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United States v. Centeno

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 19, 2013



Juan R. Sánchez, J.

Defendant Baldwin Centeno is charged with robbery and assault on federal territory based on two incidents, one of which occurred on June 20, 2012. Centeno asks this Court to suppress all out-of-court and in-court identifications of him as the perpetrator of the June 20 offenses by witnesses Chelsea Schmotzer and Dana Wilson. Because the out-of-court identification by Schmotzer was not the result of an unduly suggestive identification procedure, the motion is denied as to Schmotzer’s out-of-court and in-court identifications. Because the out-of-court identification by Wilson, however, was the product of an unduly suggestive identification procedure and is also unreliable, Centeno’s motion is granted as to any identification by Wilson. In reaching this conclusion, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.


1. On June 20, 2012, from approximately 10:00 p.m. to 10:40 p.m, Chelsea Schmotzer was sitting in the driver’s seat of her car, which was parked on Fourth Street, between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, in Philadelphia, waiting to pick up a friend. Another friend was also in the car.

2. At about 10:20 p.m, a car pulled up behind her. Schmotzer observed three or four men exit the car, which immediately drove off. She then observed the men enter the park on the west side of 4th Street and “split up.”

3. About 20 minutes later, Schmotzer heard a women screaming for help. She then saw three or four men—whom she recognized as the men who had previously exited the car and entered the park—running up the middle of Fourth Street.

4. One of the men, whom Schmotzer later identified as Baldwin Centeno, ran past the driver’s side of her car within a few feet of her car. Schmotzer viewed him long enough to describe his complexion, hair color and length, and clothing. She also briefly made eye contact with the man. There was nothing obstructing her view, and the area was lit by street lights.

5. After the men ran past her car, Schmotzer started her car and began driving down Fourth Street. She turned a corner and was then stopped by a United States Park Ranger who was investigating an alleged robbery and assault of two individuals by a group of men. Schmotzer gave a very brief written statement about what she saw.

6. On July 18, 2012, Park Ranger Eli Bowers visited Schmotzer at her house to conduct a photo array identification. The photo array contained a 2007 mug shot of Centeno and seven other photos of men with similar physical attributes. Bowers showed Schmotzer the array and asked her if she recognized any of the people depicted therein.

7. Schmotzer identified Centeno without any hesitation. Bowers did not pressure or coax the identification, and did not tell her the array contained a photo of a suspect. Bowers directed Schmotzer to sign her name on the array, and Schmotzer signed directly under the photo of Centeno.

8. On August 8, 2012, Bowers again visited Schmotzer at her home. He showed her the same photo array containing the photo of Centeno. He asked her again if she could identify any of the men depicted in the array, and instructed her this time to circle any men she recognized. Schmotzer again identified Centeno without hesitation. She then circled his photo and signed the array.

9. The two individuals who were allegedly robbed the night of June 20, 2012, are Dana Wilson and her husband, Joseph Crumbock. At around 10:30 p.m. on June 20, Wilson and Crumbock were walking down Fourth Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets. They passed four men standing outside of a parked car. Wilson observed the men staring at her and Crumbock, and felt threatened. After Wilson and Crumbock passed the men without incident, a fifth man approached them walking up Fourth Street. The man began verbally accosting them and eventually began pushing and hitting Crumbock.

10. Wilson began to scream for help, and the four men who had been standing by the car surrounded her and Crumbock.

11. The man who was pushing Crumbock then punched Wilson in the face. After Wilson fell to the ground, the man who punched her began trying to yank her purse from around her neck and shoulder. ...

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