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United States v. Mastin

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

January 2, 2018



          Susan Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge

         This case is before the court on defendant Darrius Mastin's motion to suppress (Doc. 57), and the government's response (Doc. 61). The court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on December 5, 2017. For the reasons discussed below, the court finds that the motion to suppress is due to be denied.


         On January 19, 2016, Magistrate Jonathan Davis of the District Court of Montgomery, Alabama, found probable cause to arrest Trudyo[1] Hines and Taboris Mock on the charge of first degree robbery pursuant to Ala. Code §13A-8-41(a)(1). Magistrate Davis signed arrest warrants for both individuals. Government's Ex. 1, 2. According to a memorandum prepared on January 21, 2016, by Sgt. Kevin Byrd, a Montgomery Police Department (“MPD”) Officer and a member of the United States Marshals' Gulf Coast Regional Task Force (the “Task Force”), the robbery charges arose out of a 2:00 a.m. robbery and assault by Hines and Mock on a male victim at Club Big Boyz in Montgomery on Sunday, January 17, 2016, during which the men stole approximately $3, 000 in jewelry. See Defendant's Exhibit 13 at 1. Sgt. Byrd testified at the suppression hearing in this case that there were no personal injuries in the robbery, but handguns were used. According to the memorandum, Hines and Mock were identified as known members of a local street gang known as “‘DOA'/Dope Boys of America, ” and the victim is a member of “the ‘Blood' street gang.” Id. The memorandum indicates that Hines and Mock were also wanted for questioning “in reference to a homicide” that occurred in Montgomery on January 18, 2016, which “stemmed from the original robbery.” Id.

         Sgt. Byrd received copies of the arrest warrants from the MPD on January 19, 2016 for execution. The Task Force, comprised of officers from a number of different agencies, is responsible for finding and arresting violent fugitives based on warrants transmitted by local jurisdictions. In this case, Task Force officers reviewed web-based databases and attempted to identify current locations for Hines and Mock. They also interviewed family members and friends, and spoke with several confidential sources to determine where Hines and Mock could be found. Officers learned that both Hines and Mock, who were known associates, frequented hotels in the city of Montgomery. In Sgt. Byrd's experience, [2]wanted individuals can often be found at hotels and motels, where they are not usually checked in under their own names, but under the name of a girlfriend, relative, or someone else willing to obtain a room for them. Sgt. Byrd anticipated that Hines and Mock might be found together.

         On January 19, 2016, members of the Task Force and the MPD's “Security Threat Group, ” see Defendant's Ex. 13, [3] began to search hotels in Montgomery. They knew that Hines' girlfriend was Nakita Rogers, and they took pictures of Hines, Mock and Rogers with them. After checking numerous hotels, officers traveled to the Country Inn and Suites on Carmichael Road late in the evening where they found that Nakita Rogers had rented a room (room 311). Officers confirmed this by showing the picture of Rogers to the desk clerk, determining from the clerk that although Rogers was alone when she paid for the room, there was at least one other individual in her vehicle, a silver SUV.

         The Task Force sent a plain clothes undercover officer to the third floor of the hotel to walk by room 311, but he or she could not hear any noise coming from the room. Sgt. Byrd concluded that either there was nobody in the room, or someone was possibly sleeping there. Officers then set up surveillance from several of their vehicles, which were in radio contact with each other, in the parking lot of the hotel and on Carmichael Road. Sometime around 12:30 am, the officers saw a silver SUV pull into the parking lot, along with a white Ford Expedition and a small black car. All three vehicles parked on the left side of the hotel together, and officers observed three black females and three black males getting out. The three men stood around the cars while the three females entered the hotel from the side entrance. Viewing the men from the Task Force vehicles at a distance of some 80 to 100 yards away, and without being able to make out faces clearly at night, officers believed that the men generally matched descriptions of Hines and Mock based on their physical characteristics, including race, height and weight.[4]

         Officers saw the three females go to front desk, where they remained for three to five minutes. One of the women appeared to be Rogers. The females left the front desk and walked back down the main corridor of the hotel on the first floor. Officers contacted the front desk by telephone, and the desk clerk confirmed that one of the women was Rogers. Meanwhile, the males stood at the vehicles for a few seconds after the women left, then went into the side entrance of the hotel.

