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Title: Shawn Laray Bell v. United States of America

February 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable David O. Carter, Judge


Julie Barrera Not Present Courtroom Clerk Court Reporter



Before the Court is pro se Petitioner Shawn Laray Bell's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Motion"). The Court finds this matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; Local R. 7-15. After considering the moving, opposing, and replying papers, and for the reasons stated below, the Court hereby DENIES the Motion.



On the evening of April 13, 2006, Petitioner Shawn Laray Bell ("Bell") was stopped by Sergeant Derek Cook ("Cook") of the Orange Police Department for making an illegal left turn. Mot. at 2 (Dkt. 1). Bell had one passenger in his car. Id. As Cook approached the car, he detected an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. Id. Cook asked Bell about the smell, whereupon Bell admitted that he and his passenger had just smoked marijuana at a nearby restaurant. Mot. at Oct. 30, 2006, Cook Decl. ("Cook Decl.") ¶ 7. Bell then provided Cook with an ID card (he did not have a driver's licence), and when Cook ran Bell's information he discovered an outstanding warrant for Bell in San Bernardino County. Mot. at 2-3. The car Bell was driving was rented to his girlfriend. Opp'n at

When Cook returned to the car he asked Bell for permission to search the entire vehicle -- including the trunk and engine compartment -- and Bell consented.*fn1 Cook Decl. ¶ 12. It was at this point that Bell was arrested, handcuffed, and made to sit on the sidewalk with his passenger and others who had arrived to pick up the rented car. Id. ¶ 13. Officers then searched Bell's vehicle. Id. ¶ 14.

In the backseat, officers found a cigar box containing two marijuana cigarettes. Id. In the trunk, the officers found a backpack. Id. The backpack contained several items: a loaded Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver, a loaded Clerke .32 caliber revolver, prescription pill bottles and paperwork with Bell's name on them, and a pair of sandals inscribed with what was later identified as gang insignia. Opp'n at 6. The backpack did not contain any items in the name of Bell's passenger. at 7. When the officers found the backpack, they addressed the group seated on the sidewalk and asked to whom the backpack belonged. Mot. at 6. Bell was the only one to respond; he said "That ain't mine, that was already in there when we got the car." Id. Bell was then taken to the Orange Police Station and the vehicle was impounded. Id. at 4.

Once at the station, Bell was Mirandized and waived his rights. Id. Bell was questioned Id. He told the officers that he had smoked marijuana that night and that the pill bottles and paperwork in the backpack were his. Opp'n at 7. When asked about the guns, Bell replied "I'm not going to tell you I'm not familiar with them, but I didn't put the bag in the car, and I didn't put those guns in the bag." Cook Decl. ¶ 16. Cook was also questioned about the insignia on the sandals; those insignia matched certain tattoos on Bell's body. Opp'n at 7. Bell told officers that the symbols on the sandals were gang insignia, and he had similar tattoos because he was a member of that gang.

No one else from the scene of the arrest was taken back to the station for questioning. Id. at 7-8.


On April 26, 2006, Bell was indicted and charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), felon in possession of a firearm.*fn2 Opp'n at 3.

On October 2, 2006, Bell's counsel filed a motion to suppress certain items of evidence.

Namely, Bell moved to suppress all evidence seized from the car, statements he made at the scene of the arrest, and statements he made to officers at the police station. Opp'n at 12. Bell moved to suppress the items retrieved from the vehicle on the grounds that either: (1) Bell did not consent to the search; (2) any consent given was obtained as a means of coercion; or (3) that there was no probable cause to search the trunk for marijuana. Mot. at 6. Bell argued that his statements at the scene of the arrest were inadmissible because he had yet to be Mirandized. Id. Bell argued that his statements at the police station were inadmissible because they were ...

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