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United States v. Hall

July 5, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TIMOTHY D. HALL AND JUSTIN D. TOWLER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Defendants, Timothy D. Hall ("Hall") and Justin D. Tower ("Towler"), were indicted by a Grand Jury on December 2, 2005, and each charged with one count of Possession of a Firearm By A Convicted Felon on or about December 31, 2004, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 922(g)(1). Currently before the Court are the following pretrial motions:

* MOTION TO SUPPRESS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE (1 BLACK RUGER .40 CALIBER P94 HANDGUN, SERIAL NO. 340-71592), filed by Defendant Hall (Document No. 35); and

* MOTION TO SUPPRESS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE (ONE 9 MILLIMETER CALIBER HANDGUN, SERIAL NO. EXU166US), filed by Defendant Towler (Document No. 36).

On March 6 and 14, 2006, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the Motions to Suppress at which all parties were represented by counsel who presented and argued the issues skillfully and effectively. Detective Scott Love and Sergeant Jason Snyder of the City of Pittsburgh Police Department testified on behalf of the government. Ralph Bergin, Jr., and Tavius Smith*fn1 testified on behalf of the Defendants and Officer Edward Fallert, with the City of Pittsburgh Police Department, was called as a witness by the Defendants. Defendant Hall took the stand in his own defense.

At the conclusion of the suppression hearing, the transcript of the proceedings was ordered by the Court, which was filed on March 28, 2006. Thereafter, the Court issued a post-hearing briefing schedule for the parties to file briefs in support of their respective positions. The post-hearing briefs were timely filed and the matter is now ripe for disposition.

Based on the testimony and evidence presented at the suppression hearing, the applicable law, and having made credibility determinations,*fn2 the Court enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d):

FINDINGS OF FACT

a. Testimony of Detective Scott Love

Detective Scott Love ("Love") testified that he has been a narcotics detective with the City of Pittsburgh for nine (9) years and is assigned to areas known for high drug, gun, and crime areas. (Transcript at 7.) On December 31, 2004, at approximately 2:20 a.m., Love and Detectives Fallert and Lewis and Sergeant Snyder were in an unmarked police vehicle patrolling around the 28th Street area of the City of Pittsburgh. (Id.) The police officers were stopped at the intersection of 28th Street and Liberty Avenue and could hear a vehicle approaching with "very loud amplified music," which caused the windows on the police vehicle to vibrate. As the vehicle approached the intersection, Love observed that it was a white GMC Yukon. The vehicle stopped at the light at the intersection, and "the sound was coming from in excess of 75 feet which is a city ordinance."*fn3 (Id. at 8.) Love testified that when he first heard the music, the Yukon was "approximately 150 to 200 feet" away from the police vehicle. (Id. at 9.)

Love testified that the loud music was what drew his attention to the Yukon, but as he looked at the vehicle, he noticed that the windows "were tinted to the point we couldn't even see inside. We couldn't see who the driver, passenger, whether it was occupied, none of those things."*fn4 (Id. at 8.)

Directly behind the Yukon was another vehicle. As the Yukon made a right onto 28th Street, the police activated their emergency lights and sirens and pulled behind the second vehicle. As the second vehicle pulled over, the police went around it and got behind the Yukon. The Yukon, however, did not stop, but rather increased his speed, "failed to use its turn signal, turned right onto Paulouna Street, failed to stop for a stop sign also, continued up Paulouna Street, and also continued at a high rate of speed." (Id. at 10.) The Yukon was forced to stop due to traffic at the intersection of Bigelow and Paulouna.*fn5

When the Yukon stopped, Love and Detective Lewis approached the Yukon on the driver's side. Sergeant Snyder used a "megaphone" and instructed the driver to turn off his vehicle. Love testified that as he approached the Yukon he displayed his badge but did not have his gun drawn.

Love testified that they were "going to take [the driver] into custody for fleeing and eluding," in violation of section 3733 of the vehicle code (Id. at 14.) Love ordered the driver out of the vehicle and as the driver exited the Yukon, Love observed a large bulge ("a large piece of metal") in the front part of his waistband.*fn6 (Id. at 14, 17.) Love testified that based on his training and experience he knew that the bulge in the driver's waistband was consistent with a firearm. Love immediately conducted a pat down of the driver's waistband area where he saw the bulge and secured the firearm from Defendant's waistband.

The driver was then taken into custody and Love asked him "shortly thereafter" if he had a permit to carry a firearm, which the driver informed him he did not. Love identified Defendant Timothy D. Hall as the driver of the Yukon.

Love and his fellow officers subsequently filed state misdemeanor charges against Hall for fleeing and eluding and filed summary offenses against Hall for having excess noise in the vehicle and for the vehicle having heavily tinted windows.

B. Testimony of Sergeant Jason Snyder

Sergeant Jason Snyder ("Snyder") testified that he has been a narcotics sergeant with the City of Pittsburgh for approximately twelve (12) years. On December 31, 2004, he was working in a plainclothes capacity with Detectives Fallert, Love, and Lewis. (Id. at 43.) Snyder testified that as their unmarked vehicle approached the red light at 28th and Liberty, the police could hear loud music well in excess of 75 feet. The police determined that the loud music ...


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