United States v. Woodley, 090115 PAWDC, 13-113

Docket NºCriminal 13-113
Opinion JudgeGustave Diamond United States District Judge
Party NameUNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. PETER WOODLEY
AttorneyBrendan T. Conway Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Norman, Esq. Norman & Tayeh, LLC
Case DateSeptember 01, 2015
CourtUnited States District Courts, 3th Circuit

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

v.

PETER WOODLEY

Criminal No. 13-113

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 1, 2015

Brendan T. Conway Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Norman, Esq. Norman & Tayeh, LLC

OPINION

Gustave Diamond United States District Judge

Presently before the court is defendant Peter Woodley's most recent pretrial motions: (1) Motion to Suppress All Evidence Discovered During Vehicle Search Occurring September 17, 2012 (Document No. 111); (2) Motion for Severance of Counts for Trial (Document No. 113); (3) Motion to Suppress All Evidence Seized from Defendant's Person on March 20, 2013 (Document No. 114): and (4) Motion for a Hearing Pursuant to Franks v. Delaware (Document No. 115). The government responded to defendant's pretrial motions. See Document Nos. 91, 92 and 123. For reasons explained below, defendant's suppression motions and motion for a Franks hearing will be denied, and his severance motion will be denied to the extent he seeks to sever Count Two of the superseding indictment (the firearm count) from the two drug counts for trial, although a bifurcated trial will be ordered.

I. Procedural History

On March 22, 2013, a criminal complaint was filed against defendant alleging that he violated various provisions of the Controlled Substances Act relating to the distribution of heroin. On April 16, 2013, a grand jury returned a two-count indictment against defendant charging him with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin from in and around December 2011, until in and around August 2012, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §846 and possession with intent to distribute heroin on or about March 20, 2013, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§841(a)(1) and841(b)(1)(B)(i).

Defendant's first appointed CJ A counsel, Melvin Vatz, filed the following pretrial motions: (1) Motion to Suppress; (2) Motion for Discovery; (3) Motion for Disclosure of Promises of Leniency and/or Existence of Plea Bargain Agreements; (4) Motion to Dismiss; and (5) Motion for Ordering of Government's Proof or for a Separate Hearing to Determine the Existence of a Conspiracy.

Defendant became dissatisfied with Attorney Vatz's representation, and requested the appointment of new counsel. Following a hearing, the court granted defendant's request and Attorney James Brink was appointed to represent him.

After a hearing, the court denied defendant's Motion to Suppress1 and granted in part and denied in part his other pretrial motions. See Opinion and Order of Court dated December 30, 2013 (Document Nos. 47 and 48) (hereinafter, the "December 2013 Opinion"). The court also scheduled trial to begin on January 27, 2014.

At a pretrial status conference held on January 23, 2014, defendant asserted that he was dissatisfied with Attorney Brink, who moved to withdraw as his counsel. The court granted Attorney Brink's motion, and rescheduled trial to begin on April 21, 2014.

On January 29, 2014, Attorney James Robinson was appointed to represent defendant. At a status conference held on April 8, 2014, Attorney Robinson indicated his intent to file a motion to continue the April 21, 2014, trial date. Defendant indicated his agreement with the request for a trial continuance, as well as his understanding that the resulting delay was caused by his request and by his desire to file additional pretrial motions that he claims were not filed by his prior counsel.

On April 14, 2014, the court granted defendant's motion to continue the trial until August 25, 2014, to give Attorney Robinson ample time to prepare defendant's case. Despite the fact that the time for filing pretrial motions had long since passed, the court permitted defendant to file any additional pretrial motions he wished to file, and he subsequently filed a Motion for a Franks Hearing.

On July 21, 2014, the court denied defendant's Franks motion, finding that he did not have standing to challenge the agent's application and affidavit regarding data location information transmitted by the cellular telephone associated with him. Even assuming defendant had standing, the court found that he failed to make the substantial preliminary showing required by Franks to obtain a hearing. See Opinion and Order of Court dated July 21, 2014 (Document Nos. 74 and 75) (hereinafter, the "July 2014 Opinion").

