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United States v. Thompson

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

August 31, 2018




         Anthony Mondrez Thompson has moved to suppress evidence seized following a traffic stop and search by the Rhode Island State Police. ECF No. 24. Because the police did not measurably prolong the stop in violation of Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 1609 (2015), and because Mr. Thompson's other arguments do not require excluding the evidence seized, the Court DENIES the Defendants' Motion to Suppress.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Thompson was driving north on 1-95 from North Carolina to Providence. Tr. 160:5-161:8.[1] At about 7:45 p.m., between exits five and six, Rhode Island State Police Trooper Garrett Hassett observed Mr. Thompson's Nissan Pathfinder twice veer several inches over the fog line into the breakdown lane. Id. at 13:12-14:1, No. 56:18-21, 83:16-18. At 7:50 p.m., Trooper Hassett ran a registry inquiry on the vehicle's license plate to check the vehicle's information. Id. at 14:9-13; Gov't Ex. 3. Suspecting the driver may be impaired, Trooper Hassett then pulled over the vehicle.[2] Id. at 4:9-19; 14:17-19; 22:17-20.

         Trooper Hassett approached the car and spoke with Mr. Thompson. He asked for Mr. Thompson's license and registration! asked if Mr. Thompson knew why the trooper had pulled him over; and asked if he had been drinking. Id. at 22:15-20; 166:1-5. Mr. Thompson said he had not been drinking and that he had been driving for thirteen hours, showing Trooper Hassett a plastic bag with empty energy drinks. Id. at 22:21-23:2; 166:13-18. Trooper Hassett asked Mr. Thompson where he was coming from and where he was going; Mr. Thompson stated he was coming from North Carolina to go to a family function in Providence. Id. at 23:2-4; 166:6-12.

         Trooper Hassett then asked whether Mr. Thompson had ever been arrested before. Id. at 166:19-20. Mr. Thompson replied, "What does that have to do with a traffic stop?" Id. at 166:21-22, Trooper Hassett instructed, "Just answer the question." Id. at 166:22-23. At that point, Mr. Thompson replied, "No." Id. at 166:23; see Id. at 167:19-168:3. Mr. Thompson testified that his "No" was a refusal to answer the question-not a statement that he had no criminal history. Id. at 168:4-9. Trooper Hassett interpreted the "No" as a statement that Mr. Thompson had no criminal history. Id. at 23:5-6. Trooper Hassett then asked if Mr. Thompson had any firearms or contraband in the car, which Mr. Thompson denied. Id. at 23:6-9; 168:10-15.

         At this point, Trooper Hassett was satisfied that Mr. Thompson was not operating under the influence of alcohol. Id. at 94:3-6, 128:16-129:4. Although Mr. Thompson could have been operating under the influence of some other substance, Trooper Hassett decided not to investigate along those lines. Id. at 94:7-16. However, Trooper Hassett had not yet decided whether he was going to issue a ticket to Mr. Thompson for the observed lane violation. Id. at 92:16-93:15.

         Trooper Hassett returned to his car and ran two checks on the operator. Id. at 29:12-17. First, at 7:54 p.m., he ran Mr. Thompson's driver's license and registration. Id. at 31:6-15; Gov't Ex. 3. The check told Trooper Hassett that Mr. Thompson's license was active and that he had no warrants, Id. at 31:23-32:7. The second check, run a minute later at 7:55 p.m., was a criminal background check through the National Criminal Information Center database. Id. at 32:16-25; Gov't Ex. 3. This check yielded an extensive but dated criminal background for Mr. Thompson.[3] Id. at 33:1-2; see Gov't Ex. 4. Trooper Hassett briefly reviewed the history for a minute or two, admittedly not in depth, before returning to Mr. Thompson's car. Id. at 33:5-10; see Id. at 81:16-21 (recognizing length, but not age, of criminal history).

