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U.S. v. WILLIAMS

July 19, 2004.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
LARRY WILLIAMS, IBN LEE, SHAWN McCOY, KEVIN THOMPSON, MAURICE CLARKE, Defendants.



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

Opinion & Order

On May 14, 2004, this Court conducted a hearing in response to a motion filed by Defendant Larry Williams to suppress evidence recovered during two searches in South Carolina. Police officer Shannon Toole, Corporal Jonathan Guiles, police officer Glen Richard Kufen, and Captain James Bryant Arnold, Jr. testified at the hearing. Based upon their testimony, which I credit, I find the following facts:

On December 14, 2001, the Georgetown South Carolina Police Department received an anonymous tip that an individual named Rossi Graham was located at an apartment at 1800 Prince Street. There was an outstanding warrant for Graham's arrest, which had been issued based on Graham's assault of a pregnant woman with a hot iron. Graham was also known to have resisted arrest and fled from police officers in the past.

  Based upon this information, four officers were dispatched to the Prince Street apartment; two officers positioned themselves at the front door of the apartment, and two officers positioned themselves at the back door. One of the officers at the front door, Officer Toole, knocked on the door, and when a voice inside the apartment asked "Who is it?" he identified himself as a police officer. The officers then heard the sound of running footsteps within the apartment, and the officers at the back door observed the back door open and an individual resembling Graham "peeked his head out the door very briefly and stuck it back in[side], and yelled out: Oh, shit." The individual then slammed the door and locked it.

  Believing that this individual was Rossi Graham, the officers kicked in the back door and proceeded to conduct a security check of the apartment. The officers detained the three individuals they found in the apartment, including Defendant Larry Williams, handcuffed them, and led them into the living room. At this time, Officer Toole read Mr. Williams his Miranda rights, patted him down, and recovered some currency and a key to a motel room from Mr. Williams's pocket.

  During the protective sweep, narcotics were seen in plain view, and the individuals in the apartment were ultimately arrested.*fn1 Mr. Williams gave a statement indicating that some of the currency recovered from the pocket of his pants belonged to him, some belonged to his cousin, Antoine Walker, who was also present at the Prince Street Apartment, and that the pants he was wearing did not belong to him.

  At some point during the events described above, the officers contacted police headquarters and requested additional assistance. Captain Arnold responded to the call and, when he arrived at the Prince Street Apartment, found Larry Williams and Antoine Walker in handcuffs, sitting on the couch of the living room and guarded by Officer Toole. John Murrell — the individual whom the officers had originally mistaken as Rossi Graham — was seated at the table in the kitchen, guarded by Corporal Guiles. Captain Arnold then proceeded to one of the two bedrooms in the apartment, where he found Officer Phil Volke standing guard and a powdery substance he identified as crack cocaine on the bed. At that time, Captain Arnold lifted a corner of the mattress and recovered a 10 millimeter automatic revolver. At some time after the motel room key was recovered from Mr. Williams, Officer Kufen was asked to join the investigation into the Prince Street Apartment. He met with Captain Arnold, who briefed him on the events at the Prince Street Apartment, and then, using a telephone number on the hotel key, ascertained that a motel room in Georgetown, South Carolina had been rented to Antoine Walker. Officer Kufen then prepared an affidavit for a search warrant, obtained a search warrant from a magistrate judge, and executed the warrant with another officer. Crack cocaine, heroin, and $4,280 in currency were recovered from the motel room.

  Defendant Williams now seeks to suppress evidence seized from the Prince Street Apartment on the basis that (1) the officers' warrantless entry into the apartment was unjustified; (2) the pat down of Mr. Williams exceeded the permissible scope of Terry; and (3) Captain Arnold's search under the mattress exceeded the scope of a protective sweep. Mr. Williams also seeks to suppress his statements to Officer Toole as the fruit of an illegal search (i.e., the pat down), as well as all evidence seized from the motel room on the theory that the recovery of the motel room key and subsequent search of the room were fruits of the officers' illegal entry into the Prince Street Apartment. Finally, Mr. Williams argues, in the alternative, that the evidence from the motel room must be suppressed because it was based on an improper warrant.

  I. The Officers' Warrantless Entry of the Prince Street Apartment Was Justified.

  Although an arrest warrant permits an officer to arrest an individual in his home, an arrest warrant does not permit an officer to enter the home of a third party to arrest the wanted individual on the belief that the wanted individual might be a guest there. Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204 (1981). In order to effectuate such an arrest, absent exigent circumstances or consent, the officer must have a search warrant for the third party's home. Id. Here, the officers had an arrest warrant for Rossi Graham, but did not have a search warrant to enter the Prince Street Apartment. However, this fact does not render the officers' entry into the apartment unlawful because exigent circumstances justified the entry — namely, the officers were in hot pursuit of an individual whom they reasonably believed to be Rossi Graham.

  In United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38 (1976), the Supreme Court held that when the police have probable cause to arrest a suspect, and when that suspect is standing in the doorway of her home, the police are justified in pursuing the suspect into her home when she retreats therein after the police identify themselves, even if the police do not have a warrant for the suspect's arrest. The Court found this arrest justified under the doctrine of "hot pursuit," reasoning that: "The fact that the pursuit here ended almost as soon as it began did not render it any the less a `hot pursuit' sufficient to justify the warrantless entry into Santana's house." Id. at 42.

  I find this reasoning applies equally when a suspect for whom the police have an arrest warrant retreats into the house of a third party. Although the rights sought to be protected by requiring officers to obtain a search warrant before arresting an individual in the home of a third party are the rights of the third party rather than the rights of the suspect, the doctrine of "hot pursuit" nonetheless justifies this entry. Indeed, when holding that law enforcement officials must secure a search warrant prior to making an arrest entry into third party premises, the Supreme Court specifically stated that "a warrantless entry of a home would be justified if the police were in `hot pursuit' of a fugitive" and cited Santana. Steagald, 451 U.S. at 222. Because the officers' entry into the Prince Street Apartment after the individual whom they reasonably believed to be Rossi Graham retreated into the house was justified under the doctrine of hot pursuit,*fn2 the evidence seized from the Prince Street Apartment that was in plain view, will not be suppressed.

  II. The Evidence Recovered From Mr. Williams's Person is Admissible.

  While patting down a suspect in order to determine whether he is armed, officers may seize nonthreatening contraband detected during the protective patdown search so long as the officers' search stays within the bounds marked by Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). See Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 373 (1993). Here, Mr. Williams argues that because when Officer Toole conducted a patdown of Mr. Williams and detected an item that he could not identify, that in removing the item from his pocket Officer Toole exceeded the bounds of a permissible Terry stop and thus the item recovered and Mr. Williams's subsequent statements must be suppressed. In Minnesota v. Dickerson the Supreme Court held that an officer's continued exploration of a suspect's pocket after he had already concluded that it contained no weapon exceeded the bounds of Terry and the recovered item must be suppressed. Id. at 378. Here, Officer Toole could not determine whether the item in Mr. Williams's pocket was a weapon, so he removed it from the pocket. In United States v. Rogers, 129 F.3d 76 (2d Cir. 1997), the Second Circuit found that an officer's continued manipulation of an item in a suspect's pocket in order to exclude the possibility that there was a weapon in the pocket ...


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