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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

May 4, 2018



          Robert G. Doumar Senior United States District Judge

         On April 13, 2018, the parties appeared before the Court on Duane Dequan Jones' ("Defendant Jones") Motion to Suppress. ECF No. 21. At that time, Defendant Jones stood charged with five counts of a thirteen-count criminal indictment, which included several firearm and drug offenses.[1] ECF No. 1. In his motion, Defendant Jones moved to suppress all of the evidence recovered from a search of Defendant Jones' van on October 19, 2017, including a handgun, methamphetamine, and marijuana, on the grounds that law enforcement's detention of Defendant Jones and subsequent search of his van on that date were unlawful. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court DENIED Defendant Jones' Motion to Suppress. ECF No. 21. This Opinion sets forth the Court's reasons for its decision.


         In June, 2017, the Virginia Beach Police Department ("VBPD") and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") began a narcotics investigation into Defendant Jones' co- defendant, Michael David Smith ("Smith"), after receiving information from a confidential informant that Smith was selling cocaine and marijuana from a recording studio located at 156 Newtown Road, Suite 4A, in Virginia Beach, Virginia ("Newtown Studio"). As part of the investigation, the lead detective, Detective Brent Riddick of VBPD Special Investigations, began orchestrating controlled cocaine purchases between the confidential informant ("O") and Smith. Four such purchases occurred between June 29, 2017, and September 9, 2017, all of which took place at the Newtown Studio.

         A. Law Enforcement Discovered Smith's Heroin Supplier.

         On September 9, 2017, at Detective Riddick's instruction, the CI asked Smith about purchasing heroin. Smith confirmed that he had a heroin supplier, at which time the CI arranged to buy heroin from Smith. A few weeks later, during this first controlled heroin purchase, Smith's apparent heroin supplier arrived at the Newtown Studio in a maroon Chevy Tahoe, which had a license plate number registered to Darien Everette ("Everette").

         Detective Riddick then orchestrated a second controlled heroin purchase, which occurred the next day. During this transaction, Smith's supplier arrived at the Newtown Studio in the same Chevy Tahoe, and he was accompanied by an unknown male. Law enforcement positively identified the supplier as Everette. Using mobile surveillance, law enforcement soon located Everette's residence on Geneva Avenue in Chesapeake, Virginia ("Geneva Residence").

         Detective Riddick then orchestrated two additional controlled heroin purchases from Smith. These purchases occurred at the Newtown Studio on October 6, 2017, and on October 12, 2017. Just prior to each of these transactions, law enforcement watched Everette leave his Geneva Residence, drive to the Newtown Studio in his Chevy Tahoe, and leave the Newtown Studio after a short time. On both occasions, Everette was accompanied by an unknown male. On October 6, 2017, the unknown male drove separately in a Chevy Silverado pickup truck following behind Everette. On October 12, 2017, a different unknown male rode as a passenger in Everette's Chevy Tahoe while Everette drove. On both occasions, once Everette had left the Newtown Studio, Smith signaled to the CI that the heroin was ready for purchase.

         B. Law Enforcement Planned a Takedown of the Newtown Studio.

         Just after noon on October 19, 2017, Detective Riddick secured the following four warrants from the Virginia Beach Circuit Court: (1) a search warrant for the Newtown Studio; (2) a search warrant for the Geneva Residence; (3) an arrest warrant for Smith; and (4) an arrest warrant for Everette. The two search warrants authorized a search for heroin and other items related to drug activity.

         With these warrants, law enforcement planned simultaneous takedown operations of the Newtown Studio and the Geneva Residence to occur that same day, October 19, 2017. The plan was as follows: The CI would arrange a controlled heroin purchase from Smith to occur that afternoon. A mobile surveillance team would track Everette's movements, and Special Weapons and Tactics ("SWAT") teams would be located at the Newtown Studio and the Geneva Residence to execute the takedown operations. One SWAT team would arrest Everette when he arrived at the Newtown Studio to deliver the heroin supply to Smith. A second team would enter the Newtown Studio from the front entrance once Everette was secured. A third team would secure the rear entrance to the studio while the second team executed the initial sweep of the studio. Finally, a separate SWAT team would search the Geneva Residence at the same time as the studio. When this operation was planned, Defendant Jones was not a target of the investigation or known to the investigators.

         C. Defendant Jones Accompanied Everette on the Day of the Takedown.

         In the early afternoon on October 19, 2017, the day of the scheduled takedown, law enforcement surveillance determined that Everette had entered a Waffle House restaurant in Chesapeake. An undercover DEA task force agent arrived at the Waffle House sometime thereafter and viewed Everette dining with an unknown male, later identified as Defendant Jones. Everette and the then-unknown male left the restaurant together at around 3:00 p.m. and got into separate vehicles in the parking lot. Everette got into his Chevy Tahoe, and the then-unknown male got into a red minivan. The undercover agent, in his own vehicle, then followed Everette and saw the red minivan follow closely behind Everette's Tahoe until both vehicles arrived at the Geneva Residence. Everette and the then-unknown male in the red minivan parked in the driveway of the Geneva Residence, and they entered the residence. A short while later, they exited the Geneva Residence at the same time and got into their respective vehicles. The two vehicles then caravanned from the Geneva Residence in Chesapeake to the Newtown Studio in Virginia Beach. Their total journey together spanned about twenty miles.