Prior to the court's July 2014 Opinion, the grand jury returned a three-count superseding indictment against defendant on July 15, 2014, charging him with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin from in and around December 2011, until in and around August 2012, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §846 (Count One), possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on or about September 17, 2012, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§922(g)(1) and 924(e) (Count Two), and possession with intent to distribute heroin on or about March 20, 2013, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§841 (a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C) (Count Three).

Following the superseding indictment, the court granted Attorney Robinson's motion to continue the previously scheduled August 2014, trial date to allow defendant to file pretrial motions related to the new charges. On March 30, 2015, Attorney Robinson filed a motion to suppress evidence related to the firearm charge and a motion for severance of counts for trial. The government responded to these motions and a suppression hearing was scheduled on March 17, 2015.

However, on February 24, 2015, defendant filed a pro se motion for appointment of new counsel. After a hearing, the court entered an order on March 12, 2015, denying defendant's request because he had not established good cause for replacing court-appointed counsel. Defendant was directed to set forth in writing and provide the specific requests he had of Attorney Robinson with respect to the handling of his case by April 13, 2015. As a result of this development, the court granted Attorney Robinson's motion to continue the suppression hearing until May 20, 2015.

Despite defendant's claim of indigence which entitled him to three court-appointed counsel, Attorney William Norman entered his appearance on April 13, 2015, as retained counsel for defendant, and Attorney Robinson was granted leave to withdraw from the case.

Attorney Norman then moved to continue the suppression hearing scheduled on May 20, 2015. The court granted defendant's motion and rescheduled the suppression hearing on July 15, 2015. Defendant also was ordered to file all pretrial motions he wished to file by June 8, 2015. Defendant then filed the pending pretrial motions, and the government responded. After reviewing the parties' respective submissions, the court determined that a hearing was necessary only with respect to defendant's motion to suppress evidence related to the vehicle search, which was held on July 15, 2015.

H- Motion to Suppress All Evidence Discovered During Vehicle Search Occurring September 17, 2012 (Document No. Ill)

Defendant argues that the evidence discovered during a vehicle search which occurred on September 17, 2012, should be suppressed because it was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Defendant argues that prior to obtaining the rental company representative's consent to search the vehicle, the police violated the Fourth Amendment. According to defendant, Pennsylvania State Trooper Eric Maurer approached him in the role of a "community caretaker, " but acted beyond the permissible scope of that role by ordering defendant to produce identification without reasonable suspicion that he had committed any offense or without any public safety concern. Defendant claims that Trooper Maurer unlawfully seized him when he asked for his identification, which ultimately led to discovery of the firearm charged in the superseding indictment. Defendant contends the firearm should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree.

A. Background Regarding Events of September 17. 2012

Trooper Maurer testified at the suppression hearing concerning the events of September 17, 2012, and he also completed an incident report relating to that matter, a copy of which is attached as Exhibit C to the government's Omnibus Response to Defendant's Pretrial Motions (Document No. 123) (hereinafter, the "government's Omnibus Response"). On that date, while on patrol in a marked vehicle on State Route 28, Trooper Maurer observed a vehicle parked on the berm of the highway with its hazard signals activated. Trooper Maurer stopped behind the vehicle to check on the safety of the occupant, who eventually was identified as defendant. Defendant, who was seated in the driver's seat, informed Trooper Maurer that he had run out of gas and that he was on the phone with his girlfriend who was in the area. Consistent with his practice in such situations. Trooper Maurer asked defendant for his identification, as well as identification for the vehicle. Defendant stated that he had no identification on him, but provided his name as Darren Brown and said that he was from New Jersey. Defendant also provided an expired rental agreement, which did not list him as a driver, and an insurance card for a vehicle belonging to Nicole Eakin.

Trooper Maurer returned to his patrol car to check the information defendant provided and discovered the vehicle was a rental owned by Leeway Rental. In addition, Trooper Maurer ran a check for Darren Brown, but found no information for any such individual in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

Trooper Maurer then returned to the rental vehicle, informed defendant that no information existed for Darren Brown and asked him to exit the vehicle because Trooper Maurer could not confirm his identity and he was not authorized to operate the rental vehicle. Defendant...

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