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United States v. Holly

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 18, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
David Holly, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued September 4, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. l:16-cr-00485-1 - Thomas M. Durkin, Judge.

          Before Rovner, Scudder, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.


         Unreasonable seizures violate the Fourth Amendment while voluntary encounters with the police do not. This case implicates the dividing line. A police officer rushed to approach David Holly in Chicago's Altgeld Gardens Housing Complex and asked if he had a gun. Holly answered yes, which resulted in his arrest and subsequent conviction for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Holly later moved to suppress the gun, contending that the officer's approach and questioning constituted an impermissible seizure. The district court denied that motion after finding that Holly consented to the encounter. We agree and affirm. In the totality of circumstances, Holly's interaction with police fell on the voluntary side of the line.



         On December 31, 2015, Officers Robert Caulfield and Joseph Byrne of the Chicago Police Department were patrolling the Altgeld Gardens Housing Complex, a public housing project in the city's far south side. The officers were in uniform and on patrol as part of a CPD effort to increase police visibility in anticipation of celebratory gunfire to usher in the new year. They drove an unmarked black Ford, which Officer Byrne later testified locals recognized as a police car. While sitting in the car, Officers Byrne and Caulfield saw David Holly walking on a sidewalk inside a courtyard of the complex.

         The parties dispute what happened next, but all agree that the police approached Holly in the courtyard and asked him if he had a gun. Holly immediately said yes. The police then confiscated the gun and arrested him. A grand jury later indicted Holly for possessing a firearm following a prior felony conviction, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He moved to suppress the gun, arguing that his encounter with the police was an impermissible seizure. He also moved to dismiss the indictment, contending that the police's failure to preserve video footage of his arrest and activity leading to it violated his due process rights under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The district court held a hearing on both issues and heard competing testimony from Holly and the police. It then denied Holly's motions.

         The testimony from the hearing frames the issues on appeal. The officers testified that they had entered a parking lot in Altgeld Gardens to get a better view of the interior courtyard, which Officer Byrne considered a high-crime area based on arrests he had made there before. Around 4:00 p.m., Officer Byrne saw Holly walking on a sidewalk toward the police car. Officer Byrne said that as Holly neared the car, he made eye contact with the officers, formed a surprised and anxious look, and then turned sharply and walked swiftly in another direction, ultimately making his way behind a building and out of the officers' sight. Both officers testified that Officer Caulfield then jogged after Holly and found him inside the courtyard, standing outside an apartment door and ringing the doorbell. (An occupant later told the officers she did not know Holly.)

         Officer Caulfield said that he identified himself as police and asked Holly a single question: Do you have drugs or a gun? Yes, Holly replied, he had a gun in his pocket. Officer Caulfield took the gun and from there turned Holly toward a wall to arrest him. By then Officer Byrne had reached the apartment and assisted Officer Caulfield by handcuffing Holly. Both officers testified that at no point did they draw their own guns or touch Holly before placing him under arrest. A third officer, Raul Casales, responded to a backup call and met Officers Caulfield and Byrne about 15 to 20 seconds after Holly's arrest. Officer Casales testified that he had drawn his gun but never pointed it at Holly.

         Holly offered a starkly different account. He testified that he never saw the police car or made eye contact with any officer before being stopped and handcuffed. Holly instead stated that he was ringing a friend's doorbell when he saw Officer Caulfield run around the corner and approach him with his gun drawn. According to Holly, Officer Caulfield then demanded that he put his hands up, grabbed him, and told him he was being stopped because there were burglaries in the neighborhood. Holly added that he did not feel free to leave because he had lived in the neighborhood for decades and knew the police stops there to be aggressive. Holly also diverged from the officers' accounts regarding the sequence of events surrounding his arrest. He insisted that Officer Caulfield patted him down, found a bulge, and only then asked if he had a gun. By the time Officer Byrne arrived, Holly continued, Officer Caulfield had confiscated the gun and put his own gun away.

         After considering the competing testimony, the district court credited the officers' testimony. The district court explained that the accounts of Officers Caulfield, Byrne, and Casales were consistent with each other. The district court noted that the officers' testimony made more sense than Holly's, observing in particular that the police do not typically draw their weapons on an unarmed offender or at close range. By contrast, the district court found Holly less credible given his criminal history and the fact that he had offered three shifting explanations for why he had a gun. ...

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