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United States v. Giles

January 31, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MALVERSE GILES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

JUDGE SYLVIA H. RAMBO

MEMORANDUM

The grand jury handed down a two-count indictment against Defendant Malverse Giles on May 9, 2007. He pled not guilty on May 29, 2007. On December 10, 2007, Defendant filed the instant motion to suppress evidence. (Doc. 91.) He argues 1) that the initial traffic stop of his vehicle was without probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that the vehicle was involved in criminal activity or had violated the Pennsylvania traffic code, and thus all evidence obtained by virtue of the stop should be suppressed, and 2) that, although he gave consent for the police to search his home, his consent was not voluntary and knowing, thus this court should suppress all evidence found during the search. The matter has been fully briefed and the court held a suppression hearing on January 3, 2008. The motion is ripe for disposition and will be denied.

I. Background

The parties are familiar with the factual background of this matter, thus the court will provide a detailed description of the facts only as pertinent to the traffic stop and Defendant's consent to search.

A. The Traffic Stop

On May 2, 2007, a joint law enforcement investigation was ongoing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Certain agents were tracking one individual, Norman Thomas, who was suspected of being a "master chef" capable of stretching a quantity of cocaine into a larger quantity of crack cocaine. They noted multiple phone calls between Thomas and Defendant on May 2. Defendant was also under investigation for drug-related activity.

At or around 4:20 p.m., Officer Mark Hall received a phone call from an agent of the Dauphin County Drug Task Force informing him that a cream-colored Dodge Magnum with a particular license plate number and registered to Malverse Giles was to be stopped, if probable cause to conduct a traffic stop was present. A car matching the description drove past. Hall re-checked the license plate number. He observed that the window tint on the vehicle was almost black such that he could not see into the car. He knew, from his training as a police officer, that such deep window tint violated the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. Accordingly, he activated his flashing lights and effected a traffic stop of the Magnum. Although Defendant, who was driving, gave his name as "Tony Giles," Hall ultimately established that Defendant was the driver of the vehicle. Tony Giles is Defendant's brother. Hall arrested Defendant for providing false information to a law enforcement officer, an act punishable under Pennsylvania law.*fn1 Only later did Hall learn that Defendant had been under surveillance by other law enforcement officers earlier that day.

B. Consent to Search

Defendant was brought to the Harrisburg Police Department at approximately 4:30 p.m. on May 2, 2008. In the course of being booked, Defendant attempted to swallow five grams of crack cocaine. Although officers believed that they managed to stop him from ingesting the drug, they took him to the hospital for testing. Defendant testified that, while he was in the hospital, officers attempted to question him; the officers who testified said that they did not. By approximately 5:30 p.m., he was cleared for release. A detective testified that he observed no ill-effects from crack cocaine in Defendant's demeanor throughout the events that followed.

Defendant was released from the hospital into the custody of Detective Todd Johnson, of the Dauphin County Drug Task Force, Agent Keith Kierzkowski, of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and another law enforcement officer. They took him to the Harrisburg DEA office where they informed Defendant of his Miranda rights. Defendant acknowledged that he understood his rights. Here, the testimony provided by the officers differs from that provided by Defendant.

Defendant's testimony was as follows. All three agents asked him questions. After about forty-five minutes to an hour of questioning, Johnson produced a consent to search form and told Defendant that Johnson wanted to search his house. Johnson said that he was "gonna get a search warrant." (Suppr. Hr'g Tr. 65.) Johnson continued, according to Defendant:

I know you got kids there, so you might as well let us search the house because we could go down there and kick, you know, the door. We don't want to go there and scare your kids. We don't want to do none of that. Just let us search the house and we'll make sure your kids are taken care of and stuff like that.

(Id. at 65-66.) Defendant told him that he would let Johnson search the house as long as Defendant could be present for the search. At that time, Defendant signed the consent to search form. If the officers had not allowed him to accompany them on the search, so that he could see his children, he would not have consented to the search.

The agents wanted Defendant to cooperate in the continuing investigation and prosecution of other drug dealers. Defendant refused. He admitted, however, to confirming or denying the veracity of information that they presented. Defendant gave conflicting testimony as to whether he told the officers that he knew Norman Thomas. He answered questions about his having given a gun to another person known as "Reefer Puff." He admitted to knowing ...


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