United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
December 14, 2018, Norman Peters (“Defendant”)
moved to suppress evidence of cocaine seized during a motor
vehicle stop by police officers from the Stamford Police
Department on April 1, 2016. Defendant's Motion to
Suppress, dated Dec. 14, 2018 (“Suppression
Mot.”), ECF No. 43. Mr. Peters challenges both the
validity of the stop and the reasonableness of the search
subsequently undertaken, which resulted in finding the
January 16, 2019, the Government filed its opposition to Mr.
Peters's suppression motion. Government's Opposition
to Suppression Mot., dated Jan. 16, 2019 (“Gov't
Opp.”), ECF No. 57.
January 24, 2019, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing
and held argument on the motion. Minute Entry, dated Jan. 24,
2019, ECF No. 60.
following reasons, the motion to suppress is
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Findings of Fact
case is part of a larger investigation and prosecution into a
drug trafficking conspiracy allegedly operated by Bobby
Gutierrez, coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration
(“DEA”), in partnership with state and local law
enforcement agencies- including the Stamford Police
Department. See Notice of Related Case, dated Sept.
6, 2018, ECF No. 10. That investigation resulted in the
prosecution of nine defendants, including Mr. Gutierrez, who
pleaded guilty to two counts before this Court on November
21, 2016 and was sentenced to 160 months imprisonment on May
8, 2017. See United States v. Gutierrez, No.
16-cr-114 (VAB), ECF Nos. 145, 308.
agents intercepted wire and electronic communications by Mr.
Gutierrez under Title III warrants approved by United States
District Judge Stefan R. Underhill on March 10, 2016 and
March 16, 2016.
April 1, 2016, law enforcement officers involved in the
wiretap investigation intercepted a phone call to Mr.
Gutierrez's cell phone from the number (646) 887-5350,
made by a person who identified himself as “Ski.”
“Ski”, a known alias for Mr. Peters, had used
this telephone number before. Mr. Peters had become known to
the law enforcement officers as someone involved in drug
trafficking, as he had previously been convicted for sale of
monitored call led the officers to believe that Mr. Peters
was arranging a drug sale:
PETERS: This is Ski. What up?
GUTIERREZ: What up? Oh, oh okay, I know. What's going on
PETERS: Ain't shit. You around?
GUTIERREZ: Yeah, what's good?
PETERS: Shit, I'm about to be out there in, like, but
I'm almost out there. But I'm about to go eat first.
So like 45 minutes.
GUTIERREZ: Alright, what exit you going to be on?
PETERS: Uh, 14.
of Call No. 467, admitted as Gov't Ex. 1. From this
conversation, the officers understood that a drug sale was
likely to occur. DEA Special Agent Ryan McHugh testified that
the reference to the exit number, 14, related to the amount
of cocaine being purchased: fourteen grams of cocaine.
forty-five minutes later, “Ski” called Mr.
GUTIERREZ: Hold up, Michael! Hold up! [Pause]
GUTIERREZ: Hello! PETERS: Yo!
GUTIERREZ: What up?
PETERS: Shit! Where you want me to come?
GUTIERREZ: Shit. I'll be by my job in a couple of
Like 10, 15 minutes.
PETERS: Alright. [Voices overlap]
GUTIERREZ: 15, 20 minutes, 15, 20 minutes, really.
PETERS: Alright, I'm already out here. So I'll wait
of Call No. 473, admitted as Gov't Ex. 1. Agent McHugh
testified that at this point, the officers believed Mr.
Peters would be meeting Mr. Gutierrez at B&B Deli,
located at 988 State Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut-which
they had already identified through previous intercepts as a
location where Mr. Gutierrez would meet with traffickers.
McHugh then testified that he contacted several police
departments to see if they had units available and ultimately
dispatched Stamford Police Officer Jose Alvarez, who was part
of the investigative team, to conduct surveillance on 988
McHugh also testified that the investigative team conducted a
motor vehicle records check to discover whether Mr. Peters
had a valid driver's license. He described this as a
routine investigative technique used to identify whether
local law enforcement could have reasonable suspicion to stop
a vehicle unrelated to the Title III investigation. By doing
this, local law enforcement would be able to stop the vehicle
and provide an explanation for the stop that would not
jeopardize the ongoing Title III investigation.
McHugh testified that the search revealed Mr. Peters did not
possess a valid driver's license. As a result, Agent
McHugh and his team decided that they would use this
information as a basis to stop the vehicle that they could
communicate with Mr. Peters, with the hope that they could
verify that Mr. Gutierrez was distributing cocaine without
jeopardizing the ongoing Title III investigation.
Alvarez arrived at 988 State Street in an unmarked car and
began conducting surveillance. He soon saw a gray 2008 Toyota
Avalon with Connecticut license plate 692-YHN pull into the
parking lot of the store. He testified that he was not close
enough, however, to identify whether Mr. Peters was the
McHugh recalls that Officer Alvarez called out the license
plate number to the investigative team through his Nextel
device, which allowed him to communicate with other
investigative team members. A motor vehicle records search
indicated that the car was registered to a woman other team
members identified as a relative of Mr. Peters.
Alvarez testified that, a few minutes later, he saw Mr.
Gutierrez drive his car into the parking lot. Mr. Gutierrez
briefly went into the deli at 988 State Street before leaving
and getting into the gray Toyota. The car then left the
parking lot with Mr. Gutierrez, drove 200 yards down the