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United States v. Felix

February 25, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
CHARLES M. FELIX, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Richard J. Arcara Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The defendant, Charles Felix, is charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and § 924(a)(2), that is, being a prior felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott for pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

On June 18, 2008, the defendant filed a motion to suppress a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle seized from his residence during a search conducted on February 10, 2007 and statements made on that date. The government filed a response in opposition to the motion to suppress and on August 7, 2008, Magistrate Judge Scott held a hearing on the motion. On October 17, 2008, Magistrate Judge Scott filed a report and recommendation recommending that the motion to suppress be granted.

The government filed objections to the report and recommendation and the defendant filed a response. On January 8, 2008, this Court heard oral argument on the government's objections.

BACKGROUND

For the purposes of this Decision and Order, familiarity with the facts of the case and the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation is presumed. However, pertinent facts are summarized very briefly below.

On February 10, 2007, Buffalo police officers received a tip from a local delicatessen owner that a man known as "Felix" had attempted to sell him a rifle. The delicatessen owner told Buffalo Police Officer Michael Beavers that Felix lived in a house near the delicatessen and that Felix had intended to come back later that day to complete the transaction. The deli owner showed Officer Beavers a surveillance videotape from a few weeks earlier when the defendant had been in the delicatessen. As a result of viewing the surveillance tape, Officer Beavers knew what the defendant looked like.

Acting on that information, the officers set up surveillance near the delicatessen. Officer Beavers was also there and saw a man who looked like the person from the delicatessen videotape exit a house at 92 Sherman Street, which was just down the street from the deli. Officer Beavers identified the man as the same person from the delicatessen videotapes, after which other officers pulled up to the defendant (who was walking in the opposite direction of the deli) and with weapons drawn conducted a Terry stop.

The defendant was searched but no weapon was found. Rather than let the defendant go free, the officers decided to detain the defendant while continuing their investigation. They placed him in the back of a patrol car and drove him to his house at 92 Sherman Street.

While en route to 92 Sherman, the defendant asked "what's going on?" to which the officers responded that they were looking for a gun. The defendant told the police that his girlfriend bought the rifle and that he was trying to sell it to the "Arab on the corner." The defendant also told officers that the weapon was in his house at 92 Sherman Street. When the officers arrived at that address, they continued to detain the defendant in the back of the police car (across the street) while other officers approached the defendant's girlfriend (who also resided at that address and was at home at the time) if she would consent to a search of the house. The defendant's girlfriend did consent and in fact signed a Written Consent to Search form. Upon searching the house, the officers discovered the .22 caliber rifle that the defendant now seeks to suppress.

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), this Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections have been made. Upon de novo review and after reviewing the submissions of the parties and hearing oral argument, the Court hereby adopts Magistrate Judge Scott's report and recommendation and finds that the motion to suppress should be granted in its entirety.

The Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Scott's determination that the continued detention of the defendant after it was determined that he did not have a weapon was illegal. Because the defendant was illegally detained, any statements made during the period of illegal detention are inadmissible. Florida v. ...


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