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United States v. Cotton

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 6, 2015

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Marquis Leval Cotton, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted November 12, 2014.

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - St. Paul.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: LeeAnn K. Bell, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Lisa D. Kirkpatrick, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Richard Newberry, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, District of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

Marquis Leval Cotton, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Gadsden, AL.

For Marquis Leval Cotton, Defendant - Appellant: Andrew H. Mohring, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Minneapolis, MN.

Before MURPHY, MELLOY, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 393

MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

As Marquis Cotton was attempting to enter an apartment complex, two police officers stopped him and searched him. They found a gun in Cotton's waistband and arrested him for illegally possessing a firearm. Cotton filed a motion to suppress the evidence, and the district court[1] rejected it. Cotton pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the firearm but reserved his right to appeal the suppression issue. Because the officers conducted a constitutionally permissible seizure, the district court correctly denied Cotton's motion to suppress. We affirm.

I.

On April 30, 2012, Minneapolis Police Officers Kocher and Suchta were patrolling an area around an apartment complex in north Minneapolis. This was a department-approved, off-duty assignment. Both officers, however, were wearing police uniforms.[2] Officer Suchta is an experienced police officer who has patrolled the north Minneapolis area for over eight years. He described the location around the complex as a very violent area that is " plagued with narcotic activity, robberies,

Page 394

[and] shootings." Around 11 a.m., the officers saw an individual throw a set of keys off a third floor balcony to two men, Cotton and an unidentified male, waiting on the ground below.

The property manager previously had instructed residents of the complex not to throw their keys off their balconies to people waiting below. And in mid-April, the property manager sent residents a letter stating " under no circumstances" should residents throw their keys to someone waiting below. The company imposed the restriction because throwing keys to individuals outside of the building compromised the security of the building. Officer ...


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