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United States v. Roberts

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

November 17, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES P. ROBERTS, Defendant

For James P. Roberts, Defendant: Jeremy Sean Weis, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gaddy Weis, LLC, Kansas City, MO.

For USA, Plaintiff: Bruce Eugene Clark, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office-KCMO, Kansas City, MO.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SARAH W. HAYS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

This matter is currently before the Court on Defendant James P. Roberts' Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized in Violation of His Constitutional Rights and Motion to Suppress His Statements Made in the Residence (doc #29). For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that this motion be denied.

I. INTRODUCTION

On January 3, 2014, a Criminal Complaint was filed against James P. Roberts. On January 28, 2014, the Grand Jury returned a one count indictment against defendant Roberts. The indictment charges that on January 2, 2014, defendant Roberts, having been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, knowingly possessed a firearm.

On October 28, 2014, an evidentiary hearing was held on defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant Roberts was represented by appointed counsel Jeremy S. Weis. The Government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Bruce E. Clark. The Government called Detective Vernon Huth and Sergeant Eric Greenwell of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and Special Agent Harold Lett of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as witnesses. The defense called Julie Eilers, an investigator with the Federal Public Defender's Office, to testify.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

On the basis of the evidence adduced at the evidentiary hearing, the undersigned submits the following proposed findings of fact:

1. On January 2, 2014, Detective Vernon Huth was involved in the search for a suspect in a homicide that had occurred the day before. (Tr. at 3) The victim had been killed by a handgun. (Tr. at 3, 32) The name associated with the suspect was James. (Tr. at 3-4, 32-33) Detective Huth had been given the name of the suspect during a briefing conducted by Sergeant Eric Greenwell. (Tr. at 4) At the briefing, the officers were also told that James was a black male. (Tr. at 18, 44) Homicide detectives had obtained a court order for the GPS location of a telephone based on the use of the telephone number for James. (Tr. at 4) Detective Huth was provided with a location of an apartment at 2102 Wheeling for James that had been developed as a result of pings from the telephone associated with James. (Tr. at 4-5)
2. Detective Huth, along with several other officers set up a surveillance of 2102 Wheeling. (Tr. at 5, 33) Detective Huth saw a black male leave the residence. (Tr. at 5) Detective Huth, Detective Craig Horalek and Sergeant Greenwell approached the man who was bent over and digging around in a vehicle. (Tr. at 5, 34) The officers were wearing vests and badges that clearly identified them as police. (Tr. at 5, 16) Detective Huth and Sergeant Greenwell both testified that they smelled marijuana on the man. (Tr. at 5, 34-35) When asked for his name, the man was very hesitant to answer and he was sweating. (Tr. at 5-6) Detective Huth testified that he found it odd that the man was sweating because it was approximately 7 degrees outside and the man was not dressed warmly. (Tr. at 5-6)
3. Detective Huth believed the man to be under the influence of marijuana. (Tr. at 6) Based on his training and experience, Detective Huth knew that people under the influence of narcotics can do things that they normally would not do. (Tr. at 6) Therefore, Detective Huth handcuffed the man for officer safety. (Tr. at 6, 35) The man told the officers his name (Gerrod Woods) and stated that he was visiting his friend James and playing video games. (Tr. at 6, 34)
4. The officers decided to make contact with James, so they went towards the door of the apartment. (Tr. at 6) As the officers (Detective Huth, Detective Horalek and Sergeant Greenwell) were approaching the door with Mr. Woods, Woods told them, " Go on in. I'm being straight with you, it's just me and James." (Tr. at 6, 20) Sergeant Greenwell knocked hard on the door and announced, " Police officers." (Tr. at 6, 35) Both Detective Huth and Sergeant Greenwell testified that the door came open when Sergeant Greenwell knocked on it. (Tr. at 6-8, 21, 35, 48) When the door came open, Detective Huth testified that he observed a black male sitting on the corner of a couch, illuminated by the light from the TV.[1] (Tr. at 6) Detective Huth and Sergeant Greenwell both testified that they smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the residence. (Tr. at 6, 36) Detective Huth also testified that he could see what appeared to be a small amount of marijuana and burnt ashes in a smoldering ashtray sitting right beside the man on the couch. (Tr. at 6-7) For officer safety, the officers immediately decided to enter the residence when the door opened and they saw the black male on the couch, rather than stand in the doorway, where they were easy targets. (Tr. at 10, ...

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