10 F.3d 1241 (6th Cir. 1993), 93-1006, United States v. Garza

Docket Nº:93-1006.
Citation:10 F.3d 1241
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Reymundo GARZA, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:December 06, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 1241

10 F.3d 1241 (6th Cir. 1993)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Reymundo GARZA, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 93-1006.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

December 6, 1993

Argued Sept. 24, 1993.

Page 1242

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1243

Amy B. Hartmann, Office of U.S. Atty., Detroit, MI (argued and briefed), for U.S.

Joseph P. Zanglin, Detroit, MI (argued and briefed), for Reymundo Garza.

Before: KENNEDY and RYAN, Circuit Judges; and BROWN, Senior Circuit Judge.

BAILEY BROWN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Appellant Reymundo Garza ("Reymundo") pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. Secs. 841(a)(1) and 846. As allowed by his plea agreement, he appeals the denial below, following an evidentiary hearing, of his motion to suppress evidence taken during a warrantless stop and subsequent search of his vehicle. Because we find that the search was based upon probable cause developed during the course of a legitimate investigatory stop, we AFFIRM the district court's decision.

I.

Reymundo was arrested in the early morning hours of February 11, 1992, when federal agents found approximately 150 pounds of marijuana stored in the cab of a semi-truck that he was driving. Agents also stopped a pickup truck traveling a short distance behind the semi-truck. The stops culminated a week-long, round-the-clock surveillance by Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") and United States Border Patrol agents in Detroit.

On February 5, 1992, after observing a pickup truck with a Texas license plate and tracing its registration to Tomas Garza ("Tomas"), Detroit DEA agents learned via a computerized intelligence check that Tomas was associated with Mary Jane Ornelas-Garcia ("Garcia") in marijuana and cocaine trafficking. Texas DEA agents informed the Detroit agents that Tomas and Garcia were under indictment in Texas for drug trafficking and weapons charges and that Tomas was awaiting sentencing. The surveillance of Tomas and Garcia began later that day at the Royal Inn ("the Royal") in Dearborn, Michigan, where the two occupied room 159.

On February 6, federal agents learned that there had been telephone contact between room 159 and the Star Motel ("the Star") in Detroit, located about a mile from the Royal on Michigan Avenue. The agents then discovered a semi-truck cab parked at the Star, registered to the same Mission, Texas address as that given by Garcia at the Royal. The cab was in Reymundo's possession. The desk clerk revealed that Reymundo had paid for his room at the Star with cash from a brown paper bag. A Texas DEA agent reported that Reymundo had been present during the execution of a search warrant in Texas, during which cocaine, marijuana and weapons were seized. Surveillance then commenced on Reymundo and his companion Freddy Cruz ("Cruz") at the Star.

In the early morning hours of February 6, prior to the discovery of the semi-truck, a drug-sniffing dog alerted positive for marijuana in the pickup truck that Tomas and Garcia were driving. Later that day, Texas DEA agents relayed to the Detroit agents an informant's tip that Tomas and Garcia were in Michigan to pick up $18 million from previous narcotics sales. They advised that Tomas was very likely armed.

On February 7, an unidentified man entered a room near Reymundo's at the Star. Reymundo then retrieved a bundle from the semi-truck, hiding it with a magazine as he emerged into the open. Soon thereafter, the same unidentified person was seen leaving the Star with a brown paper bag, ostensibly the same bundle that Reymundo had retrieved from the truck.

During the period prior to the eventual departure of the four suspects from the Detroit area, Tomas made several trips to the Star, apparently to check on the semi-truck. On February 10, he and Reymundo went to a restaurant and auto parts store together and then proceeded to "jump start" the semi-truck. While Reymundo and Tomas were gone, Cruz made two trips to check on the semi-truck and then returned to his room. Several calls were placed between room 159

Page 1244

at the Royal and the Star during the week of surveillance.

On the evening of February 10, 1992, the last phone call was placed from room 159 to the Star. Shortly thereafter, Reymundo and Cruz departed in the semi-truck and Tomas and Garcia did likewise in the pickup truck, both vehicles heading west on I-94. Both pulled off the highway at a truck stop west of Ann Arbor. The four individuals acknowledged each other inside the truck stop's market. Reymundo and Tomas spoke briefly in the aisle of the market and then retreated together to a back area, near the telephones. After spending approximately 90 minutes at the truck stop, the two pairs of travelers proceeded west on I-94.

The agents continued following the two trucks and shortly thereafter pulled them off the highway, about a mile apart. Because the agents were in unmarked cars and were concerned about weapons and about the dark and snowy conditions, they had attempted to contact a marked Michigan State Police car, which would obviously be a law enforcement vehicle, for assistance, but were unsuccessful. Between five and ten unmarked cars from the DEA, the Border Patrol and city police departments participated in the stop, each carrying one or two officers. The stop was based on the suspicion of the federal officers that Reymundo and the others were involved in criminal drug activities; moreover, the federal officers believed that Reymundo and the others were armed and dangerous.

Concern for their own safety was intensified by the height of the semi-truck, which made it impossible for the agents to see into the cab from the ground. DEA Agent Perman and another officer approached the semi-truck from behind with weapons drawn. They called for the driver, who was Reymundo, to exit the truck with his hands up, patted him down for weapons, handcuffed him, and turned him over to other agents. Then Perman, not knowing "how many other people were inside the truck ... ordered anyone else ... to come out." Cruz then came out and stated there was no one in the truck. Perman, however, did not "take his word for it" and decided to take a look for himself. Perman testified:

The door, the side door ... approached from the passenger side ... was flapping open ... a quarter of the way or so, so I could see the floorboard ... like the middle of the seat. I didn't see anybody sitting right at the passenger's seat. I couldn't see the driver's seat ... and I couldn't see the rear sleeper part ... at which time I shined my flashlight inside...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP