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United States v. Rootes

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 5, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
Timothy Owen Rootes, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LEO I. BRISBOIS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to a general assignment, made in accordance with the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1, and upon Defendant Timothy Owen Rootes' (hereinafter “Defendant”) Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained Through Illegal Search and Seizure. [Docket No. 21].

         The Court held a motions hearing on March 11, 2019, regarding the parties' pretrial motions.[1] At the motions hearing, the parties requested the opportunity to submit supplemental briefing, which was completed on March 25, 2019, at which time Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained Through Illegal Search and Seizure, [Docket No. 21], was taken under advisement.

         For reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends that Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained Through Illegal Search and Seizure, [Docket No. 21], be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF FACTS

         A. Background

         On December 18, 2018, Defendant was indicted with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846; two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 841(b)(1)(B); and one count of felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). (Indictment [Docket No. 1]).

         B. Facts[2]

         In his Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained Through Illegal Search and Seizure, [Docket No. 21], Defendant moves the Court for an Order suppressing any evidence obtained as a result of the stop and search of Defendant's automobile on March 17, 2018, near Flagstaff, Arizona, as well as, an Order suppressing any statements Defendant made during the March 17, 2018, traffic stop. (Def.'s Mot. to Suppress [Docket No. 21]).

         The record presently before the Court indicates that on March 17, 2018, at approximately 4:00 p.m., Arizona State Trooper Jay Hutton (hereinafter “Trooper Hutton”) initiated a traffic stop of Defendant for following the vehicle in front of him too closely in violation of Arizona Revised Statute § 28-730. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:02-10:03 a.m.). Defendant was driving a black Ford pickup truck (hereinafter “Truck”). (Id. at 10:03-10:04 a.m.).

         When Defendant drove past Trooper Hutton, who was parked on the side of the highway at the time, Trooper Hutton estimated that Defendant was driving the Truck approximately two vehicle lengths behind the car in front of him. (Id.). As Defendant drove past him, Trooper Hutton testified that he also observed that the Truck had a Minnesota license plate, that it was clean, that Defendant was the only person in the vehicle, and that he had a “concerned” look on his face. (Id. at 10:08-10:09 a.m.).

         Upon pulling his police vehicle out onto the highway and following Defendant's Truck, Trooper Hutton testified that he measured the gap time between Defendant's Truck and the car he was following as being approximately .41 seconds. (Id. at 10:05-10:06 a.m.).

         According to the video recording from Trooper Hutton's dashboard camera, at approximately 4:03:30 p.m. Trooper Hutton turned on his emergency lights to initiate the traffic stop of Defendant. (Gov't Ex. 1 at 0:30-1:00). Defendant pulled the Truck over to the shoulder of the highway and stopped the vehicle approximately 30 seconds later. (Id. at 0:30-1:20).

         After pulling Defendant over on the side of the highway, Trooper Hutton walked toward the passenger's side window of the Truck. (Id. at 1:20-1:25). Upon walking up to the Truck, Trooper Hutton testified that he smelled an “overwhelming” amount of air freshener coming from the Truck. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:19-10:20 a.m.). After walking up to the passenger's side door of the Truck, Trooper Hutton asked Defendant if he was traveling with the car in front of him and Defendant answered that he was not. (Gov't Ex. 1 at 1:30-2:00). Trooper Hutton then informed Defendant that he pulled him over because Defendant was following the car in front of him too closely and asked Defendant for his driver's license and insurance information. (Id. at 1:20-2:15). Defendant responded that he did not have his driver's license on his person but informed Trooper Hutton that it was issued by the state of Minnesota. (Id. at 2:45-3:00). Trooper Hutton again asked Defendant for the Truck's insurance and registration information. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:13-10:14 a.m.). Defendant began looking through his phone for it. (Gov't Ex. 1 at 2:45-3:15). Trooper Hutton testified that, while Defendant was looking for the Truck's registration and insurance information, he observed that Defendant's hand was shaking. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:15-10:16 a.m.). Trooper Hutton then asked Defendant if he had anything else with his picture on it, to which Defendant responded that he did not. (Gov't Ex. 1 at 2:45- 3:00).

