parked car on the driver's side started to approach Muhlenbruch with his hands up. The video also shows a third man walking nearby and three women approaching the area from the other direction. Defendant did not stop, but got into the parked vehicle. Muhlenbruch testified that before Defendant entered the vehicle, he made "eye contact" with Muhlenbruch. Muhlenbruch conceded that it was "possible" that Defendant did not hear him, but opined it was "not likely." Muhlenbruch ran to the passenger side of the vehicle with a flashlight in his left hand and his right hand on his holster. The other persons in the area (including the man who got out of the driver's side of the parked car) walked away.

Officer Muhlenbruch testified that as he rounded the back of the vehicle and approached the passenger side, Defendant was leaning forward and Muhlenbruch could not see Defendant's hands. Defendant was moving around in the car and appeared to be reaching for the console with his left hand, with his right hand down near the floor. Muhlenbruch testified that he believed Defendant was concealing something under the front passenger seat. At that point, Muhlenbruch drew his firearm and instructed Defendant to "let me see your hands." Defendant complied. Muhlenbruch instructed Defendant to exit the car and put his hands on top of the car. Defendant complied.

According to Officer Muhlenbruch, when he approached the vehicle and instructed the occupant to show his hands, Defendant looked his way, and Muhlenbruch immediately recognized him as Dontay Sanford. Muhlenbruch had "previous dealings" with Defendant and knew of Defendant's prior criminal history, including convictions for carrying weapons. Muhlenbruch also knew Defendant was ...

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