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United States v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 3, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Domonick Deshay Wright, a/k/a Freaky, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the May 23, 2018 Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz. (Dkt. 121.) The R&R recommends denying Defendant Domonick Deshay Wright's motion to suppress evidence obtained from Wright's person and vehicle and denying Wright's motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants. Wright filed objections to the R&R, and the United States responded. For the reasons addressed below, the Court overrules Wright's objections and adopts the R&R.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         On August 18, 2017, Brooklyn Center Police Officer Ryan Soliday was surveilling a high-crime area of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Officer Soliday saw a Dodge Charger and a Chevrolet Impala pull into a secluded section of a parking lot and park so that the driver's-side windows of the vehicles faced each other. The two drivers then rolled down their windows and engaged in what appeared to be a hand-to-hand transaction, although Officer Soliday could not determine what, if anything, was exchanged. Shortly thereafter, a minivan entered the parking lot and parked on the other side of the Charger. A passenger emerged from the minivan and got into the Charger, then returned to the minivan, after which all three vehicles departed. Believing that he had observed a drug transaction, Officer Soliday radioed a request for traffic stops of the vehicles and began following the Impala.

         Officers subsequently stopped the Impala, which was driven by Wright. Officer Soliday approached the Impala and directed Wright, who was visibly nervous and breathing heavily, to step out of the vehicle. Wright refused. Officer Soliday repeated the direction 10 to 15 times before drawing his taser. Wright then stepped out of the car and immediately was arrested for obstructing legal process. A search of Wright yielded thousands of dollars in cash and a small bag that contained a substance that appeared to be cocaine. Officer Soliday saw in plain view on the driver's-side floor of the car a small plastic bag commonly used as a receptacle for drugs. The officers then searched the vehicle and recovered a handgun, several bags that contained a substance that appeared to be heroin, a scale covered in a substance that appeared to be drug residue, and cash.

         A grand jury returned an indictment charging Wright with one count of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin, one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon. Wright now moves to suppress the evidence obtained during the searches of his person and his vehicle, arguing that neither his arrest nor the search of his vehicle was supported by probable cause. He also moves to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants. The R&R recommends denying both motions.

         ANALYSIS

         I. The Motion to Suppress

         The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV. Evidence obtained during a search or seizure that violates the Fourth Amendment must be suppressed. Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796, 804 (1984).

         Wright objects to the recommendation to deny his motion to suppress on two grounds. First, he argues, his arrest was unlawful, therefore, the search of his person was not incident to a lawful arrest, and, second, the search of his vehicle was not supported by probable cause. The Court reviews Wright's objections de novo. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); accord LR 72.2(b)(3).

         A. The Search of Wright's Person

         Wright asserts that the search of his person violated the Fourth Amendment because Officer Soliday lacked reasonable suspicion to justify an investigatory stop of Wright's vehicle and had no lawful basis for ordering Wright to step out of the vehicle. Wright also argues that Officer Soliday lacked probable cause to arrest Wright for obstructing legal process.

         1. Reasonable Suspicion

         “An investigatory stop is permissible under the Fourth Amendment if supported by reasonable suspicion.” Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 693 (1996). Reasonable suspicion requires a “particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal wrongdoing” that is based on the totality of the circumstances. United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Although reasonable suspicion must be more than a hunch, “the Fourth Amendment only requires that police articulate some minimal, objective justification for an investigatory stop.” United States v. Fuse, 391 F.3d 924, 929 (8th Cir. 2004). And, as a matter of ...


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