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United States v. Wood

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 25, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES JASON WOOD, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Charles Jason Wood's Motion to Suppress. (Doc. # 26.) The Court held a half-day evidentiary hearing on the Motion on February 23, 2017. For the reasons described herein, Defendant's Motion to Suppress is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Wood has been charged by Indictment in this case for his alleged possession with the intent to distribute certain controlled substances, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a controlled substance crime, and for felon in possession of a firearm. (Doc. # 1.) In brief, Mr. Wood was arrested after police officers observed him cutting narcotics for distribution in his parked car. As recounted in greater detail below, officers were present to observe Mr. Wood only because they were tracking the vehicle he was driving, a 2001 White BMW (“2001 White BMW), with an electronic tracking device that had been affixed pursuant to a search warrant that was tied to the previous driver of the vehicle, an individual named S.B. Mr. Wood challenges that search warrant as violative of his Fourth Amendment rights, and seeks to suppress the evidence gleaned from the search and seizure.

         Detective Michael Garnett, a law enforcement officer with the Colorado Springs Police Department, testified during the suppression hearing that, as part of a drug investigation wholly unrelated to Mr. Wood, he sought and obtained a search warrant to track a 2001 White BMW, known to be driven by an individual named S.B. The probable cause statement underlying the warrant set forth information concerning S.B.'s distribution of drugs in the Colorado Springs area, and his use of the 2001 White BMW in connection with that activity. The warrant, obtained on May 27, 2016, authorized officers to attach an electronic tracking device to the 2001 White BMW and to monitor the vehicle via the electronic tracking device for a period of 60 days.

         Detective Garnett further testified that, prior to affixing the tracking device to the 2001 White BMW, on June 1, June 2, and June 3, law enforcement officers conducted surveillance on S.B. and his residence, located at 1428 N. El Paso Street in Colorado Springs. On all three days, the 2001 White BMW was observed parked in the driveway. On all three days, S.B. was observed leaving his residence and driving away in the White BMW.

         On June 7, 2016, at 10:30 p.m., an electronic tracking device was placed on the 2001 White BMW. At that time, the 2001 White BMW was parked in the driveway of S.B.'s residence. Because the tracking device was affixed to the 2001 White BMW on June 7, the warrant authorized electronic tracking of the 2001 White BMW through August 6.

         Detective Garnett testified that on June 28, 2016, in connection with their ongoing surveillance of the 2001 White BMW, officers observed that the chrome rims on the 2001 White BMW had been removes and a “For Sale” sign affixed to the passenger side window of the 2001 White BMW.

         From the time the tracking device was affixed on June 7 until July 2, the data reveals that the 2001 White BMW was parked at 1428 N. El Paso St. - S.B.'s residence - on 23 out of 25 days. From July 3 on, the tracking data shows that the 2001 White BMW was parked at 210 N. Murray Boulevard in Colorado Springs, an address with no known connection to S.B., and the location we now know to be Mr. Wood's residence.

         Detective Garnett's report indicates that on July 8, 2016, he sought to surveil the 2001 White BMW to “see if [his] previous suspect [i.e. S.B.] was still driving the vehicle or if it still had the same plate number.” Using the data provided by the electronic tracking device, Detective Garnett located the 2001 White BMW, which was in transit from the apartment parking lot at 210 N. Murray to the parking lot of a nearby high school. Detective Garnett located the 2001 Whtie BMW in the parking lot of the high school and drove by it. He testified that he noticed that there was no license plate attached to the 2001 White BMW and that a white male was sitting in driver's seat; however, he was unable to determine whether the driver was S.B. or a different white male.

         At that point, Detective Harris, a colleague accompanying Detective Garnett, exited their vehicle and walked past the parked BMW. Because the windows of the BMW were tinted, Detective Harris reported that he was also unable to identify the driver. He did, however, observe the driver cutting a large amount of narcotics for apparent distribution.[1]

         Shortly thereafter, Detective Garnett observed the driver of the 2001 White BMW engage in what he believed to be a narcotics transaction with a person in a second car in the parking lot. A third officer, Officer Zahrobsky, was radioed, arrived at the scene, and approached the 2001 White BMW to make contact with the driver. After a brief scuffle and an attempt to flee, Mr. Wood was subdued and handcuffed. Near the 2001 White BMW, officers discovered a brown satchel containing cash and Ziploc bags. Inside the car, officers found controlled substances, firearms, and ammunition.

         Of significance to the defendant's motion is that Detective Garnett, on cross examination, testified that he had doubts on July 8 that S.B. was still driving the vehicle, and it was because of those doubts that he decided to pull the tracking data and intercept the vehicle for visual surveillance.

         S.B. was subpoenaed by the Defendant and testified that, at the request of his sister, L.B., who was the record title holder to the 2001 White BMW, he sold the 2001 White BMW to Mr. Wood on either July 2 or July 3, 2016, for $4000. On the day of the sale, he gave possession of the 2001 White BMW, including the title and keys, to Mr. Wood. He also testified that he removed the license plates and other personal items from the 2001 White BMW before he gave possession to Mr. Wood. Mr. Wood took the stand and confirmed that he paid S.B. $4, 000 for the 2001 White BMW and took possession of the vehicle on July 2, 2016. He further testified ...


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