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United States v. Lagrange

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

November 28, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SHANE LEE LAGRANGE, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          Mark A. Roberts United States Magistrate Judge

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 3

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT ...................................................................... 3

         III. ANALYSIS .................................................................................. 10

         A. The Parties' arguments ........................................................... 10

         B. Messer and Liddle had reasonable suspicion that Defendant was likely involved in criminal activity on December 29, 2017 ................. 11

         i. The officers' reliance on the memo was reasonable ................... 12

         ii. Messer's reliance on his past experiences with Defendant and his belief that Defendant had an outstanding warrant were reasonable .................................................................... 15

         iii. Messer and Liddle had reasonable suspicion that Defendant was likely involved in criminal activity .................................. 17

         C. The items seized in the searches of Defendant and the Grand Prix should not be suppressed ..................................................... 18

         i. Defendant was merely detained before his arrest ............... 18

         ii. The items seized from Defendant's person should not be suppressed ................................................................ 20

         iii. The items seized from the search of the Grand Prix should not be suppressed ......................................................... 20

         a. The search of the Grand Prix was a valid inventory search. . ........................................................... 21

         b. Defendant had not abandoned the Grand Prix or property in it .................................................................... 22

         c. The evidence in the Grand Prix would not have been inevitably discovered ........................................... 24

         d. Items seized from the search of the Grand Prix need not be suppressed ............................................................ 25

         D. Defendant's statements should not be suppressed ......................... 25

         i. Defendant's December 29, 2017 confession should not be suppressed ................................................................ 25

         ii. Defendant's June 2018 statements should not be suppressed. ... 26

         IV. CONCLUSION .......................................................................... 29

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter now before me is Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence. (Doc. 7.) On September 11, 2018, the Grand Jury charged Defendant with Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Firearm during a Drug Trafficking Crime, and Possession of a Firearm by a Felon. (Doc. 2.) The charges arose from an incident that occurred on December 29, 2017.

         The Honorable Charles J. Williams, United States District Court Judge, referred this motion to me for a Report and Recommendation. On November 5, 2018, I held an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion. The Government called the following witnesses:

         • Cedar Rapids, Iowa Police Officer Matt Messer;

         • Cedar Rapids, Iowa Police Officer Lucas Liddle; and

         • Cedar Rapids, Iowa Police Officer John O'Brien. Defendant called no witnesses.

         For the following reasons, I respectfully recommend that the Court deny Defendant's Motion to Suppress.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         On December 29, 2017, Cedar Rapids Police Department (“CRPD”) Investigating Officer Randal Reck issued an intelligence memorandum email (“the memo”) with the subject line, “Burglary/ Wanted Subject/ Officer Safety Information.” (Doc. 10-1.) The memo stated the following:

An informant advised DOT Investigator Jason Nusbaum that Shane Lagrange . . . is in possession of a pink Glock with camo grips. The CI stated he saw him in possession of the gun on 12/27/2017. Lagrange has been staying at different hotels on 33rd Ave SW. Use caution if you make contact. . . . Lagrange is a meth user as well.

(Id.) The memo contained two photographs of Defendant. The memo contained no indication of the veracity of the informant's claims, Investigator Nusbaum's previous dealings with the informant, or corroboration of the informant's claims. CRPD Officers Matt Messer and Lucas Liddle read the memo before beginning their shift at 4:00 p.m. that day. Messer had spoken to Nusbaum on the phone before, but never about drug crimes, gun crimes, Nusbaum's informants, or Defendant. Liddle did not know Nusbaum.

         Messer was familiar with Defendant because he had personally encountered Defendant “a handful” of times in the past, and arrested Defendant once. (Matt Messer Nov. 5, 2018 Hr'g Test.) Messer knew Defendant had a history of methamphetamine use from Defendant's previous admissions and Defendant's associations. Messer also thought that Defendant had been in prison because there was a gap in Defendant's history when Messer checked Defendant's name against the CRPD in-house record system prior to beginning his shift. Based on the heading of the memo, “Wanted Subject, ” Messer testified he mistakenly thought Defendant had an outstanding warrant. (Id.) Liddle was not familiar with Defendant before the events of December 29.

         Messer and Liddle are both members of the Cedar Rapids Police Community Action Team (“PCAT”), whose members are tasked with building relationships in high-crime communities. PCAT officers spend much of their time addressing gun violence in high-crime areas of the city and are familiar with the area mentioned in the memo because the group of hotels is in a high-crime area. In fact, Defendant, himself, claims he had been assaulted and robbed in that area three times in the weeks prior to the incident that is the subject of this motion.

         After receiving the memo, Messer and Liddle began their shift by patrolling the hotel area so they could develop information related to Defendant. It is common for the officers to drive through the hotel parking lots in this high-crime area and run license plate checks on cars parked there and then “loop” back through to see if there have been any changes. (Lucas Liddle Nov. 5, 2018 Hr'g Test.) Messer drove, and Liddle ran the squad car's computer. When the officers drove through the Hometown Inn and Suites (“Hometown”) parking lot, a white Grand Prix caught their attention because it was parked and running on that very cold and snowy evening when most people would get inside as quickly as possible. Snow was building up on the vehicle and the windows were fogged over, but at least one person was inside the Grand Prix. The officers ran the license plate and discovered the vehicle belonged to someone from a small town in Iowa. There was no criminal activity associated with the vehicle, so the officers drove on. Although Messer could not identify the driver of the Grand Prix, Messer could see the driver “staring intently at the officers” through the Grand Prix's side mirror. (Messer Hr'g Test.)

