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United States v. Evans

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

October 21, 2019

UNITED STATES Plaintiff
v.
KEVIN LAMONTE EVANS Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Rebecca Grady Jennings, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence (the “Motion”). [DE 17]. Responses and Replies were filed. [DE 26, 27, 37, 38].[1] The Court held an evidentiary hearing [DE 33] and oral argument [DE 39], and the matter is now ripe. For the reasons below, the Court DENIES Evans' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Over the course of about one month, Louisville Metro Police Department (“LMPD”) detectives observed by pole camera a series of events which they suspected to be evidence of drug trafficking at 771 S. Shelby Street. [DE 26 at 93]. Defendant, Kevin Lamonte Evans' (“Evans”) children live at 771 S. Shelby Street. Evans was on house arrest at his parents' residence immediately next door, 776 S. Shelby Street, and Evans often visited 771 S. Shelby Street. [Argument Tr. at 268:7-12]. The issue before the Court is whether a search of 771 S. Shelby Street, based on officers' belief that drug activity was taking place at the residence, is constitutional.

         Approximately one month before the search at issue occurred, on June 26, 2018, detectives observed, by pole camera video, a vehicle parked outside 771 S. Shelby Street. [Transcript of Suppression Hearing dated June 28, 2019 (“Supp. Tr.”) DE 34 at 149:21-22]. The driver was moving a package between several boxes while inside the vehicle. [Id. at 150:4-18]. The package aroused the detectives' suspicions because they could see the individual “take an item out of a Krispy Kreme box, and [ ] put it inside another box.” [Id. at 151:15-20]. Based on the size and shape of the object in the item, the detectives believed it could be a kilo of narcotics. [Id.]. The detectives then observed another person approach the car, look into the box, and talk with the driver. [Supp. Tr. at 151:25-153:12]. The driver then pulled into a alley “right next to 771 Shelby.” [Id.].

         On July 24, 2018, detectives observed Evans, Sisson, and several other individuals outside 776 and 771 Shelby Street. [Supp. Tr. at 154:7-156:2; 159:21-160:2]. Sisson had two phones, both of which were visible on the video feed. [Id. at 157:10-20]. At some point the other individuals departed and only Evans and Sisson remained for short time before Sisson also departed. [Id. at 159:21-160:5]. Just before Sisson left 771 S. Shelby Street, Evans and Sisson entered the residence, and exited less than four minutes later. [Id. at 160:6-24]. After Sisson exited 771 S. Shelby Street, detectives observed a bulge in his pocket that was not present when he entered. [Id. at 161:12-162:18].

         Sisson left the residence on a bicycle. [Id. at 162:18-22]. LMPD conducted a traffic stop after Sisson began riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in violation of traffic laws. [Id. at 162:18- 63:20]. Sisson fled. [Id. at 164:11-19]. As he fled, Sisson discarded items from his pockets. [Id. at 165:3-166:23]. Detectives searched the area and found two bags of what appeared to be methamphetamine and $4, 000 dollars. [Id.]. LMPD was unable to apprehend Sisson, and detectives did not recover the cell phones they had previously observed in Sisson's possession. [Id. at 167:11-168:4].

         LMPD then returned to 771 S. Shelby Street and entered without a warrant at approximately 2:09 p.m. [Supp. Tr. at 170:17-23]. The United States alleges that officers entered lawfully based on exigent circumstances to prevent the destruction of evidence. [DE 37 at 243- 46]. Upon entering, detectives observed a marijuana blunt in plain view. [Supp. Tr. at 175:23- 176:11]. Two officers then left to obtain a search warrant, which was ultimately obtained at 5:35 p.m. [Id. 199:1-18]. LMPD then searched the residence and discovered large amounts of methamphetamine, together with other incriminating evidence of drug trafficking. [Argument Tr. at 275:23-76:3].

         Along with the events of June 26, 2018 and July 24, 2018, the warrant affidavit included two additional incidents, all of which took place inside or immediately surrounding 771 S. Shelby Street. First, the warrant affidavit described a shooting that took place in front of 771 S. Shelby Street on June 16, 2018. [DE 17-1 at 67]. Second, the warrant affidavit described an investigation and arrest of Evans and another individual for unlawful possession of a firearm on June 19, 2018, where police recovered $2, 000 from the other individual who was arrested, a handgun from inside 771 S. Shelby Street, and a sawed-off assault rifle from the bushes in front of the residence. [DE 17-1 at 67-68].

         After the search of 771 S. Shelby Street on July 24, 2018, Evans was arrested. The grand jury charged Evans and Sisson with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. [DE 1]. Evans moves to suppress all evidence found as a result of the search warrant. [DE 17 at 54-56]. Evans also moves to suppress the marijuana blunt that was observed in plain view upon the officers' initial entry because the officers lacked exigent circumstance to enter the residence. [Id.].

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “It is well settled that in seeking suppression of evidence the burden of proof is upon the defendant to display a violation of some constitutional or statutory right justifying suppression.” United States v. Rodriquez-Suazo, 346 F.3d 637, 643 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting United States v. Feldman, 606 F.2d 673, 679 n.11 (6th Cir. 1979)). The Sixth Circuit has made clear that the burden of proof on the defendant requesting suppression extends to both “the burdens of production and persuasion.” United States v. Chaar, 137 F.3d 359, 363 (6th Cir. 1998); United States v. Patel, 579 Fed.Appx. 449, 453 (6th Cir. 2014).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. The Entry of 771 South Shelby Street ...


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