Argued: February 24, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of New York. No. 8:13-CR-405 – Norman A.
K. Corbett, Research & Writing Attorney (Paul J.
Evangelista, Assistant Federal Public Defender, on the
brief), for Lisa A. Peebles, Federal Public Defender for the
Northern District of New York, Albany, NY, for
D. Clymer, Assistant United States Attorney (Katherine
Kopita, Assistant United States Attorney, on the brief), for
Richard S. Hartunian, United States Attorney for the Northern
District of New York, Syracuse, NY, for Appellee.
Before: Walker, Raggi, and Hall, Circuit Judges.
M. Walker, Jr., Circuit Judge.
Peter Compton appeals from the judgment of the United States
District Court for the Northern District of New York (Mordue,
J.) denying his motion to suppress 145 pounds of
marijuana discovered in his vehicle by United States Border
Patrol ("Border Patrol") agents. Compton argues
that the agents seized him and searched his vehicle in
violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. We agree with the
district court that the agents had reasonable suspicion to
conduct a Terry stop of Compton, see Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), and that the agents did not
unreasonably extend the stop. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the
district court's judgment denying the motion to suppress
the physical evidence.
August 22, 2013, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Border Patrol
agents set up an immigration checkpoint near the Canadian
border on State Route 11 in Chateaugay, New York.
Approximately .5 miles west of the checkpoint, at the crest
of a hill and on the north side of the road, there was a
vegetable stand. The stand was "not manned" and
only "[i]ntermittently active." App. 61, 79.
Shortly before passing the vegetable stand, eastbound drivers
coming over the hill would be able to see for the first time
the vegetable stand and a sign alerting them to the
approximately 8:00 a.m., Compton and his brother were
traveling eastbound on Route 11 in their mother's green
Ford sport utility vehicle ("SUV"). Compton sat in
the front passenger seat while his brother drove.
Patrol Agent David Gottschall had parked his marked Border
Patrol vehicle on the north side of Route 11, facing the
road, between the checkpoint and the vegetable stand. From
this position-approximately .35 miles west of the checkpoint
and approximately .15 miles east of the stand-Gottschall
could monitor eastbound traffic through his passenger side
window. He observed Compton's SUV come over the crest of
the hill, abruptly slow down, and veer into the U-shaped
driveway of the vegetable stand.
then received a telephone call from fellow Border Patrol
Agent Daniel Taylor, who was stationed at the checkpoint.
Taylor told Gottschall that a motorist entering the
checkpoint had just reported that the SUV had passed her
vehicle and then immediately slowed down upon reaching the
crest of the hill.
receiving the call from Taylor, Gottschall drove to the
vegetable stand and parked behind the SUV. The SUV was
unoccupied. He then saw Compton and his brother walking away
from the vegetable stand approximately fifteen to twenty feet
apart from one another. Each of the two men held a pint of
ordered Compton and his brother to return to their vehicle,
where he began to question them. Gottschall asked the men for
identification and tried to find out why they had turned off
the road so abruptly. Gottschall then walked back towards his
Border Patrol vehicle, intending to run checks on the
brothers' identities and the SUV's license plate. As
he passed the rear seat of the SUV, he noticed a blanket in
the back that appeared to be concealing something. Gottschall
later testified at the suppression hearing that, in his
experience, "blankets are commonly used to conceal
humans, " to "conceal cigarettes" or, more
generally, "to prevent the plain view observation of law
enforcement." App. 62.
that the blanket in the SUV "either concealed humans or
narcotics or something to that effect, " id.,
Gottschall contacted Taylor and asked him to bring a canine
to the SUV. Taylor brought his canine, Tiko, to the SUV in
less than a minute.
and Taylor informed the brothers that the Border Patrol would
be performing a canine sniff, removed the brothers from the
SUV, and led Tiko around the SUV. The canine sniff took no
more than five minutes, and during this time Compton and his
brother sat handcuffed inside separate Border Patrol
alerted at the SUV's rear door. After Taylor opened the
door, Tiko entered the SUV and alerted to four duffle bags.
The Border Patrol agents then informed Compton and his
brother that they were under arrest. The Border Patrol later
found that the four duffel bags contained approximately 145
pounds of marijuana.
October 23, 2013, a grand jury indicted Compton and his
brother on two counts. Count One charged the brothers with
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to
distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana in violation of
21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. Count Two charged
the brothers with possession with intent to distribute 50
kilograms or more of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C.
1, 2014, Compton moved to suppress statements as well as
physical evidence obtained during the stop and seizure. He
argued that the Border Patrol had lacked reasonable suspicion
to detain him and had extended the detention unreasonably. He
also argued that, when the agents handcuffed him and placed
him in a Border ...