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United States v. Beasley

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

June 11, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ROY MCCARLIN BEASLEY, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, REPORT, AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 636(B)(1)(B) & (C)

          JOSHUA P. KOLAR MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Defendant Roy McCarlin Beasley's Motion to Suppress [DE 15] is before the Court and fully briefed. Beasley frames the question as whether law enforcement “had reasonable suspicion criminal activity was afoot in order to remove [him] from his automobile and thereafter conduct a pat down search.” (Def.'s Rep. 1, ECF No. 24).

         On May 13, 2019, District Court Judge James T. Moody entered an Order referring this matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation on the motion to suppress pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). This Report constitutes the undersigned's combined proposed findings and recommendations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). For the reasons discussed below, the undersigned recommends that the motion to suppress be denied.

         Specifically, the undersigned recommends that the District Court find no violation of Beasley's Fourth Amendment rights. Beasley's argument that his rights were violated when he was ordered out of his car following a valid traffic stop runs contrary to caselaw. His argument regarding the subsequent pat down turns on facts brought forth at a hearing on the motion to suppress. A careful review of those facts and the totality of the circumstances leading to the pat down show that law enforcement's suspicion that Beasley was concealing a firearm was objectively reasonable and does not call for suppression of evidence.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 2, 2018, the State of Indiana filed a four-count complaint charging Beasley with three felony counts, including unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, and one infraction count. Attached to that criminal complaint was a probable cause affidavit sworn to by Lake County Sheriff's Department Detective Alfonso Randle. On November 9, 2018, Beasley filed a motion to suppress. On November 27, 2018, the State of Indiana filed a motion to dismiss.

         On November 14, 2018, Beasley was charged in this Court by way of a single count federal indictment charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Beasley was arrested on this federal charge and had his initial appearance on March 6, 2019. On April 17, 2019, Beasley filed the instant Motion to Suppress, a supporting memorandum, and Detective Randle's probable cause affidavit. The government filed a response on April 30, 2019. Beasley filed a reply on May 3, 2019. The Court held a hearing on the motion on June 5, 2019. The government filed a supplemental brief on June 7, 2019. Beasley did not file a supplemental brief, and the deadline by which to do so has passed.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         According to the probable cause affidavit from Beasley's state charges, on July 31, 2018, at approximately 11:40 p.m. in Gary, Indiana, Detective Randle “clocked” a vehicle traveling 67 miles per hour in a zone marked with a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour. Detective Randle conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle and identified the driver as Beasley by his driver's license. Detective Randle “observed [Beasley's] body movements to be abnormal, as he kept his left hand on his left front pants pocket, while using his right hand to pass his license and vehicle information across his body.” (Probable Cause Aff. 1, ECF No. 17). Two additional detectives, Detectives Anderson and Fertig, arrived to assist, and Detective Randle asked Beasley to exit the vehicle.

         Detective Randle asked Beasley if there were any weapons or narcotics inside the vehicle and received a negative answer. Detective Anderson then performed an outer clothing pat search and discovered a handgun in Beasley's front waistband.

         Detective Randle testified at the June 5, 2019 hearing on this matter, further developing the factual record. Detective Randle's demeanor during the hearing suggests he was doing his best to recount the facts as accurately as he could remember them. Though Beasley's counsel conducted effective cross-examination and even obtained a concession, which, read out of context, could call into question Detective Randle's truthfulness, the Court finds Detective Randle credible.

         Detective Randle has significant law enforcement experience, having spent seven years as a police officer and six more years working for the Lake County, Indiana jail. More recently, in January of 2018, he started working for the Lake County Sheriff's Department High Crimes Unit, which operates in certain areas of Lake County known for violent crimes, narcotics sales, and gang activity. Detective Randle was patrolling an area of Gary, Indiana, known as the “Bronx” when he conducted a traffic stop on the car Beasley was driving.

         After approaching Beasley's vehicle, Detective Randle testified that he stood directly behind the front driver's side door and asked the driver, Beasley, to roll down the car's window. Beasley used his left hand to roll down the car window. After rolling down the window, Beasley placed his left hand on his pants and held it there tight against his body. Beasley's left hand would remain in this location, at times unnaturally so, from this time until Beasley was told to put his hands on his head after being ordered out of the vehicle.

         The exact placement of Beasley's left hand was inquired into at great length at the hearing. On direct examination, Detective Randle described the placement of Beasley's left hand as being on his waist area, pants area, and his pocket area. On cross-examination, Detective Randle first described Beasley's left hand as being on his waist area and specifically noted that it was between his pocket and his waist area. Defense counsel then examined Detective Randle as to statements in the probable cause affidavit and incident report, in which Detective Randle described the placement of Beasley's hand as “on his left front pants pocket.” In these documents, Beasley's waistband is not mentioned. On further cross-examination, Detective Randle testified that his earlier statements contained in the probable cause affidavit, which defense counsel characterized as claiming Beasley's left hand was on his pocket, were true. Defense counsel's cross-examination led Detective Randle to say that his statements at the hearing, which defense counsel described as being that Beasley's hand was in his waistband, were not true. However, defense counsel's cross-examination leading to this “admission” that one of the statements ...


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