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United States v. Bohannon

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 28, 2017



          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge


         Shortly after defendant Jonathan Bohannon ("Bohannon") filed a Motion asking this court to reconsider its Ruling ("Suppression Ruling") (Doc. No. 432)[1] granting in part and denying in part his Motion to Suppress Evidence (Doc. No. 134), see generally Def., Jonathan Bohannon's Mot. to Reconsider Suppression of Evid. (Doc. No. 699), the government filed its own Motion asking this court to reconsider the Suppression Ruling, see generally Govt.'s Mot. for Recons. ("Motion") (Doc. No. 704). Although the court has denied Bohannon's Motion to Reconsider, see Ruling ("First Recons. Ruling" or "First Reconsideration Ruling") (Doc. No. 717), the government's Motion is currently pending. At issue in the government's Motion are two aspects of the court's Suppression Ruling on which the Second Circuit, see generally United States v. Bohannon, 824 F.3d 242 (2d Cir. 2016), [2] did not specifically opine: (1) whether money found in Bohannon's pants pockets and drugs found under the bed in the room in which he was arrested are admissible; and (2) whether firearms, ammunition, drugs, a scale, and cash discovered after the resident of the apartment gave consent to search are admissible. The court heard oral argument on the Motion on April 24, 2017. See Minute Entry (Doc. No. 730).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Reconsideration is GRANTED.

         On reconsideration, the court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the portions of Bohannon's original Motion to Suppress Evidence (Doc. No. 134) reconsidered in this Ruling.


         A. Facts

         This court conducted an evidentiary hearing on Bohannon's Motion to Suppress on November 13, 2014. See Minute Entry (Doc. No. 373). In its Suppression Ruling, the court articulated the facts, as developed at the evidentiary hearing, relevant to ruling on the Motion to Suppress. See Suppression Ruling at 3 n.4 ("To the extent that there was conflicting testimony, the court resolves those conflicts as stated . . . ."); see also United States v. Bohannon, 824 F.3d 242, 245 n.1 (reporting facts as "developed at [the] suppression hearing before the district court"). The court's description of the facts was not at issue on appeal, nor are the facts as found directly at issue in the government's Motion. Rather, the Motion asks the court to draw different legal conclusions from those facts. As such, the recitation of the events of December 5, 2013, set forth below, is drawn from the court's Suppression Ruling and limited to the facts necessary to rule on the pending Motion.

         A group of federal and local law enforcement officers arrived at Shonsai Dickson's apartment at 34 Morgan Avenue ("34 Morgan"), in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the early morning hours of December 5, 2013. See Suppression Ruling at 2-3. Attempting to execute an arrest warrant issued by Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons, see Arrest Warrant (Doc. No. 3), the officers believed that Bohannon was at Dickson's apartment based, in part, on location information related to Bohannon's cell phone, see Suppression Ruling at 2-3. Special Agent ("SA") Ryan James and other officers knocked and announced their presence at the front door, while Bridgeport Police Detectives Paul Ortiz and Thomas Scholl proceeded to the back door of Dickson's second-floor apartment, Id., at 3. After knocking and receiving no response, Detectives Ortiz and Scholl opened the unlocked door and entered the apartment, Id. At around this time,

Dickson awoke to her sister [who also lived at 34 Morgan] informing her that someone was knocking on the front door. Two officers then entered the apartment into the kitchen, where they saw Dickson briefly before she entered another room. The officers followed Dickson into what turned out to be a bedroom, where they saw Bohannon lying in a bed. Dickson stood next to the bed on the side closer to the doorway, and Bohannon was lying on the side of [the] bed closer to the window. The officers stated that they had a warrant for Bohannon's arrest. Bohannon stood up next to his side of the bed, where he was next to the windows and a closet. The officers then approached Bohannon's side of the bed, looked around quickly, and began placing Bohannon under arrest. Before Bohannon was handcuffed, Detective Ortiz left the bedroom and walked to the front door, which he opened for the rest of the arrest team to enter.
SA James and the other agents had waited for about eight minutes at the front door before Detective Ortiz let them in the apartment. The arrest team entered the bedroom to find Dickson standing on one side of the bed and Bohannon on the other. Officer Scholl stood near Bohannon, but he had not yet handcuffed him. SA James testified that, as he and Task Force Officer ("TFO") Jason Guerrara approached Bohannon and Officer Scholl, Officer Scholl indicated to him to look under the bed. As SA James held Bohannon and TFO Guerrara put him in handcuffs, SA James looked under the bed and saw bags containing white powder. He identified the substance as crack cocaine.