         Meanwhile, Detective Riddick was working to identify Everette's unknown companion. Just after 3:00 p.m., Detective Riddick ran the license plate number of the red minivan through a police dispatcher who determined that the van was registered to Defendant Jones and that Defendant Jones' license was suspended. Detective Riddick then ran a report for Defendant Jones in LInX, a law enforcement data-sharing program, which generated an arrest record and photograph of Defendant Jones. The arrest record reflected that Defendant Jones had been arrested on five different occasions for ten drug-related offenses.[2] The undercover agent from the Waffle House then confirmed that the LInX photograph of Defendant Jones was the same individual who had dined with Everette at the Waffle House.

         Detective Riddick then briefed the studio SWAT officers on the situation and instructed them to detain Defendant Jones during the takedown. As a result, Sergeant J. Minehan, who prepared the tactical operations plan for the takedown, adjusted the plan to account for Defendant Jones' presence. Specifically, he instructed Officer J. Trout, who was originally assigned to Everette's arrest team, to detain Defendant Jones during the takedown.

         D. Defendant Jones' Detention and Search of His Vehicle.

         Everette and Defendant Jones arrived at the Newtown Studio in their separate vehicles at 5:45 p.m. Upon arriving, they each backed into adjacent parking spaces in front of the studio. The Newtown Studio is located on the second floor of a three-story office building comprised of approximately six to eight suites. The studio is equipped with video surveillance of the parking lot. To access the studio from the front, there are two sets of stairs, one on the left and one on the right, both of which have ramps that lead up to a steel-framed, double-paned glass door on the second floor. The glass door opens to a small vestibule where the studio's front door is located. To access the studio from the back, there is a ground-level door, which opens to an interior set of stairs. The parking area in the front of the studio is comprised of a single row of spaces extending the length of the office building, and it is shared by the various businesses in the office building. At the time Everette and Defendant Jones parked there on the day of the scheduled takedown, Defendant Jones' mini van was located approximately 35 feet from the sidewalk leading up to the Newtown Studio entrance and approximately 100 feet from the studio's front door. Everette's Chevy Tahoe was parked between Defendant Jones' minivan and the studio entrance.

         Within moments of arriving at the Newtown Studio, Everette exited his vehicle and began walking toward the studio entrance. Defendant Jones remained in his red minivan. After deploying a flash bang device, the SWAT team moved in on Everette to arrest him while Officer Trout peeled off toward Defendant Jones' minivan with his weapon pointed at Defendant Jones. Officer Trout yelled for Defendant Jones to put his hands in the air, and Defendant Jones complied. Defendant Jones was detained inside his minivan for a few minutes until two additional SWAT officers were able to assist Officer Trout. At that time, Officer Trout instructed Defendant Jones to exit the vehicle and get down on the ground. Defendant Jones complied, and another officer placed Defendant Jones in handcuffs.

         At approximately 5:51 p.m., within minutes of Everette's arrest, SWAT officers initiated a protective sweep of the Newtown Studio. This sweep lasted between ten and fifteen minutes before the investigative search of the premises began. Upon receiving the "all clear" signal, Detective D. Kagel of VPBD Special Investigations, who was positioned across the street from the Newtown Studio, drove over to the studio with his narcotics K-9 named "Rex" to assist with the investigative search.[3] While walking toward the studio, Detective Kagel was intercepted by Detective Riddick who requested a K-9 screen of Defendant Jones' minivan. Detective Kagel then retrieved Rex. Rex performed a sniff screen of the minivan and alerted to the presence of drugs at 6:06 p.m. The officers then searched Defendant Jones' minivan and recovered a backpack next to the sliding door on the passenger side. The backpack contained a loaded handgun, methamphetamine, and marijuana. The entire investigative search of the Newtown Studio lasted between two and three hours.


         Defendant Jones argues that all evidence seized from his minivan on October 19, 2017, should be suppressed because it was obtained as a result of an unreasonable seizure of his person and an unlawful search of his minivan. There are two main issues before the Court: (1) whether Defendant Jones' detention was lawful pursuant to Michigan v. Summers. 452 U.S. 692 (1981), which permits officers to detain occupants of the premises during the execution of a search warrant on such premises ("the Summers rule") and, if not, (2) whether reasonable suspicion justified Defendant Jones' detention as required under Terry v. Ohio. 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The Court addresses each issue in turn.

         A. The ...

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