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United States v. Eberhardt

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

September 19, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
VASUON DEION JAQUAN EBERHARDT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David J. Hale, Judge.

         Defendant Vasuon Deion Jaquan Eberhardt is charged with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. (Docket No. 1) The charge arises out of a traffic stop for excessive window tint. Eberhardt has moved to suppress “all evidence obtained and statements made as a result of that stop.” (D.N. 27, PageID # 49) The Court heard argument and testimony on the motion to suppress on August 13, 2019 (D.N. 44), and the parties submitted supplemental briefs and exhibits following the hearing. (D.N. 46; D.N. 49) After careful consideration, the Court will grant Eberhardt’s motion.

         I.

         Eberhardt was pulled over after dark on February 11, 2018, by Louisville Metro Police Detectives McNeil, Probus, and Holland. Eberhardt and his passenger (identified in briefing as his girlfriend) had just come from the funeral of Eberhardt’s sister, who was killed in a shooting. The officers were surveilling the funeral due to concern about possible retaliatory violence. They began following Eberhardt after being alerted by another officer that Eberhardt was related to the victim and “wearing known gang colors.”[1] (D.N. 47, PageID # 118) The stated reason for the stop was excessive window tint.

         The stop took place in front of Eberhardt’s home. After pulling over, Eberhardt complied with McNeil’s instruction to roll down the car windows and place his hands on the steering wheel.[2] McNeil asked for Eberhardt’s driver’s license but would not allow Eberhardt to reach into the console to retrieve it. McNeil twice asked Eberhardt whether he had anything illegal in the car, and Eberhardt replied, “No, sir.” (McNeil bodycam video (D.N. 46-1) at 00:40-1:45) McNeil instructed Eberhardt to get out of the car. Eberhardt complied. Before frisking Eberhardt, McNeil asked whether he had a gun on him; Eberhardt again responded, “No, sir.” (Id. at 1:45-57) Eberhardt was then instructed to move to the rear of the car, where Holland was standing. (Id. at 2:05-10) McNeil asked multiple times for consent to retrieve Eberhardt’s ID from the console; after suggesting that his mother could get it, Eberhardt consented. McNeil opened Eberhardt’s wallet and took out the driver’s license and permit, then stood at the back of the vehicle, briefly asking Eberhardt’s passenger about her criminal record. (McNeil bodycam at 3:10-4:45)

         While McNeil was retrieving Eberhardt’s identification, Holland asked Eberhardt whether he was “on papers.” Eberhardt responded that he had been convicted of first-degree robbery. (Holland bodycam video (D.N. 36) at 2:11) As Holland was questioning Eberhardt, Eberhardt’s mother appeared and asked what was going on. This led to a discussion of Eberhardt’s window tint and how the problem could be rectified. (Id. at 2:23) Holland said to Eberhardt’s mother, “We’re just stopping to talk to him; that’s it.” (Id. at 2:39) After brief further discussion of Eberhardt’s criminal record, Holland asked Eberhardt whose funeral they had come from and what his relationship was to the victim. Holland offered condolences, then asked again, twice, whether there was anything in the car that would “get [Eberhardt] in trouble.” Eberhardt again responded, “No, sir.” (Id. at 3:20-4:13) Holland moved Eberhardt to the opposite side of the street, where the following exchange took place:

Holland: “Look at me. Listen, I don’t care; I understand you’ve gotta protect yourself. But if you lie to us . . . you’re going to jail, okay. If there’s a little bit of bud . . . I promise, it’s not a big deal; we’ll squash ’em and throw ’em out. You’ve been through enough. Is there maybe just a little bit of weed in there?”
Eberhardt: “No, ain’t no drugs in there at all.”
Holland: “Is there maybe a gun in there? It’s not a big deal; I promise. I swear to God, it ain’t a big deal. I understand, you’ve gotta protect yourself.”
Eberhardt: “My gun’s in there.”

(Id. at 4:12-38) Holland immediately handcuffed Eberhardt, informing him that he was “not under arrest” at that point, but merely “being detained.” (Id. at 4:45) Holland then searched Eberhardt’s car and found a gun under the driver’s seat. (Id. at 5:05) Eberhardt was not read his Miranda rights until several minutes later. (Id. at 11:45)

         Eberhardt argues that the stop was extended beyond its original purpose without reasonable suspicion and that he was subjected to custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings. (D.N. 27, PageID # 52-54; D.N. 49) The Court agrees on both counts.

         II.

         A. ...


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