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United States v. Hill

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 5, 2014


For Kraig Hill, Defendant: Joyce Leavitt, LEAD ATTORNEY, Federal Public Defender's Office, Oakland, CA.

For USA, Plaintiff: Keslie Anne Stewart, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Oakland, CA.

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Re: Dkt. No. 22, 24


On December 5, 2013, the government charged defendant Kraig Hill in an indictment for violating Title 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), namely for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.[1] On March 13, 2014, defendant Kraig Hill filed a Motion to Suppress and a related Motion for Return of Property. (Docket Nos. 22, 24.) Briefing on both is complete. With respect to the former, on March 28, 2014, the government filed a memorandum in opposition. (Docket No. 31.) The defense filed its reply on April 11, 2014 and the government filed its amended sur-reply on April 25, 2014. (Docket Nos. 36, 39.) On May 15, 2014, the Court ordered that an evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress be conducted to resolve factual disputes.

The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on June 18, 23, and 27, 2014. Thereafter, the government filed a supplemental brief on August 15, 2014 and the defense filed a post hearing brief on September 5, 2014.[2] (Docket Nos. 57, 62.)

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The government filed a final supplemental response on September 19, 2014. (Docket No. 64.)

The Court has considered all of the filings in this matter, the evidence received, and the post hearing briefing. The Court has also reviewed independently the transcript of the evidentiary hearing and the video surveillance. Based on the foregoing, and good cause showing, the Court Finds that the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights were violated in his initial seizure and Grants in their entirety both the Motion to Suppress and the related Motion for Return of Property.

I. Background.

This case arises from an incident which occurred in the early morning hours of November 16, 2013. As detailed below, the defendant in this case was found with a loaded Glock 23 semiautomatic handgun bearing serial number RBE219.

On Saturday night, November 15, 2013, a unit from the Alameda County Sheriff's office was completing an operation to identify sales of liquor to under age individuals. Shortly before midnight the operation came to a close in the parking lot of the Town & Country Liquor Store on E. 14th St. in San Leandro, California. As the deputies were standing in a far section of the parking lot, they observed a gray Mercedes Benz with distinct oversized gold rims and tinted windows drive up to the liquor store. As the vehicle exited the parking lot, it accelerated to a high rate of speed, screeched its wheels, and lost traction slightly. The style of driving caused an immediate reaction from the deputies standing in the lot.

Given the lateness of the hour, the attempt to frequent a liquor store, and the observed manner of driving, two sets of deputies immediately entered their own cars and attempted to locate the driver of the Mercedes Benz. Ultimately, one set of deputies found the vehicle in a covered parking lot of a Budget Inn. The covered parking lot accommodated two rows of cars: one to the right and one to the left of an extra wide driveway between the two. The vehicle at issue was parked in the third stall in the left row as one drove into the garage.

During the evidentiary hearing, deputy sheriff Scheuller and his partner Miguel testified about the search for the vehicle and its discovery at the Budget Inn. Unbeknownst to the witnesses, the defense had secured video coverage from a surveillance camera located in the garage with which the defense later impeached the deputies' testimony. The Court recounts the salient testimony, pre and post impeachment:

Deputy sheriff Scheuller testified that once out of his vehicle at the Budget Inn, he slowly approached the Mercedes Benz and was able to see two people sitting therein. He then saw the defendant turn and reach quickly into the back seat. At this point, he quickly approached the vehicle, open the door and ordered the defendant out. He stated that for officer safety reasons, he wanted to detain the driver as quickly as possible. He did not secure the vehicle, as the driver was his primary concern

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and he believed that his partner, deputy Miguel was contacting the passenger.

Scheuller handcuffed the defendant and asked him for identification which the defendant indicated was in his breast pocket. The deputy checked the pocket and located an identification card. Scheuller then asked a series of questions because he believed that while there was a similar likeness in the picture, he was not convinced that the card was the defendant's. During Scheuller's questioning of the defendant, Detective Petrini arrived. Petrini walked past Scheuller and looked into the car. Upon looking into the back seat with his flashlight, Petrini saw a gun, yelled a warning, and pulled out his own gun. Scheuller did not. Rather, he moved the defendant and searched for another identification card which he found. At some point thereafter, deputy sheriff Miguel ran the identification through dispatch, and found that the defendant was subject to a four--way search clause.

After lengthy and detailed questioning by both sides, Scheuller testified that he did not have a distinct memory of any specific conversations. However, and of critical importance, he also testified that he had a distinct memory of the events. This was in response to ...

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