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United States v. Holiday

September 17, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Barry Ted Moskowitz United States District Judge


Defendant Shawn Holiday ("Holiday") has filed motions to suppress evidence in addition to a motion to dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, Holiday's motions are DENIED.


The Court held an evidentiary hearing on defendant Holiday's motions to suppress evidence on July 19 and 26, 2010, and August 2, 2010. Holiday seeks to suppress all evidence seized from him and the fruits thereof, contending that he was arrested without probable cause. The government contends that Holiday was arrested based on probable cause to believe he had distributed crack cocaine to Yukon Branch, who sold it to a confidential source ("CS"). The Court heard testimony from several law enforcement officers, all of whom the Court finds credible. Based on the testimony and evidence presented, the Court finds that the law enforcement officers were aware of the following facts prior to arresting Holiday, based on their observations and the legitimate inferences therefrom.

DEA Special Agent James Higgins and several federal and state law enforcement officers were conducting controlled buys of cocaine and methamphetamine in San Diego during the summer of 2009. Agent Higgins was utilizing the CS to purchase drugs from Yukon Branch. Prior to September 16, 2009, under the agents' surveillance, the CS made four to five controlled purchases of substances from Branch that tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamine. Holiday was not observed in connection with any of these sales.

On September 16, 2009, the CS was to meet again with Yukon Branch to purchase crack cocaine and later methamphetamine in two separate transactions. The sale was to take place in the neighborhood of Imperial Avenue and 50th Street, San Diego, California, in an alley behind Branch's apartment building.

Imperial Avenue runs east/west in that area, and 50th Street runs north from Imperial. On the northwest corner of Imperial and 50th is a self-service car wash. To the west of the car wash is a taco stand. Branch's apartment building is one block north of the intersection of Imperial and 50th Street. The actual street address of the apartment building is on Willy James Boulevard. An alley runs east/west directly south of the apartment building. The car wash property abuts this alley.

During the morning of September 16, 2009, Agent Higgins and his colleagues met with the CS and searched him and his vehicle to make sure no drugs were on his person or in his vehicle. They wired the CS so they could monitor his conversation with Branch and provided pre-recorded currency to him for the transaction.

At about 11:00 a.m., the CS drove into the alleyway behind Branch's apartment building. About ten agents and law enforcement officers took up surveillance of the area and communicated their various observations over the radio. Agent Higgins monitored the CS.

Yukon Branch came over to the CS's vehicle and spoke to the CS. Branch suggested that the CS give him half of the money for the transaction. Branch would then take the money to his source, who was nearby, and return with half of the cocaine. The CS agreed with this procedure.

At some point around the time that Branch was to meet with the CS, the agents observed a black Lincoln Navigator pull into one of the stalls of the car wash. The driver, later identified as Holiday, did not wash his vehicle but remained in the car wash stall for about ten minutes.

Branch left the CS and was observed walking south on 50th Street, entering the car wash, and walking over to the Lincoln Navigator. There, Branch spoke to the driver, who was standing to the rear of his vehicle. Branch then returned to the CS and told the CS he needed all the money or the CS wasn't going to get the cocaine. The CS gave him the balance of the $8,000. Branch then walked back to the car wash and met again with the driver of the Lincoln Navigator.

Branch told the CS that both of the suppliers for the two deals were in the car wash. The CS believed that one of the suppliers was in a white car and that the other was in another car. (Ex. B, audio of undercover meeting.) The CS informed Agent Higgens of this over the cell phone when Branch went to meet his supplier.

The agents could not see anything exchanged between the driver and Branch. However, after this second encounter, Branch returned to the CS. After ...

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