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United States v. Moorefield

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 23, 2015






On December 16, 2014, defendant Brandon Moorefield was charged in a one-count indictment with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on or about November 13, 2014, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1). Presently before the court are the following pretrial motions filed by defendant: (1) Motion to Suppress Evidence (Document No, 35); (2) Motion for Discovery (Document No. 32); (3) Motion to Dismiss the Indictment on Jurisdictional Grounds (Document No. 33) and (4) Motion to Compel the Government to Provide Defendant with a Statement of Uncharged Misconduct Evidence (Document No. 34). The government has filed an omnibus response to defendant's motions. See Document No. 37. For the reasons stated herein, defendant's motion to suppress and motion to dismiss the indictment both will be denied, and his other pretrial motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

The background of this case is derived from a criminal complaint against defendant and supporting affidavit filed on November 19, 2014, by Special Agent ("S A") John A. Orlando of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in which S A Orlando averred that he had probable cause to believe that defendant, a convicted felon, possessed a firearm in violation of federal law. See Document No. 3.

According to SA Orlando's affidavit, on November 13, 2014, officers of the Wilkinsburg Police Department and the Allegheny County Probation Office were traveling on Swissvale Avenue in Wilkinsburg when they observed defendant walking with a plainly visible outline of a firearm protruding from his clothing. The officers approached defendant, identified themselves as law enforcement and stated that they needed to speak with him. In response, defendant grabbed the right side of his waistband and fled toward Perm Avenue. The officers turned their vehicle around and then observed defendant fleeing toward Stoner Way with a firearm in his hand. A chase ensued and, at one point, the officers observed defendant hiding near Stoner Way, but they noticed that he no longer had the firearm in his hand. The officers continued to chase defendant until he was stopped and apprehended near the intersection of Penn Avenue and Coal Street in Wilkinsburg.

Defendant was taken into custody and a search incident to arrest revealed that he had a bag of marijuana. The officers returned to the location where they had observed defendant hiding and recovered a firearm with an extended magazine, which was loaded with 30 rounds of ammunition and had a bullet in the chamber.

According to SA Orlando's affidavit, defendant's criminal history shows that he has a previous conviction of a state felony narcotics offense punishable by more than one year imprisonment. In addition, the firearm in question was reported stolen out of Pittsburgh in June 2013. Ruger, the manufacturer of the firearm, has manufacturing operations in Arizona, New Hampshire and Connecticut, thus the firearm traveled in interstate commerce.

II. Motion to Suppress Evidence (Document No. 35)

Defendant argues that the evidence seized during his arrest on November 13, 2014, should be suppressed because it was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment for the following reasons: (1) the decision to accost him was without probable cause; (2) his arrest was warrantless and without probable cause and does not fall within any exception to the warrant requirement; and (3) the seizure of evidence following his arrest was warrantless and without probable cause and the police conduct does not fall within any exception to the warrant requirement. Defendant's motion contains little else beyond these general, bare-bones assertions that the police conduct violated his Fourth Amendment rights. However, he requests a hearing "at which the government's proffered justification for the admissibility of its evidence may be heard, examined, and ruled upon by this honorable Court." In response, the government argues that defendant's suppression motion fails to contain a single fact that contradicts the allegations set forth in the criminal complaint, thus he has failed to present a colorable claim for a basis to suppress, and his motion should be denied without a hearing. The government is correct.

A. No Evidentiary Hearing is Required

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3)(C) permits a defendant to file a motion to suppress evidence before trial, but an evidentiary hearing on such a motion is not held as a matter of course. See Fed.R.Crim.P. 12(c)(1) (providing that the court "may" schedule a motion hearing). The purpose of an evidentiary hearing on a suppression motion "is to assist the court in ruling upon a defendant's specific allegations of unconstitutional conduct-its purpose is not to assist the moving party in making discoveries that, once learned, might justify the motion after the fact." United States v. Hines. 628 F.3d 101, 105 (3d Cir. 2010). Therefore, to require a hearing, "a suppression motion must raise 'issues of fact material to the resolution of the defendant's constitutional claim."' Hines. 628 F.3d at 105 (quoting United States v. Voiet. 89 F.3d 1050, 1067 (3d Cir. 1996)). A hearing is required only if the suppression motion is "sufficiently specific, non-conjectural, and detailed to enable the court to conclude that (1) the defendant has presented a colorable constitutional claim, and (2) there are disputed issues of material fact that will affect the outcome of the motion to suppress." Hines. 628 F.3d at 105 (citing Voigt. 89 F.3d at 1067) (explaining that a claim is "colorable" if it consists "of more than mere bald-faced allegations of misconduct").

In sum, the procedure for a defendant who seeks an evidentiary hearing on a motion to suppress is to " (1) state a colorable legal claim, (2) identify facts material to that claim, (3) show why the facts are disputed, and then (4) request a hearing to resolve the dispute." Hines. 628 F.3d at 108. In this case, defendant's motion does not state a colorable claim, raise a material fact or ...

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