945 F.2d 192 (7th Cir. 1991), 90-2630, United States v. Williams

Docket Nº:90-2630.
Citation:945 F.2d 192
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Cynthia Carrie WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:October 07, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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945 F.2d 192 (7th Cir. 1991)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Cynthia Carrie WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 90-2630.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 7, 1991

Argued April 3, 1991.

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Jeffrey E. Stone, Asst. U.S. Atty., Morris Pasqual (argued), Office of the U.S. Atty., Criminal Div., Barry R. Elden, Asst. U.S. Atty., Office of the U.S. Atty., Criminal Receiving, Appellate Div., Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellee.

Dennis A. Giovannini (argued), Giovannini & Goldberg, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellant.

Before FLAUM and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges, and MOODY, District Judge. [*]

MOODY, District Judge.

Cynthia Williams pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute almost five kilograms of cocaine. 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Williams reserved her right to appeal the district court's denial of her motion to suppress the cocaine at issue. FED.R.CRIM.P. 11(a)(2). We affirm.


On December 7, 1989, Chicago police officers Robert Glynn and Richard Crowley were on duty at Union Station as part of a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force. Glynn reviewed an abstract of a passenger train manifest provided by Amtrak Investigator Dennis Kroll. The abstract showed that: (1) the train originated in Los Angeles; (2) the train carried a passenger travelling as "Cynthia Rymes," later identified as Williams 1; (3) "Rymes" paid $415 in cash for her ticket; (4) "Rymes" was traveling in a private sleeping compartment; and (5) the telephone call-back number on the "Rymes" ticket was apparently fictitious, for when Kroll dialed the number and asked for "Rymes," the person on the receiving end told him he had a wrong number.

At Union Station, Glynn boarded the train, where an attendant pointed Williams out as "Rymes." Williams subsequently left the train, obtained a cart, and then returned to the train. Crowley watched her as she loaded her luggage on the cart. Williams then headed for the main terminal.

The parties are at odds over the nature of Williams's demeanor up to this point. The government brief maintains that she appeared "quite nervous and hurried, and was looking around quite a bit." The government further contends that after loading her luggage and while heading for the main terminal, she again looked up and behind her. Williams's brief, on the other hand, presents summaries of testimony at the suppression hearing, including her own testimony that upon leaving the train she

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looked around at Glynn because he was staring at her. Officer Glynn further testified he did not find it suspicious that Williams looked back toward her luggage while getting a cart. Both officers also testified that Williams did not run or hurry. Finally, Glynn testified that Williams had done nothing unusual before the officers approached her.

As Williams entered the main terminal of Union Station and headed for a taxi stand, the officers moved in. At this point the parties' opposing accounts of the facts begin to diverge significantly. There seems to be agreement, however, on some points: Glynn stood in front of Williams and Crowley behind her. The officers were dressed in plainclothes, and identified themselves as police. Glynn asked if Williams would speak to them; she assented. In the course of the conversation, Glynn asked Williams for identification; she said she had none. Glynn then asked to see her train ticket; she presented the ticket to Glynn, who inspected and returned it. Then, coming straight to the point, Glynn informed Williams that he was a narcotics investigator conducting a narcotics investigation. Glynn asked Williams if she had drugs in her bags. When she denied carrying drugs, he asked for consent to search the luggage. Williams consented.

As for the divergence in the parties' factual accounts, Williams asserts that: when the officers initially approached, Glynn grabbed the back of her arm; the officers trapped her between them so she could not move; she noticed a gun; and the officers never said she was free to leave. Williams further contends that: she refused consent to search at first; she relented only when Glynn threatened to get a warrant; and the officers never told her she could withhold consent. The government details the initial encounter much differently, maintaining as follows: when the officers moved in, there was no gun play; Glynn explained he was a narcotics officer, but he also told Williams she was not under arrest and could leave at any time; and Williams expressed understanding of her ability to leave. According to the government, Glynn proceeded to ask if Williams had packed her luggage; she replied that she did not know its contents. Williams then became very nervous in the government's account, began to fidget, and spoke in a "dry-mouth" manner. Finally, in the government's version of events, when Glynn asked Williams for consent to search her luggage he explained she could refuse, and again told her she was free to leave.

The parties do not dispute the denouement of this encounter. Upon obtaining consent, the officers searched Williams's luggage, finding the cocaine. They seized the drugs and arrested Williams, who was subsequently indicted on the charge underlying her conviction.

In the district court, Williams moved to suppress the cocaine. Judge Plunkett conducted an evidentiary hearing, and later denied the motion with an oral ruling, the complete transcript of which reads as follows:

The case basically comes down to the credibility of the defendant vs. the two agents who testified, and there are two issues: One is, was the original questioning of the defendant proper, and, secondly, did she give her consent voluntarily.

The agents approached her because of the profile that the manifest showed, which is a rather standard procedure. She paid cash, she bought her ticket the same day, she was coming from Los Angeles, and she bought a compartment.

Both agents pretty well agree that on the platform she was looking around. Now, it may very well be that she was looking around because she saw the agents, didn't know who they were, and was concerned about herself, but I don't think that has any affect on the agents' right to talk to her. Indeed, I don't think that is even necessary. They could have asked to talk to her based on what they knew before she got off the train.

Then the question is whether she voluntarily consented to talk and voluntarily consented to the search. The agents testified that they did not surround her and that they did not show a gun, and that

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they simply asked to talk to her and that she agreed.

The defendant testifies that the agents made essentially a sandwich out of her, that she was in the middle of the two of them, and felt she couldn't leave.

Because the defendant's credibility was hurt at the hearing, I've decided to accept the testimony of the agents. The reason that is, is the defendant has a prior conviction--which doesn't mean she is not telling the truth, but she was directly impeached on a matter from her own affidavit in which she said she thought there might be a gun, and at the hearing she testified she saw a gun, and that's a substantial change in a story which remained unexplained.

Accordingly, I will accept the testimony of the agents that they followed proper procedure, that she was not coerced in any way, that she voluntarily gave a statement to them, and that she voluntarily consented to have the luggage searched.

The motion to suppress is denied.

By this appeal, Williams challenges the district court's refusal to suppress the cocaine. She raises two issues: Did the police detain her in Union Station such that the fourth amendment was implicated before her consent to the search? If so, did the police have reasonable suspicion justifying the detention?


The fourth amendment provides that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...." Before the fourth amendment and its attendant exclusionary rule are implicated, the government must conduct a...

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