         The officers discussed an “operation plan” to attempt to make contact with these individuals. Id. at 2. They intended to determine first if the group actually had gone into room 311 by doing another “walk by” to listen for noise coming from the room. However, before the officers could act, two of the males and one female came out of the side entrance to the hotel and got into the Expedition, backed out, and began to drive toward the exit. Sgt. Byrd believed that the males “could have been either [Hines or Mock], or it could have been both.” According to him, the officers “knew that half of the people were possibly still in the hotel room and half of the people were in the vehicle. We didn't know if Taboris Mock or Trudyo Hines were in the vehicle or if they were still in the hotel room, so we had to make a decision as to which way we wanted to go.” The officers decided that part of the team would conduct a traffic stop on the Expedition, while the others would go up to the hotel room. They wanted to do this simultaneously so that half of the group could not tip the others off and enable them to flee; accordingly, the officers who were following the vehicle gave the other officers time to get to the hotel room before initiating the traffic stop.

         Some five to eight officers went up to the third floor and approached room 311. As they arrived, they saw that the door was not fully closed; it was open approximately one to two inches. The officers could hear both male and female voices inside the room. As the officers set up in front, defendant Darrius Mastin opened the door. His hands were in the pocket of his jacket or hoodie. Officers immediately ordered defendant to take his hands out of his jacket, place them over his head, and lie face down on the ground. They recognized Nakita Rogers directly behind the defendant in the doorway, halfway in the hall of the room and halfway in the bathroom, and gave her the same order. They also saw a third person (later identified as Nakita Rogers' sister, Sabrina Rogers) standing behind the door of the hotel room and told her to do the same. The officers ordered everyone to the ground with their hands up so they could determine that nobody was holding a firearm and limit the individuals' mobility.

         Officers did not recognize the defendant, but they knew immediately that he was not Mock or Hines. The officers remained in the hallway of the hotel and ordered all three individuals to crawl to their position. Defendant, who was closest to the door, came out first on his hands and knees. As he crossed the threshold of the hotel room, a black semiautomatic handgun (later identified as a Para 9mm handgun) fell out of his waistband directly underneath him, onto the floor of the hallway. One of the Task Force officers, Deputy U.S. Marshal David Onafry, yelled “gun, ” reached up with his foot, stepped on the gun and pulled it out of the reach of the defendant. Defendant was taken into custody to secure him for officer safety, and the gun was seized.[5] After defendant was detained, the two females were also ordered to crawl out into the hallway and secured.

         Task force officers then entered room 311 to make sure no other individuals were present. Because the officers “saw Nakita Rogers in there, which is a known associate of Trudyo Hines, ” they thought it was “possible that somebody else could be hiding in that room and somebody else could be armed.” Sgt. Byrd testified, “I don't know who else could be in the room. Somebody could have been in that room before I ever got there. Mr. Hines could have been asleep in the bed before I ever got there.” When Sgt. Byrd entered the room and looked behind the door, he saw a pink-handled firearm and a chrome firearm in an open black purse on a chair. See Defendant's Ex. 13 at 2. He told other officers that the firearms were present and continued to clear the room. Toward the rear of the room Sgt. Byrd observed the handle of a silver and black semi-automatic handgun inside a second purse that was sitting on the counter on the left side of the room. Id. He again notified the other officers of the location of the firearm. Id. After the officers completed their search for other individuals in the room, and found no one else present, Sgt. Byrd was notified by another officer that Hines had been taken into custody in the white Expedition. Id. The officer indicated that Hines had been found in possession of a Ruger P90 45 caliber firearm with an extended magazine, and the driver had been armed with a Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun, although the latter had a license to carry the weapon. Id.

         At that time, Sgt. Byrd began to identify the other occupants of the hotel room. Defendant was found through a computer check - run, according to Sgt. Byrd, “for warrants and to make sure he was not wanted” - to have been convicted of first degree robbery in 2010 and to be on probation. Id. The two females were also identified, and Sgt. Byrd learned that they had licenses to carry the weapons found in the room. Id. Sgt. Byrd then advised a detective with the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the MPD that Hines was in custody, and told him about the identities of the other occupants of the room and the firearms. Id. The detective requested that all three be transported to the CID for questioning in light of the homicide the day before which allegedly was connected to the robbery, and requested that the firearms be collected for safekeeping. Id. Officers asked Nakita Rogers for permission to search the room, and she refused. All three individuals were taken to the CID.

