839 F.2d 285 (6th Cir. 1988), 85-5952, United States v. Knox

Docket Nº:Dorothy Ann KNOX, (85-5952, 86-5089), Kimberly LaWanda Ware
Citation:839 F.2d 285
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v.
Case Date:February 12, 1988
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 285

839 F.2d 285 (6th Cir. 1988)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Dorothy Ann KNOX, (85-5952, 86-5089), Kimberly LaWanda Ware

(86-5097), Altamont S. Champegnie (86-5200),


Nos. 85-5952, 86-5089, 86-5097 and 86-5200.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

February 12, 1988

Argued Jan. 26, 1987.

Rehearing Denied in Nos. 85-5952, 86-5089 and 86-5097 March 30, 1988.

Page 286

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 287

William P. Efird (argued), Irvin M. Salky (argued), Memphis, Tenn., Jeffrey A. Miller (argued), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for defendants-appellants.

W. Hickman Ewing, Jr., U.S. Atty., Memphis, Tenn., Timothy R. Di Scenza, Asst. U.S. Atty. (argued), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before JONES and GUY, Circuit Judges, EDWARDS, Senior Circuit Judge.

RALPH B. GUY, Jr., Circuit Judge.

A one-count indictment was returned against appellants Knox, Ware, and Champegnie charging them with aiding and abetting one another in the possession with intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance (cocaine), in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2. The charges arose out of defendants' arrest at the Memphis airport following the discovery of the cocaine in one of the bags in their possession. All three defendants moved to suppress the evidence and a full evidentiary hearing was conducted by the district court. Testimony was given by the arresting officer at the hearing; all three defendants elected not to testify. The district court denied defendants' suppression motions, finding that, although a seizure had occurred, it constituted a permissible investigatory detention based on a reasonable and articulable suspicion that defendants were engaged in criminal activity. The district court also found that none of the defendants had standing to challenge the search of the bag containing the cocaine, since both Ware and Knox had specifically disclaimed ownership of the bag and, therefore, none of the appellants had exhibited a legitimate expectation of privacy as to its contents.

Following this ruling, defendant Knox entered a conditional guilty plea pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 11. Ware and Champegnie were tried and convicted in a subsequent jury trial. Defendants allege that the district judge erred in:

1) denying the motion to suppress;

2) failing to suppress oral statements made by defendants during questioning;

3) holding the defendants had abandoned the bag in which the cocaine was discovered and therefore lacked standing to contest its search; and

4) denying defendant Champegnie's motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the government's case.

Finding no error, we affirm.


On June 14, 1985, Memphis DEA Agent Richard Holmes received a telephone call from Special Agent Paul Markonni of the Atlanta, Georgia, office of the DEA. Markonni informed Agent Holmes that he had observed three individuals en route to Memphis who had acted suspiciously during a stopover at the Atlanta airport. Markonni had noticed that the three individuals, later identified as the defendants, appeared not to know each other as they exited the plane, which had just arrived in Atlanta from Miami, Florida. Markonni observed defendant Ware holding her stomach as she left the plane and rushed to an airport restroom. He also reported that defendant Champegnie had initially acted

Page 288

as if he did not know Ware or Knox, although later the three were observed talking together. Markonni checked with the airline and discovered that each reservation had been made at the same time on the previous day and that all three one-way tickets had been purchased with cash. Upon dialing the Miami callback number given to the reservations agent, Markonni found that the person at that number did not know any of the persons listed on the reservations. 1

Upon receipt of this information, Agent Holmes, a thirteen-year veteran with the DEA who had extensive experience working airport detail, became suspicious that the three individuals described by Agent Markonni were engaged in drug smuggling. He requested assistance from Memphis Metro Narcotics, including a specially trained "drug sniffing" dog, and arranged to meet with the officer at the Memphis airport. When defendants deplaned, they looked around and appeared not to know each other. Ware was carrying a blue travel bag which she subsequently handed to Knox just outside the gate area. At this point, Holmes approached the trio, identified himself as a DEA agent, and asked if they would accompany him downstairs to the airport security office. Defendants agreed but requested that they pick up their luggage first. Holmes asked Knox and Ware if he could assist them with their bags, whereupon Knox handed him the blue travel bag.