Id. at 3-4 (footnotes omitted). As the officers arrested Bohannon, they allowed Bohannon to put on a pair of pants, but before doing so searched the pants and found a significant sum of money in a pocket, Id. at 5.

         Bohannon was handcuffed and brought into the kitchen, as Dickson was moved to the dining room. Id "Dickson testified that the officers were kind to her, " as they allowed her to brush her teeth in the bathroom without supervision from any of the officers, Id. The officers told Dickson-who majored in criminal justice in college-that they had found crack cocaine while performing an "arms-length" search, in Dickson's terminology, Id. Dickson understood, to some extent, that officers could conduct certain limited searches incident to arrest, Id. The officers told Dickson that she and her sister-who also lived in the apartment-could be arrested based on the drugs that the officers had already found, Id. Dickson became upset, and Bohannon shouted from the kitchen that everything was his. Id. Then, the officers asked for Dickson's consent to search the apartment, claiming that they would obtain a search warrant if she did not consent, Id. Dickson orally consented and, after reading a form to herself and having the officers read it aloud, signed the form indicating her consent, Id. at 5-6.[3]

         While searching Dickson's apartment, officers found guns and ammunition in the bedroom closet next to which Bohannon had slept. They also found crack cocaine, a digital scale, and cash in a dresser drawer in the bedroom, Id. at 6.

         B. Procedural History

         As noted above, Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons issued an arrest warrant, see generally Arrest Warrant (Doc. No. 3), after the filing of a Criminal Complaint, see generally Criminal Compl. (Doc. No. 1), against Bohannon. Shortly thereafter, a federal grand jury indicted Bohannon and thirteen codefendants. See generally Indictment (Doc. No. 14). The Indictment charged Bohannon with (1) conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute narcotics (Count One), see Id. ¶¶ 1-7; (2) possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Count Five), see id, ¶ 11; (3) possession of firearms and ammunition by a convicted felon (Count Fifteen), see ici ¶ 21; and (4) possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes (Count Sixteen), see Id. ¶ 22.

         Most relevantly for the purposes of this Ruling, Bohannon filed a suppression motion on June 6, 2014, see generally Mot. to Suppress Evid. (Doc. No. 134); Suppl. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Suppress Evid. (Doc. No. 362), to which the government objected, see generally Govt.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Return of Property (Doc. No. 144); Govt.'s Response to Def.'s Suppl. Mot. to Suppress Evid. (Doc. No. 397). After an evidentiary hearing on November 13, 2014, see Minute Entry (Doc. No. 373), the court granted in part and denied in part Bohannon's suppression motion, see Suppression Ruling at 1. Specifically, the court ruled: (1) that Bohannon had a privacy interest in the apartment, but not in Dickson's Toyota Camry, see Suppression Ruling at 8-9; (2) that the government was not reguired to obtain a search warrant before arresting Bohannon in Dickson's home, see id, at 11; (3) that the government did not have a reasonable belief that Bohannon was in Dickson's apartment, and so their entry therein was unlawful, see Id. at 11, 17; (4) that, because of the officers' unlawful entry, evidence derived from the search incident to arrest must be excluded, see Id. at 17-18; (5) Dickson's consent to search her apartment was tainted by the illegal entry, see id at 19-22; (6) Dickson's consent was not voluntary, even if any taint had dissipated, see id at 23-27; and (7) the exclusionary rule prohibited admission of evidence derived from the search to which Dickson consented, see id at 27-29.