         Officers continued to search for Taboris Mock. After interviewing several of his family members, and learning that Mock had been staying with his girlfriend at various hotels and friends' houses, officers continued to search hotels in the Montgomery area. They learned that Mock's girlfriend, Deshre Benson, had rented a room at the Roadway Inn on Troy Highway. Id. They knocked on the door of the room, and took Mock into custody at approximately 5:30 am.


         1. Introduction

         Defendant contends that defendant's handgun was seized without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 700 (1983). See generally Doc. 57. He also contends, at least implicitly, that he was detained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. See California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 624 (1991) (“We have long understood that the Fourth Amendment's protection against ‘unreasonable ... seizures' includes seizure of the person[.]”). In addition, at the suppression hearing in this case, defendant challenged the lawfulness of two statements that he gave to officers after the weapon was seized and he was detained.

         2. Expectation of Privacy

         The court begins by observing that the weapon possessed by defendant was not discovered by officers as the result of a search, either of defendant's person or of Nakita Rogers' hotel room. Instead, the officers observed the weapon when it fell from defendant's waistband to the floor of a public corridor at the Country Inn and Suites hotel. There is no question that the officers were lawfully present in the hotel corridor outside Rogers' room when the weapon was observed and seized. Nothing before the court suggests that the third floor hallway of the Country Inn and Suites was anything other than a public hallway, and defendant has neither argued, nor produced any evidence to establish, that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the hotel corridor. See United States v. Roby, 122 F.3d 1120, 1125 (8th Cir. 1997) (Defendant “had an expectation of privacy in his Hampton Inn hotel room. But because the corridor outside that room is traversed by many people, his reasonable privacy expectation does not extend so far. Neither those who stroll the corridor nor a sniff dog needs a warrant for such a trip.”); Marullo v. United States, 328 F.2d 361, 363 (5th Cir. 1964) (“a transient occupant of a motel must share corridors, sidewalks, yards, and trees with the other occupants. Granted that a tenant has standing to protect the room he occupies, there is nevertheless an element of public or shared property in motel surroundings that is entirely lacking in the enjoyment of one's home.”); cf. United States v. Miravalles, 280 F.3d 1328, 1333 (11th Cir. 2002) (Tenants in a high-rise apartment building which was “open and accessible not only to all the many tenants and their visitors, to the landlord and all its employees, to workers of various types, and to delivery people of all kinds, but also to the public at large” did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas of their building.); United States v. Maestas, 639 F.3d 1032, 1038 (10th Cir. 2011) (“In general, most circuit courts have found that ‘shared' or ‘common' areas in apartment complexes or multi-unit dwellings, such as hallways, entryways, and basements, are not areas over which an individual tenant can have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”). Further, in this case, defendant did not establish a reasonable expectation of privacy in the hotel room itself, such that the question of whether the adjacent hallway could be considered the curtilage of that room might even arise. The room was paid for and registered to Nakita Rogers, and nothing before the court indicates that defendant - whose presence was not made known to hotel management, and who was not observed to carry a suitcase or bag into the hotel or to have any obvious personal belongings in the room - was even an overnight guest.[6] See U.S. v. Cooper, 203 F.3d 1279, 1284 (11th Cir. 2000) (“To determine whether an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a hotel room, courts have looked to such indicia as whether the individual paid and/or registered for the room or whether the individual's personal belongings were found in the room.”).

         3. Initial Seizure of the Defendant

         However, even though the officers were lawfully present in the hotel corridor, the court still must examine whether - when they observed defendant standing at the partially open door of Rogers' hotel room - they were constitutionally permitted to order defendant to take his hands out of his jacket, place them over his head, and crawl out of the doorway of the room, effecting a brief seizure of his person. See United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 553-554 (1980) (“a person is ‘seized' … when, by means of physical force or a show of authority, his freedom of movement is restrained. … Examples of circumstances that might indicate a seizure, even where the person did not attempt to leave, would be the threatening presence of several officers, the display of a weapon by an officer, some physical touching of the person of the citizen, or the use of language or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the officer's request might be compelled.); West v. Davis, 767 F.3d 1063, 1070 (11th Cir. 2014) (“‘[t]he Fourth Amendment applies to all seizures of the person, including seizures that involve only a brief detention short of traditional arrest.'”) (citation omitted).