Defendants were placed in separate rooms in the vicinity of the security office, along with their luggage. Each defendant was then questioned separately; each initially denied knowing the other two. Both Champegnie and Knox stated that they had lost their airline tickets; however, when asked for her ticket, Ware pulled several tickets from her purse. Holmes asked to see them and Ware acquiesced; they were listed in the names of Kim Ware, Dorothy Knox, and A. Stanford (the name under which defendant Champegnie was traveling). As Holmes testified at the suppression hearing, although they had not specifically been told that they could leave at any time, they had been informed that they were not under arrest and that Holmes "just wanted to question them."

Once Champegnie and Knox discovered that Holmes had seen the tickets, they acknowledged that they knew each other, although Champegnie first represented that he had only met Knox and Ware on the plane and, shortly thereafter, stated that he had known them for a couple of months. Holmes then asked each defendant if they would consent to a search of their luggage. The dog from the Metro Narcotics unit was brought to the area and reacted positively for drugs as to all pieces of defendants' luggage. Defendants then signed consent forms for the search, although both Knox and Ware denied ownership or control of the blue travel bag. The search yielded approximately one kilogram of cocaine, found in the blue travel bag, as well as a book on cocaine processing entitled The Cocaine Handbook, found in Champegnie's briefcase. At this point, all three were placed under arrest and given Miranda warnings. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). The total length of time of defendants' detention prior to the arrest is disputed, although it appears to have been between ten and thirty minutes.


Following the evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress, the district court entered its order denying the motions. In so ruling, the court found that sufficient objective and particularized facts existed to support the agents' suspicions and thereby rendered their investigatory detention and questioning of defendants constitutional. Further, the court held that the disclaimers of Knox and Ware as to ownership of the blue travel bag resulted in their abandonment of that item, thereby depriving them of standing to challenge the constitutionality of its search or subsequent admission

Page 289

into evidence of the contraband it contained.

Defendants raise a number of challenges to the validity of their airport detention; namely, that their initial seizure was illegal because the agent lacked a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity, that removal of defendants to the airport security office for "custodial interrogation" exceeded the limits of an investigatory field stop, and that the duration of the seizure also exceeded the permissible time limit for such a stop. Next, they argue that their inconsistent statements, first denying and then admitting they knew each other, should have been suppressed for lack of Miranda warnings. Finally, they contend that their abandonment, if any, of the travel bag was the product of and tainted by the illegal search and that they have standing to contest the validity of its search.

  1. The Validity of the Investigatory Stop

    In assessing defendants' claims on this issue, we must establish, as a threshold question, whether the actions of Agent Holmes and the Memphis police constituted a "seizure" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Only if they were seized are defendants vested with any right to constitutional safeguards. United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 553, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 1876, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980). The district court, relying on our decision in United States v. Jefferson, 650 F.2d 854 (6th Cir.1981), found that defendants had been seized when approached by Holmes and asked to accompany him for questioning. We agree.

    The Supreme Court has identified a "seizure" as occurring at that point in time when, "in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave." Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554, 100 S.Ct. at 1877. In Jefferson, we held that:

    [A]gent Markonni did not merely stop Jefferson to ask him a few questions; he stopped him and immediately after identifying himself as a DEA agent requested Jefferson to accompany him to the baggage claims office. In these circumstances, Jefferson could not reasonably believe that he was free to leave. This was a "seizure" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

    650 F.2d at 856.

    However, even brief investigatory detentions rising to the level of a "seizure" are constitutionally permissible if "supported by a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person [was] engaged in criminal activity." Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438, 100 S.Ct. 2752, 65 L.Ed.2d 890 (1980). In...

To continue reading