         Concerned that Mr. Thompson had lied to him about his criminal history, Trooper Hassett returned to the Pathfinder and asked Mr. Thompson to exit the car.[4] Id. at 40:25-41:12; 172:15. Mr. Thompson at first protested, asking why he needed to step out of the car; after some thirty seconds, he relented and exited the car. Id. at 41:9-23; 172:24-173:14.[5]

         Trooper Hassett escorted Mr. Thompson to the rear of his vehicle and asked him why he lied about his criminal history. Id. at 42:10-22; 174:18-21. Mr. Thompson stated that he did not lie and that his record was old, and asked how this related to the traffic stop; Trooper Hassett again questioned him about why he concealed his past. Id. at 42:20-25, 174:22-24, 179:21-24. Mr. Thompson began to grow "agitated" and "started flailing his arms around." Id. at 43:3-11. Mr. Thompson responded that he was a business owner, had a nonprofit, and was a husband and father. Id. at 174:24-175:1, Trooper Hassett then pressed Mr. Thompson a third time about why he lied; Mr. Thompson gave him the same response. Id. at 175:1-3, 174:4-13.

         Trooper Hassett then asked Mr. Thompson what he had in his trunk, and asked to search it. Id. at 175:10-12. Mr. Thompson stated that he only had luggage and clothes, Id. Trooper Hassett informed Mr. Thompson that he would not allow him to leave until he consented to a search. Id. at 175-12-14. Mr. Thompson opened his trunk. Id. at 175:15. The search did not yield anything except clothing and sneakers. Id. at 175:16-19.

         Trooper Hassett was not satisfied and told Mr. Thompson that he believed he was hiding something. Id. at 175:20-21. Trooper Hassett then asked Mr. Thompson if he had anything inside the vehicle, intending to inquire into contraband. Id. at 44:22-45:7. Mr. Thompson replied that he had no contraband in the vehicle, and that he had his bvisiness papers in the glove compartment. Id. at 45:7-10. Trooper Hassett then asked for consent to search the vehicle! Mr. Thompson, however, consented only to a search of the glove box. Id. at 45:11-14

         Trooper Hassett left Mr. Thompson at the rear of the car with Trooper Konieczny watching him. Id. at 46:23-24; 176:8-9. As Trooper Hassett began to open the passenger door to conduct the consensual search of the glove box, Mr. Thompson began to back up. Id. at 176:20-23. Trooper Konieczny instructed Mr. Thompson not to move. Id. at 176:23-24. Mr. Thompson raised his hands and began to back up before turning and running away from the troopers and onto the highway. Id. at 176:24-177:2. Trooper Hassett pursued Mr. Thompson, tased him, and brought him back to the side of the highway. Id. at 177:11-18.[6]

         With Mr. Thompson now detained and under the supervision of West Greenwich police, who had responded to the scene, Trooper Hassett began to search the vehicle. Id. at 64:18-20. He looked down and saw two Gucci bags on the front seat. Id. at 47:19-22. Trooper Hassett saw a flashlight sitting on top of one of the bags designed to attach to the rail of a pistol. Id. at 49:16-18. He secured the flashlight and became concerned that there might be a weapon in the vehicle. Id. at 52:19-53:3, He discovered a loaded Glock pistol under the front passenger seat. Id. at 64:20-65:6. Then, Trooper Hassett found a black backpack on the rear middle bench seat, which contained camouflage gear, night-vision goggles, a machete, handcuffs, pepper spray, a taser, a garbage bag, and a pistol holster. Id. at 65:7-16, Because it was getting dark, the police had the car towed back to the police barracks. Id. at 65:20-66:4. Later an inventory search of Mr. Thompson's car revealed about a dozen firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, smoke grenades, and drugs, including marijuana and ecstasy. Id. at 66:5-131 see Gov't Ex. 1.

         Mr. Thompson was indicted for three felonies: one count of being a felon in possession of firearms, one count of possession with intent to distribute 3, 4. methylenedioxyrnethamphetamine (ecstasy), and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. ECF No. 4. Mr. Thompson moved to suppress the evidence uncovered during, and because of, the traffic stop. ECF ...

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