         While Defendant was still looking for the Truck's insurance and registration information on his phone, Trooper Hutton asked Defendant if he would walk with him back to his patrol vehicle so he could begin the appropriate paperwork. (Id. at 3:15-3:45). Defendant exited the Truck and walked with Trooper Hutton to the passenger's side of his patrol vehicle. (Id. at 3:45-4:00). Trooper Hutton testified that he observed that Defendant was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as well as, perspiring though the temperature was relatively cool outside. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:12-10:13 a.m.).

         Trooper Hutton next asked Defendant when he arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. (Id. at 4:00- 4:25). Defendant told Trooper Hutton that he had left from Minnesota on Monday and arrived in Phoenix three days later on Thursday, March 15, 2018. (Id. at 4:00-4:25). Defendant told Trooper Hutton that he was visiting Phoenix because he wanted to attend a spring training game for professional baseball, as well as, a tattoo convention. (Id. at 4:30-4:45). While still standing next to Trooper Hutton's patrol vehicle, Trooper Hutton next asked Defendant what his name was, to which Defendant responded that his name was “Kent Hilderbridle.” (Id. at 4:45-5:00).Trooper Hutton also asked Defendant for his social security number and Defendant responded that he did not know it. (Id. at 5:00-5:30). Trooper Hutton then asked Defendant if he carried a wallet and Defendant responded that he did not. (Id. at 5:30-5:45).

         Defendant told Trooper Hutton that he had been staying at the Victoria Inn in Glendale, Arizona. (Id. at 6:00-6:30). Defendant also told Trooper Hutton that he did not actually attend a baseball game because, when he arrived in Phoenix, he learned that the tickets to the game were expensive. (Id. at 6:30-7:00).

         At one point while Trooper Hutton and Defendant were standing next to the patrol vehicle and talking, Defendant attempted to make a phone call. (Id. at 7:30-8:00).

         While Trooper Hutton was filling out paperwork, Defendant turned away from Trooper Hutton and took a step back towards the Truck. (Id. at 8:00-8:15). Defendant then briefly paused, looked back at Trooper Hutton, then turned back towards the Truck and began walking towards it. (Id. at 8:10-8:30). At that point, Trooper Hutton asked Defendant where he was going and told him to come back towards his police vehicle. (Id. at 8:15-8:30). Defendant complied and leaned against the police vehicle. (Id. at 8:15-8:30).

         Trooper Hutton then asked Defendant what his address in Minnesota was and Defendant told it to him. (Id. at 8:30-8:45). Trooper Hutton also asked Defendant why he was acting so nervous and Defendant responded that he was “excited.” (Id. at 8:45-9:00). Defendant also stated that he could not afford a ticket. (Id. at 9:00-9:15). When Defendant was talking to him, Trooper Hutton testified that he observed that Defendant was speaking “very rapidly, ” kept scratching his head, and repeatedly broke eye contact. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:20-10:22 a.m.).

         At approximately 4:12:30 p.m., Sergeant Anthony Gerard arrived (hereinafter “Sergeant Gerard”). (Gov't Ex. 1 at 9:15-10:00). When he arrived, Trooper Hutton asked him if he would finish up Defendant's paperwork related to the traffic stop. (Id. at 9:30-10:00). Sergeant Gerard then took over the tasks related to the traffic stop and, as he did so, Trooper Hutton deployed his drug dog, Enzo[3], along the driver's side of the Truck, starting at the back end closest to the police vehicle. (Id. at 10:20-10:40). When Enzo got to the driver's side door of the Truck, he alerted that there were drugs present. (Id. at 10:20-10:40). Trooper Hutton testified that the drug dog's alert caused him to search the Truck. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:27- 10:28 a.m.).[4]

         Trooper Hutton returned Enzo to the police vehicle and walked to the passenger's side of the Truck and opened the rear passenger door. (Gov't Ex. 1 at 11:20-11:40). After opening the Truck's door, Trooper Hutton testified that he saw a jacket sitting on top of a box in the backseat. (March 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 10:27-10:29 a.m.). Trooper Hutton further testified that he moved the jacket and saw that the box it was on top of was open and appeared to contain multiple bags of what he believed to be illegal drugs. (Gov't Ex. 1 at 12:45- 13:15). At this point, Trooper Hutton drew his taser and signaled to Sergeant Gerard that he discovered drugs. (Id. at 12:45-13:15). Sergeant Gerard then handcuffed Defendant. (Id. at 13:10- 13:25). Trooper Hutton next asked Defendant ...


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