         Fifteen or twenty minutes later, Messer and Liddle returned to the Hometown parking lot. As they were pulling into the lot, they saw the Grand Prix driving toward them. The Grand Prix stopped in the middle of the parking lot when the driver saw the squad car. Both officers found this behavior unusual, but Messer continued driving into the lot and passed right next to the Grand Prix. Messer noticed that the driver was driving with one hand up on the steering wheel while trying to hide his face behind his other arm and by turning his head down and toward the center console. (Id.) Messer found this behavior unusual because in his experience most people drive with their hands at “10 and 2” or “12” and another spot on the car's steering wheel. (Id.) In spite of what he believed was an attempt to hide, Messer identified the driver as Defendant and shared this information with Liddle. Liddle entered Defendant's name in the computer to pull up Defendant's criminal record, including any outstanding warrants and citations.

         At that moment, Defendant accelerated out of the parking lot while Messer and Liddle were making a U-turn at the other end of the lot. Messer testified that Defendant's driver's license had been suspended every time Messer had encountered him. Messer also knew that Defendant had once been arrested for having a suspended license. Messer therefore suspected Defendant was driving on a suspended driver's license. (Id.) Based on this suspicion, and Messer's mistaken belief that Defendant had an outstanding warrant, the officers followed Defendant. Messer did not turn on the squad car's flashing lights or siren.

         Defendant pulled into a parking space in a nearby Burger King parking lot, put the car in park, exited the vehicle (while it was still running), and allowed the car door to close by itself. Messer and Liddle pulled into a space behind Defendant but did not box Defendant in. Messer testified that he and Liddle intended to conduct a consensual stop because at that point nothing had come back from the search on their squad computer. (Id.) Defendant was not facing the officers as he got out of the car but immediately turned to face them when Messer called out, “Hey, Shane, come here!” (Def. Ex. A at 5:31:10.)[1] When Defendant turned around, he appeared to have his hand near his waistband, which Messer knew from his training and experience is a place people hide weapons.

         Messer told Defendant to put his hands where officers could see them, and Defendant complied. Liddle said, “You're just gonna be detained right now, ” and immediately put Defendant's hands behind his back and handcuffed him. (Def. Ex. C at 5:31:26.) Liddle told Defendant he was not under arrest but was being handcuffed because the officers did not want him to run. (Def. Ex. A at 5:31:31.) When Defendant asked why he was being detained when he had done nothing wrong, Messer said Defendant had some warrant paperwork to take of. (Def. Ex. B at 5:32:16-17.) Defendant denied having any outstanding warrants. (Id. at 5:32:18-19.) Messer then queried, “You don't have a license, right? I've talked to you enough to know you don't have a driver's license.” (Id. at 5:33:50-52.) Defendant admitted his driver's license was suspended, but said he was getting it back. (Id. at 5:33:23-27.) Liddle asked if Defendant had any weapons, and Defendant stated that he had a knife. Liddle conducted a pat search of Defendant and did not find any contraband. Liddle testified that handcuffing and pat searching detained subjects suspected of carrying weapons is part of his training. (Liddle Hr'g Test.) When Liddle began checking Defendant's pockets, Messer told him to “sit tight” and Liddle stopped searching. (Def. Ex. B at 5:32:25.)

         Liddle called the CRPD and received almost immediate confirmation that Defendant's driver's license was suspended. (Def. Ex. C at 5:34:16.) During the time the officers were waiting for information about Defendant's license status, Messer saw a backpack that said “Ruger” on the front passenger seat of the Grand Prix, and asked Defendant if the backpack was his. Defendant said that it was not his backpack. (Def. Ex. B at 5:34:23-25.) The backpack caught Messer's eye because Ruger is a brand of firearm, and Messer testified that if people have a backpack with the name of a firearm, that could lead to the recovery of a firearm. (Messer Hr'g Test.) The total time from Messer calling out, “Hey, Shane, come here!” to Liddle receiving confirmation that Defendant's license was suspended was approximately three minutes.

         As soon as they received verification that Defendant's license was suspended, the officers arrested Defendant for driving while having a suspended license. Messer asked Defendant if he had any property in the Grand Prix, and Defendant said he believed he had a pack of cigarettes on the dashboard, but nothing else. When Messer asked who owned the Grand Prix, Defendant said the car belonged to someone named “Chris, ” but that he did not know Chris's last name. Because the officers had already run the vehicle's plates, they believed Defendant was lying about who owned the car, and the officers thought the vehicle might be stolen, but not yet reported stolen. (Id.)

         Liddle immediately conducted a search incident to arrest of Defendant's person and clothing and found a knife, a lighter, and a cigarette package containing both a baggie of methamphetamine and a chewing ...


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