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United States v. Turner

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

July 2, 2019



          David L. Bunning, United States District Judge


         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress all evidence seized from the automobile he was driving on October 3, 2018. (Doc. # 29). In his Motion, Mr. Turner argues that law enforcement officers lacked probable cause to arrest him and that all evidence seized thereafter should be suppressed.

         On April 11, 2019, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on the Motion. (Doc. # 41). Defendant Turner was present at the hearing and represented by attorney Michael Goodwin. The United States was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Bracke. The hearing was recorded by the Official Court Reporter Lisa Wiesman. Prior to the hearing, the Defendant filed a Memorandum in Support of his Motion to Suppress (Doc. # 29-1) and the United States filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. # 36). At the Court's direction, the parties filed supplemental briefing after the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing. (Docs. # 44 and 45). The Motion is now ripe for the Court's review. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. # 29) is denied.


         Three witnesses testified during the evidentiary hearing on behalf of the United States: Covington Police Officer Anthony Jansen, Fort Thomas Police Officer Mike Rowland, and Campbell County Police Officer Matt Meyer. (Doc. # 42). The Defendant called no witnesses. Weighing the credibility of the witnesses, the Court makes the following factual findings:

         1. Around September 10, 2018, a confidential informant approached Covington Police Officer Anthony Jansen to report that an individual by the name of Laura West was selling methamphetamine to buyers in Northern Kentucky. (Doc. # 43 at 7:3-10). Officer Jansen had received tips from this confidential informant in the past and the informant had an established history of reliability with law enforcement agencies in the area. Id. at 7:11-22. An initial investigation of Ms. West revealed that she had active arrest warrants for probation violations. Id. at 13:14-25.

         2. On October 2, 2018, the confidential informant told Officer Jansen that he/she could arrange to purchase methamphetamine from West in Northern Kentucky. Id. at 8:2-5. With Officer Jansen's permission, the confidential informant conducted a series of police-monitored phone calls with West to arrange the methamphetamine sale. Id. at 8:7-14. During the calls, West agreed to deliver to the informant one pound of methamphetamine for either $5, 500 or $5, 600. Id. at 8:18-21. The transaction was to take place on October 3, 2018 in Verona, Kentucky. Id. at 9:15-20.

         3. At around 8:00 p.m. on October 3rd, the confidential informant placed a controlled phone call to West, during which they agreed to meet in the parking lot of the Dollar General on Verona-Mudlick Road. Id. at 11:7-9. West indicated to the informant that she was en route and would arrive at the Dollar General parking lot soon. Id. at 10:2-4.

         4. During the phone calls with the confidential informant, West frequently used the first-person pronoun “we” and repeatedly implied that a male individual would be accompanying her to the drug deal. Id. at 10:6-13, 20:5-18. At one point, West said something to the effect of “my dude doesn't want there to be any funny business.” Id. at 10:18-22. Officer Jansen stated that in his experience, he interpreted this and other similar statements to mean that West was bringing her source of supply to the transaction. Id. at 26:18-27:8.

         5. At around 8:45 p.m., the confidential informant had another controlled call with West, who stated that she was thirteen minutes away. Id. at 11:15-21. To prepare for West's arrival, police set up multiple surveillance units within viewing distance of the Dollar General parking lot. Id. at 11:24-12:2, 30:2-4. The officers also placed the confidential informant's vehicle in the parking lot to give the appearance that the informant was in fact at the location.

         6. Shortly before 9:00 p.m., the confidential informant received a phone call from West, who advised that she had arrived at the Dollar General parking lot. Id. at 12:6-10. In another call shortly thereafter, West told the informant that she was in a dark gray or black Nissan sedan that would be backing into a parking spot on the Dollar General lot. Id. at 12:20-13:2, 65:1-2. West also instructed the informant to enter her vehicle in order to retrieve the drugs. Id. at 12:20-24. Both of these calls were monitored by Officer Jansen, who relayed the relevant information to the waiting surveillance units. Id. at 13:9-13, 30:5-9.

         7. Soon after receiving the radio transmission from Officer Jansen, Officer Michael Rowland, who was located approximately a half mile away from the Dollar General parking lot, observed a dark-colored sedan exit I-75, pull into the parking lot, and back into a space. Id. at 30:12-15. Rowland noticed that no one exited the vehicle after it was parked. Id. at 65:11-13. At this time, there were fewer than ten vehicles parked in the lot, and only one of them matched the physical description given by Ms. West and the confidential informant. Id. at 16:25-17:2, 66:6-9. In addition, the dark-colored sedan was the only car in the lot that was backed into a parking space. Id. at 67:13-15.

         8. Shortly after Rowland saw the dark-colored sedan enter the parking lot, an agent radioed that West's vehicle had arrived. Id. at 30:16-17. It was at this point that the officers approached the vehicle with their lights flashing. Id. at 30:17-18, 65:15-17. Upon arriving, the police officers observed three occupants of the vehicle, a male, who was the driver, and two female passengers-one in the front passenger seat and another in the right rear passenger seat. Id. at 24:8-10, 26:9-13, 30:23-25, 43:4-5, 65:18-20. The officers ordered all three occupants out of the vehicle. Id. at 31:4, 42:25-43:3. The driver, later confirmed to be Quinn Turner, and the front seat passenger, later identified as Shara Brown, were both immediately handcuffed and detained. Id. at 65:18-19, 72:2-17. Sergeant Weber then searched ...

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