United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
December 1, 2005.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
LABARON ROBINSON, a/k/a Labaron Joseph Robinson, a/k/a Lebaron Joseph Robinson, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: TERRENCE McVERRY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
Before the Court for consideration and disposition is the
GOVERNMENT'S MOTION TO RECONSIDER (Document No. 33). For the
following reasons, the motion will be denied.
Defendant Labaron Robinson ("Robinson" or "Defendant") was
indicted by a Grand Jury on September 28, 2004, and charged with
one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in
violation of Title 18, United States Code, sections 922(g)(1) and
924(e). The basic facts of the case are as follows: On the
evening of June 7, 2003, Officer Sullivan of the Pittsburgh
Police Department was directing traffic around a fallen tree on
Lincoln Avenue. Defendant was driving down Lincoln Avenue, came
upon Officer Sullivan and the tree, negotiated the obstruction in
the road, and continued along Lincoln Avenue. Officer Sullivan
then sent out a broadcast over his police radio in which he
stated that he had been struck by the side view mirror of an
automobile while directing traffic. Officer Sullivan described
the vehicle that struck him; the description matched the
automobile driven by Defendant. In response to the broadcast,
Defendant was stopped a few blocks down the road by Officers
Weber and Hartung of the Pittsburgh Police Department. Defendant
fled from the automobile on foot and dropped a loaded pistol
during his flight from the officers. During the chase, Defendant
also yelled, "back off, I've got a gun," or words to that effect.
Defendant was unable to elude the officers and was arrested.
Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress (Document No. 21) in
which he alleged that his automobile was stopped in violation of
the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On August 19, 2005, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on
the Motion to Suppress. At issue at the hearing was whether
Officer Sullivan possessed either probable cause or reasonable
suspicion to stop Defendant's vehicle. Officer Sullivan was not
present and did not testify at the hearing. However, Robert Abram
("Abram"), the passenger in Defendant's automobile on the night
in question, testified that when Defendant approached the area of
the tree, he and Defendant encountered Officer Sullivan, who
motioned for Defendant to go around the tree. Abram further
testified that Defendant drove around the tree (and Officer
Sullivan) without incident, i.e., Officer Sullivan never
instructed Defendant to stop, and Defendant's vehicle never
struck or grazed Officer Sullivan. Finally, Abram testified that
when Defendant's vehicle passed by Officer Sullivan, the distance
between Defendant's vehicle and Officer Sullivan was too far for
the vehicle's side view mirror to have struck Officer Sullivan.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court took the matter
under advisement and allowed the parties an additional period of
time to brief the issues raised at the hearing. On November 10,
2005, the Court entered Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
See Document No. 32. The Court, relying upon United States v.
Coward, 296 F.3d 176, 179 (3d Cir. 2002) and crediting Abram's
unrebutted testimony, found that the government did not present
sufficient evidence from which the Court could conclude that
Officer Sullivan had an articulable and reasonable suspicion that
Defendant had violated the law during the time that Defendant and
his vehicle were observed by Officer Sullivan, that the
subsequent stop of Defendant's automobile by Officers Weber and
Hartung was unlawful, and that the evidence obtained during the
subsequent foot chase was obtained by exploitation of the
illegality of the traffic stop. Findings of Fact at p. 6-7.
Therefore, the evidence obtained from Defendant during the foot
chase was suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. Id. at p.
The government essentially contends that Coward is
distinguishable based on the hearsay testimony of Officers Weber
and Hartung. Officers Weber and Hartung testified at the hearing
that Officer Sullivan sent out a broadcast over his police radio
in which Officer Sullivan stated that he had been struck by the side mirror of an automobile while
directing traffic. Although the Court initially sustained a
defense objection to this testimony on the basis of hearsay, in
ruling on the motion the Court recognized that hearsay is
admissible at a suppression hearing. United States v. Raddatz,
447 U.S. 667, 679 (1980); Brosius v. Warden, U.S. Penitentiary,
Lewisburg, PA, 278 F.3d 239, 246 n. 4 (3d Cir. 2002). However,
in light of the officers' rather weak hearsay testimony and the
credible unrebutted testimony of Abrams, who was at the scene and
observed firsthand what actually occurred, the Court found that
the government did not present sufficient evidence from which the
Court could conclude that Officer Sullivan had an articulable and
reasonable suspicion that Defendant had violated the law during
the time that Defendant and his vehicle were observed by Officer
Sullivan. Findings of Fact at p. 6. The Court perceives no error
in its Findings of Fact or Conclusions of Law which requires or
warrants a reversal of its ruling. The Court also declines to
reopen the record to allow additional evidence as the government
has not established an appropriate reason to do so. See Coward,
296 F.3d at 180-183. Accordingly, the Government's Motion to
Reconsider will be denied.
For the reasons hereinabove stated, the Government's Motion to
Reconsider will be denied. An appropriate Order follows. ORDER OF COURT
AND NOW, this 1st day of December, 2005, in accordance with the
foregoing Memorandum Opinion it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED and
DECREED that the Government's Motion to Reconsider (Document No.
33) is DENIED. Defendant's Motion for Additional Time to Respond
to Government's Motion to Reconsider (Document No. 34) is DENIED
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.