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United States v. Pack

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 12, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SIDNEY PACK, Defendant.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          Joy Flowers Conti, Senior United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Defendant Sidney Pack (“Pack” or “defendant”) filed a motion to suppress evidence (ECF No. 58). The government filed a response in opposition to the motion. On October 8, 2019, the court held an evidentiary hearing. The parties were permitted to file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The parties filed those post-hearing submissions on November 25, 2019. Pack filed a reply on December 2, 2019. The motion to suppress is ripe for disposition. There is no need for additional evidence or argument.[1]

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Pack is charged in a two-count indictment at Criminal No. 17-43 with: (1) possession with intent to distribute a quantity of fentanyl; and (2) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. These charges arise out of a traffic stop and subsequent search incident to arrest conducted on December 31, 2016.[2]

         Pack argues perfunctorily that the traffic stop on December 31, 2016, was without reasonable suspicion. The primary focus of his suppression motion, however, is that police officers conducted an illegal entry of a home on December 8, 2016. Defendant argues that the allegedly illegal search on December 8, 2016, tainted the events on December 31, 2016, because the officers who conducted the traffic stop were aware that the home search on December 8, 2016, was the basis for the arrest warrant they executed on December 31, 2016.

         Findings of Fact

         1. Pittsburgh Police detectives Devin McGee (“McGee”) and John Baker (“Baker”) testified at the hearing. Both detectives offered credible testimony. The government submitted four exhibits and the defense submitted three exhibits.

         A. The events of December 31, 2016

         2. On December 31, 2016, McGee was working as a plainclothes detective in Zone 2 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On that date, he was working with Baker and officer Josh Robey (“Robey”). (Tr. 17-18).

         3. The officers were patrolling Zone 2 in an unmarked patrol car which was equipped with lights and siren. (Tr. 18).

         4. At approximately 12:30 p.m. on December 31, 2016, the officers were traveling along Bedford Avenue, which runs from the Pittsburgh downtown/business district through Pittsburgh's Hill District, at which time McGee noticed a gold in color Toyota vehicle bearing Pennsylvania registration KGF3311 (hereinafter the “gold Toyota”). (Tr. 20).

         5. The officers were not familiar with the vehicle. (Tr. 97).

         6. The officers were near 1634 Bedford Avenue, where they believed Pack lived, when they encountered the gold Toyota. (Tr. 96).

         7. The officers' patrol vehicle was positioned directly behind the gold Toyota as they drove up Bedford Avenue. (Tr. 20, 24).

         8. The officers observed the gold Toyota fail to stop at several clearly posted stop signs. McGee was aware that Section 3323 of Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Code governs a driver's duties at a stop sign, and that section requires a motorist to bring his or her vehicle to a complete stop at posted stop signs. (Tr. 22-23).

         9. The gold Toyota first rolled through the stop sign at the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Roberts Street. The officers did not initiate a traffic stop at that time because they were running the gold Toyota's information through their mobile computer and were waiting for the information to come back, which is standard police practice.[3] (Tr. 23).

         10. The officers continued to follow the gold Toyota up Bedford Avenue and it failed to come to a complete stop at the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Devilliers Street. The officers did not initiate a traffic stop at that time because their mobile computer was still processing the information associated with the gold Toyota. (Tr. 23).

         11. At the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Erin Street, the gold Toyota failed to stop at the clearly posted stop sign at that intersection, rolled through at a slow rate of speed and made a right-hand turn onto Erin Street. (Tr. 24).

         12. At that time, the officers initiated a traffic stop on the gold Toyota by activating their unmarked patrol vehicle's lights and siren. (Tr. 24).

         13. The gold Toyota pulled over onto the right side of Erin Street. The officers pulled behind it. (Tr. 24).

         14. The officers did not know Pack was in the vehicle. (Tr. 99).

         15. As the officers parked and got out of their vehicle, the front passenger door of the gold Toyota opened and an individual whom McGee recognized as Pack exited. (Tr. 24).

         16. McGee was familiar with Pack's physical appearance prior to December 31, 2016, through social media postings and because he knew Pack to be wanted on an arrest warrant. (Tr. 25).

         17. McGee knew there was an active arrest warrant for Pack because he stayed in contact with detective Andrew Shipp (“Shipp”), who had filed the arrest warrant, about open cases and constantly checked the ASAP system, the computer system used to manage paperwork and warrants. (Tr. 26).

         18. Baker knew there was an active arrest warrant for Pack and was familiar with Pack's appearance because he was a member of a “Violent Crime Response Team” (“VCRT”), which circulated photographs of persons of interest. (Tr. 85).

         19. The officers began to exit their patrol vehicle, at which time Pack looked directly back at them and began to run. (Tr. 24).

         20. McGee yelled, “Sid, stop!” and pursued after him. (Tr. 24).

         21. Pack ran from the gold Toyota, but slipped and fell on mud, at which time McGee jumped on him and took him into custody. (Tr. 27-28).

         22. McGee searched Pack incident to his arrest on the warrant and recovered bundles of heroin that fell from Pack's pockets, a firearm that was caught underneath his shirt, two cell phones and a bag of marijuana. (Tr. 28-29).

         23. The heroin and firearm are the basis for the criminal charges in this case, Criminal No. 17-43.

         24. Pack was transported to the Allegheny County Jail on both the outstanding arrest warrant and the additional charges from the evidence recovered on December 31, 2016. (Tr. 29).

         25. McGee testified that he prepared an electronic citation for the driver of the gold Toyota, identified as Gillette Hawkins, for a violation of Section 3323 of Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Code relating to stop sign violations. (Government Ex. 3). It was not McGee's responsibility to file the citation. (Tr. 76-77).

         26. The citation was never filed. (Defendant Ex. 3).

         B. Connection between the events of December 8, 2016 and December 31, 2016

         27. McGee, Baker and Robey were part of a VCRT composed of approximately twelve officers that were detailed to Pittsburgh's Hill District due to an increase in shootings. Officers Shipp, Gary Messer ...


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