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Thomas v. Warden
United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
February 1, 2019
WILL THOMAS, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Thomas, a prisoner without a lawyer, was found guilty of
dealing in a narcotic drug by the Grant Superior Court under
cause number 27D01-1404-FA-5. ECF 1. He now seeks habeas
corpus relief from that conviction and the imposed 40-year
sentence. His sole contention is that the trial court should
have excluded from evidence heroin recovered from him after a
warrantless arrest following a traffic stop. Id. at
4. However, because this Fourth Amendment claim was fully
litigated in the state courts it is not cognizable here.
Thus, the petition will be denied.
deciding the petition, I must presume the facts set forth by
the state courts are correct. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). It
is Thomas's burden to rebut this presumption with clear
and convincing evidence. Id. Here are the facts
recounted by the Indiana Supreme Court:
This case arose from an arrest for dealing in narcotic drugs.
On April 7, 2014, the Joint Effort Against Narcotics
(“JEAN”) Team Drug Task Force, which included
officers from the City of Marion Police Department and the
Grant County Sheriff's Office, received a tip from a
credible confidential informant that two men from Chicago
were travelling to Grant County to sell drugs. The informant
told JEAN officers that the two men were driving a white
minivan with a temporary Illinois license plate and could be
found at the Comfort Suites in Marion, Indiana.
Upon receiving this information, Detective Mark Stefanatos
(“Detective Stefanatos”) began surveillance of a
Dodge Caravan that fit the confidential informant's
description. While there, he observed two men, later
identified as Will Thomas and Byron Christmas, enter the
vehicle and drive away.
Detective Stefanatos followed the van and observed it
illegally change lanes without properly signaling. Detective
Stefanatos then called for a uniformed police officer, Joseph
Martin (“Officer Martin”), to initiate a traffic
stop. He also called for a canine unit on the scene, which
arrived within a minute or two.
Officer Martin initiated the stop and approached the vehicle
with Detective Stefanatos. Officer Martin walked to the
driver's side of the vehicle and spoke with Christmas
while Detective Stefanatos spoke with Thomas, who was sitting
in the front passenger seat. The officers tried to verify
each man's identity and their reason for travelling
through Marion, Indiana. Both Thomas and Christmas told
officers that they were visiting family, but neither man
could identify where in Indiana their respective family
members lived. Furthermore, the driver, Christmas, was unable
to present officers with any form of identification and
claimed he left his driver's license in Chicago.
Simultaneous to the traffic stop, officers ran a certified
narcotics canine around the vehicle with the occupants still
inside. The officers first brought the canine to the
vehicle's rear bumper and had it sniff along the
driver's side. When the canine reached the driver's
door, it alerted officers to the presence of narcotics.
Officers removed Thomas and Christmas from the vehicle and
conducted a pat-down search for officer safety. No drugs or
weapons were found in the course of the pat-down.
Christmas then gave officers permission to search the
vehicle. The canine was brought into the vehicle's
interior, but it no longer detected the presence of
narcotics. No narcotics or contraband were found in a
subsequent search of the vehicle's interior. Officers did
not bring the narcotics detection canine around the suspects
because the canine was also trained as an apprehension dog.
Bringing the dog around the suspects ran the risk of causing
them injury if either of the suspects turned out to possess
Christmas and Thomas were each asked whether they would
consent to a strip search at the police station. Christmas
agreed and was transported to the county jail where no drugs
were found on his person. Officers did, however, find
Christmas had $750 in cash. Thomas, on the other hand,
declined the search. Given Thomas's refusal to consent,
officers applied for a search warrant. In the meantime, they
transported Thomas to the Marion Police Station where he
would await the results of the search warrant request.
Officers said they transported Thomas because they preferred
to conduct the search somewhere other than a public roadway.
They also expressed concern about the destruction of evidence
if Thomas were not transported to the police station.
Upon arrival at the station, Thomas was placed in an
interview room, which was equipped with video monitoring
equipment. Officers left Thomas alone in the room and
continued to observe him remotely. Moments later, Thomas was
seen removing something from his jacket pocket and placing it
in his mouth. Officers re-entered the room to retrieve what
Thomas had placed in his mouth. When Thomas refused to
comply, officers forced his mouth open and retrieved a small
plastic baggie containing 8.5 grams of a gray, crumbly,
rock-like substance. The substance later tested positive for
Thomas was charged with Class A felony dealing in a narcotic
drug and Class B misdemeanor battery. Prior to trial, Thomas
moved to suppress evidence recovered at the police station,
alleging officers lacked probable cause to detain him. The
trial court denied Thomas's motion. After a two-day jury
trial, Thomas was found guilty of dealing in a narcotic drug,
but not guilty of battery.
Thomas v. State, No. 27D01-1404-FA-5, slip op. 2-3
(Ind.S.Ct. Sept. 7, 2017) (internal citations omitted); DE
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