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United States v. Baez

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 30, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Kelvin Baez, a/k/a “Taliban, ” Defendant.

          Nathan H. Nelson, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          R.J. Zayed, Esq., Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant Kelvin Baez.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Defendant Kelvin Baez's (“Baez”) Motion to Reconsider [Docket No. 189]. Baez asks the Court to reconsider its December 19, 2017 Memorandum Opinion and Order [Docket No. 160] (“Order”) denying Baez's Motion to Suppress Statements, Admissions, and Answers [Docket No. 51] (“Motion to Suppress”). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Reconsider is denied.

         II. RELEVANT BACKGROUND[1]

         On May 5, 2017, at approximately 7:15 p.m., while on routine patrol, Bloomington Police Officer Jacob Gruber (“Officer Gruber”) pulled over Defendant Rodolfo Anguiano, Jr. (“Anguiano”) for a traffic violation. Hr'g Tr. [Docket Nos. 114, 115] at 33-34, 37, 43-44. Anguiano told Officer Gruber that he was visiting from California to attend a cousin's wedding and was staying at the Embassy Suites on American Boulevard, which was a few blocks from the site of the traffic stop. Id. at 50-51. Officer Gruber observed dryer sheets spread over the front and back interior of Anguiano's car. Id. at 46. Based on this observation and Anguiano's answers to Officer Gruber's questions, Officer Gruber became suspicious that Anguiano was trafficking drugs. Id. at 54. A drug detecting canine was called to sniff the outside of the car. Id. The dog expressed interest in the undercarriage of the car but did not give a formal alert for drugs. Id. at 57. As Officer Gruber was returning Anguiano's driver's license, he saw an imitation Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) badge and about a dozen cards that appeared to be credit cards in Anguiano's wallet. Id. at 57-62. Anguiano was then arrested and brought to jail. Id. at 64, 66. Law enforcement officers performed an inventory search of the car and found a satchel containing $4, 000 in cash, two additional imitation DEA/FBI badges, and credit cards in other people's names. Id. at 61, 64-65. While searching the car, the officers noticed that the dashboard and other interior panels appeared to be loose, as though the inside of the car had been taken apart. Id. at 65.

         Later that same day, Officer Gruber and two other law enforcement agents went to the Embassy Suites on American Boulevard to continue their investigation of Anguiano's suspected drug trafficking. Id. at 128-31, 281. The front desk confirmed that Anguiano was registered to Room 714. Id. at 68, 129-30. The officers went to Room 714 and knocked on the door, which was opened by Defendant Zyaira Marie Gavino (“Gavino”). Id. at 69. The officers asked Gavino if they could speak with her, and she stepped back and motioned for the officers to enter the two-room suite. Id. at 70, 284-85.

         Immediately inside the door to Room 714 was a living room area that included a pull-out couch. Id. at 71, 191, 304. A separate bedroom was down a small, open hallway. Id. at 71, 76. The door to the separate bedroom was open, and an armoire was visible through the doorway. Id. at 190. The doors of the armoire were locked together with a rigid chain lock. Id. at 76.

         A man later identified as Baez was sitting on the couch in the living room. Id. at 71. A set of GM car keys was beside him on the couch. Id. at 78. A glass methamphetamine pipe with residue in plain view was on an end table next to Baez. Id. at 72-73, 286, 305. A backpack, suitcase, and other luggage were in the living room with Baez and Gavino. Id. at 72.

         Baez and Gavino admitted to the officers that they had been smoking methamphetamine. Id. at 286-87. Gavino also told Officer Gruber that she and Baez were married and were visiting a friend at the hotel, and that they had been staying there with him for a few days. Id. at 75, 324; Gov't Ex. 5 at 3. Gavino stated that she knew the friend only by his nickname. Hr'g Tr. 75, 324. Officer Gruber then asked for Gavino's consent to conduct a search. Id. at 75. She agreed and pointed to a suitcase, backpack, and bags that she identified as hers. Id. at 75, 78, 287. Officer Gruber also requested and received Gavino's consent to search the room. Id. at 75. Baez made no statements regarding consent. Id. at 79.

         Officer Gruber searched the backpack and found men's clothing and a small bag with four .22 caliber bullets. Id. at 78, 193. The backpack also contained an owner's manual for a Chevy Equinox that matched a set of GM keys Officer Gruber saw in plain view on the living room couch. Id. Upon finding the bullets, Officer Gruber informed Gavino and Baez that they were being detained for safety reasons due to the possibility that there may be a gun in the suite. Id. at 193-94. Gavino and Baez were then handcuffed. Id. at 193.

         The law enforcement officers proceeded to search the entire suite. Id. at 76-79. In the back bedroom, the officers observed in plain view what appeared to be drug packaging material in an open-topped garbage can. Gov't Ex. 5 (“Search Warrant Aff.”) at 3. In the far corner of the bedroom, the officers observed that a cell phone had been propped up to face the locked armoire. Hr'g Tr. at 77. The cell phone appeared to be monitoring the armoire by streaming a live video image from the phone camera to a Facebook Live website. Id. Officer Gruber asked Baez where narcotics might be if any were in the room, and he testified that Baez responded, “Well, in the armoire, obviously.” Id. at 79. Based on this comment, Officer Gruber requested a K-9 officer to conduct a dog sniff of the room. Id. at 81. The drug dog alerted to the armoire and to an adjacent dresser. Id.

         Officer Gruber “popped off” the front panel of a sink cabinet in the back bedroom and found a plastic bag that contained a pillowcase with two large bundles of what he believed to be multiple pounds of methamphetamine. Id. at 79. Upon finding the large quantity of suspected drugs, the officers decided to freeze the room and obtain a search warrant to search the rest of the room, including the armoire, and the Chevy Equinox. Id. at 80. Gavino and Baez were placed under arrest at this time and were transported to the Bloomington Police Department. Id. at 82-83.

         After obtaining a warrant to search the hotel room, the officers opened the armoire and found additional methamphetamine and a handgun. Id. at 83-84. They also searched the Chevy Equinox and found methamphetamine, marijuana, and a gun. Id. at 84.[2]

         The next afternoon, May 6, 2017, DEA Task Enforcement Officer Tom Maloney (“Officer Maloney”) interviewed Gavino and Baez separately at the Bloomington Police Department. Id. at 204-05, 217, 220-21, 249. Officer Maloney had a preexisting federal investigation against Baez and Gavino that had been ongoing for the past few months. Id. at 261-62. At the beginning of his interview with Baez, Officer Maloney read him his Miranda rights and Baez stated that he understood them. Id. at 252, Gov't Ex. 6, Lines 56-61. Officer Maloney also informed Baez that he had been investigating him for several months. Gov't Ex. 6, Lines 130-32, 534-37.

         On June 6, 2017, Anguiano, Baez, and Gavino were indicted for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. Indictment [Docket No. 28].[3] All three Defendants filed motions ...


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