         A. Terry Stop

         The United States contends in its response to the motion to suppress (Doc. 61 at 3-4) - and argued at the suppression hearing itself - that defendant's seizure is properly analyzed as a Terry stop. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). To effect a lawful Terry stop, officers must, under the totality of the circumstances, and based on the collective knowledge of the officers involved, have an objectively reasonable suspicion that defendant had engaged, or was about to engage, in a crime. United States v. Acosta, 363 F.3d 1141, 1144-45 (11th Cir. 2004). The burden of proof on a motion to suppress relating to the reasonableness of warrantless seizure rests with the prosecution; “[t]he Government must demonstrate that the challenged action falls within one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement, thereby rendering it reasonable within the meaning of the fourth amendment.” United States v. Freire, 710 F.2d 1515, 1519 (11th Cir. 1983).

         In this case, the court finds that the United States has failed to meet its burden under Terry as to the initial seizure of the defendant. When the officers first observed the defendant - who, according to Officer Byrd, “was standing there kind of surprised that we were at the door” - they immediately were aware that he was neither Mock nor Hines, and therefore was not the subject of either of their arrest warrants. No suspicious odor emanated from the hotel room, and defendant had no drugs in his possession, nor does the government contend that officers believed drugs to be present in the room. Officers had not received a tip from any informant concerning the defendant, and they were not responding to a complaint from the hotel or anyone else. Further, no evidence before the court suggests that the hotel room was in a high crime area, that defendant exhibited nervous or evasive behavior, or that he had embarked on unprovoked flight. Nor did the officers cite any objective reason to believe that defendant himself was a gang member, or that he might have been an accomplice to the robbery a few days before that had occasioned the arrest warrants, or that he might have been engaged in receiving or fencing the property that was stolen. Also, Officer Byrd made no allegation at the suppression hearing that defendant possibly had been stationed as a lookout at the hotel door, or that he was otherwise assisting Hines or Mock to elude arrest. Indeed, Byrd testified, in response to questioning at the hearing, that there was no criminal activity going on in the hotel room that he knew of. At most, as far as the officers were aware at the point that they encountered the defendant, he was simply in the process of exiting a hotel room occupied by the girlfriend of a wanted individual, at a time when that individual, or his associate, might or might not also have been present in the room. If officers suspected any specific criminal activity to be afoot in which defendant himself was involved, they have wholly failed to inform the court what that activity might have been.

         The court is aware that some jurisdictions have concluded that police need not have a particularized suspicion of any specific crime to conclude that they have reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop. See, e.g., United States v. Guardado, 699 F.3d 1220, 1225 (10th Cir. 2012) (“Direct evidence of a specific, particular crime is unnecessary” for reasonable suspicion.); United States v. Gatamba, 419 Fed.Appx. 529, 532 (5th Cir. 2011) (detention was lawful because officer “had particularized facts supporting a finding that some criminal activity might be afoot. … [W]e do not require “the police to articulate particularized facts that support a finding that a particular specific crime is afoot.”) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original); United States v. Pack,612 F.3d 341, 355-56 (5th Cir. 2010), opinion modified on denial of reh'g, 622 F.3d 383 (5th Cir. 2010) (concluding that police need not have a “particularized suspicion of a specific crime, ” and noting that the Supreme Court “has often spoken of the wrongdoing itself in general terms”) (citations omitted); United States v. Fields, 2014 WL 5147610, at *4 (W.D. Mo. Sep. 10, 2014), report and recommendation adopted, 2014 WL 5171951 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 14, 2014), aff'd,832 F.3d 831 (8th Cir. 2016) (Officers “need not be able to identify the specific crime the officer is investigating; rather[, ] the officer need only reasonably suspect that the individual is engaged in some kind of criminal activity.”) (citations omitted); Mocek v. City of Albuquerque, 3 F.Supp.3d 1002, 1078 (D. N.M. 2014), aff'd,813 F.3d 912 (10th Cir. 2015) (“For reasonable suspicion to exist, officers are not required to observe the equivalent of direct evidence of a particular specific crime as long as there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. … ...

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