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United States v. Beltran

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

May 15, 2014

CARLOS BELTRAN, Defendant-Appellant

Argued: May 22, 2013.

As Corrected May 27, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 08 CR 388 -- Joan B. Gottschall, Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Bethany K. Biesenthal, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Carlos Beltran, Defendant - Appellant: Beau B. Brindley, Law Offices of Beau B. Brindley, Chicago, IL.

Before FLAUM, ROVNER, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.


Page 672

Rovner, Circuit Judge.

A jury convicted Carlos Beltran of both possessing and conspiring to possess, with the intent to distribute, 500 grams or more of cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin. See 21 U.S.C. § § 841(a)(1), 846. The district court ordered him to serve a term of 168 months in prison. Beltran appeals, contending that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence--including large quantities of cocaine and heroin, and various items associated with narcotics trafficking--seized from his residence on the day of his arrest. We affirm.


Our summary of the facts is based largely on the district court's findings below. We have, in a few instances, supplemented those findings with additional relevant details disclosed by the testimony presented at the suppression hearing.

Beltran owned a two-flat residence in Berwyn, Illinois. At approximately 2:30 p.m. on May 13, 2008, seven members of a

Page 673

federal Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ) task force, comprised of both federal agents and local police officers, arrived at Beltran's residence to interview him. There was no response when they rang the doorbells for the first- and second-floor apartments and knocked at the front door, but five minutes later, task force officer Sam Ayyad spotted someone in a second-floor window and asked him to come down to the front entry. Beltran's co-defendant, Jesus Ivan Vazquez-Ramirez complied with Ayyad's request and came down to the front porch of the building.

Vazquez-Ramirez, who was conversing in Spanish with someone on his cell phone when he emerged from the building, informed the task force members that he did not speak English very well but that he had the owner of the building on the phone; he then handed the phone to DEA special agent Donald Wood. Beltran identified himself to Wood, and Wood explained that he and the other officers were at his residence and wished to speak with him. Beltran indicated that he was at work and that it would take him at least an hour to get home. In response to Wood's inquiries, Beltran denied that there was any illegal contraband in the residence, agreed to let the officers conduct a search of the premises, but asked that they wait for his arrival before doing so. Beltran also advised the officers that he lived in the first floor of the building and that Vazquez-Ramirez lived in the second-floor apartment. Wood asked Beltran to inquire of Vazquez-Ramirez whether he would consent to a search of the upstairs apartment and handed the phone back to Vazquez-Ramirez. After a short conversation in Spanish between the two men, Wood re-took the phone and learned from Beltran that Vazquez-Ramirez would also agree to a search but that he too requested that the officers postpone their search until Beltran arrived. Wood agreed, ended the call, and returned Vazquez-Ramirez's phone to him. Vazquez-Ramirez remained on the front porch with several of the officers while they awaited Beltran's arrival. During the wait, Vazquez-Ramirez placed or received a number of calls (speaking in Spanish). He was sweating and appeared nervous to the officers.

About 15 minutes after Wood finished the call with Beltran, one of the officers, looking from the edge of the front porch toward the back yard, saw someone that he believed to be Beltran walk into the back yard from the alley, talking on his cell phone. (The officers had seen a picture of Beltran.) When that information was conveyed to the other officers, officer Mark Porlier moved toward the rear of the residence to a point where he could see over the back fence. Porlier could see that the back door to the building was closed and that there was no one in the back yard. He remained there. Meanwhile, agents Wood and Ayyad heard footsteps coming from the second floor apartment and/or the stairway connecting the first and second floors; they also heard the door to the upstairs apartment being slammed shut. Vazquez-Ramirez, of course, was still in front of the building with the agents, and he had previously advised Wood that no one else was present in the building. Over the next 20 or so minutes, Vazquez-Ramirez remained on the front porch with the agents.

During this period, officer Mike Bedalow, who had posted himself in the alley behind the building immediately after Beltran's arrival, noticed a set of trash cans in the alley, just outside of the fence surrounding the back yard; the cans had the street number of Beltran's building stenciled on them. Bedalow decided to look ...

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