         Pursuant to section 3731 of title 18 of the United States Code, the government filed a timely interlocutory appeal from this court's Suppression Ruling, "challenging only the suppression of the crack cocaine found under Dickson's bed and the cash found in Bohannon's pants pocket incident to his arrest." See United States v. Bohannon, 824 F.3d 242, 247 (2d Cir. 2016). Notably, "[t]he government [did] not challenge the suppression of other evidence found in the subsequent search that the district court ruled was not supported by voluntary consent." Id., at 247 n.6. The Second Circuit opined that "because the law enforcement officers who entered Dickson's apartment on December 5, 2013, possessed both a valid warrant for Bohannon's arrest and reason to believe that he was then in those premises, Bohannon fails to demonstrate that his arrest violated the Fourth Amendment." Id at 257. Thus, the Circuit vacated this court's order suppressing "any evidence seized incident to arrest on the ground that officers lacked the requisite reasonable belief of presence necessary to Bohannon's lawful arrest. . . ." ki at 258. The Circuit did not address the lawfulness of the "contemporaneous search of [Bohannon's] pants pockets and seizure of money therefrom" or the "contemporaneous search under Dickson's bed and later seizure of drugs seen thereunder, " leaving those determinations for this court on remand. See Id. at 258 n. 15.

         The government has now filed the pending Motion, asking the court to reconsider its conclusions in the Suppression Ruling that the drugs under the bed in Dickson's apartment and money in Bohannon's pockets are inadmissible, see Motion at 10-12, as well as its determination that the guns, ammunition, drugs, and scale found during the consent search were unlawfully obtained and should be excluded, see Id. at 12-22. Bohannon concedes that the money in Bohannon's pants pocket is admissible, see Mem. in Reply to Govt.'s Mot. for Recons. ("Opposition" or "Opp'n") (Doc. No. 706) at 1, but maintains his dispute as to the admissibility of the other pieces of evidence, see Opp'n at 1, 7-8, 25.[4]


         The evidence at issue in this Motion is best divided into three categories: (1) the money found in Bohannon's pants pocket; (2) the drugs under the bed in Dickson's apartment; and (3) the firearms, ammunition, drugs, scale, and cash discovered after Dickson consented to a search of her apartment. However, before the court revisits the merits of its earlier exclusion of this evidence, it must determine whether reconsideration is appropriate.

         A. Timeliness of Motion for Reconsideration

         As the court recently noted, see First Recons. Ruling at 3-6, parties must file motions for reconsideration within seven days of the entry of the ruling of which reconsideration is sought, see D. Conn. Crim. R. 1(c) (noting applicability of D. Conn. Civ. R. 7(c) in criminal proceedings); D. Conn. Civ. R. 7(c)(1) ("[Motions for Reconsideration] shall be filed and served within seven (7) days of the filing of the decision or order from which such relief is sought. . . .").[5]

         Bohannon concedes that the government's Motion is timely, insofar as it seeks reconsideration of the admissibility of the money found in Bohannon's pants pocket and the drugs under the bed in Dickson's bedroom. See Opp'n at 8 n.4 ("The government could not request this Court to reconsider the evidence under a search incident to a lawful arrest theory until the Second Circuit overturned this Court's suppression order."). However, he disputes the timeliness of the government's request that the court reconsider the voluntariness of Dickson's consent to search her home. See Opp'n at 7-8&n.4.

         As a preliminary matter, the court agrees with Bohannon's concession that the government could not have moved for reconsideration of the exclusion of the evidence found in Bohannon's pocket and under Dickson's bed before the Second Circuit's ruling. Cf. United States v. Bohannon, 824 F.3d 242, 258 n.15 ("The district court did not itself consider whether these seizures [of the money in Bohannon's pants and the drugs under Dickson's bed] were properly deemed 'incident' to a lawful arrest, having mistakenly concluded that Pavton error rendered Bohannon's arrest (and any search incident thereto) unlawful. Thus, we leave that ...

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