The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable J. Garvan Murtha United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS
Defendant William Hendrickson ("Hendrickson" or "Defendant") is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Doc. 10.) Hendrickson moves to suppress all evidence and statements obtained as a result of a vehicle stop in Rutland on April 1, 2012, arguing his Fourth Amendment constitutional rights were violated. (Doc. 13.) The government opposes the motion. (Doc. 21.) The Court held an evidentiary hearing on October 10, 2012, and heard testimony from Supervisory Special Agent James Mostyn, Sergeant Matthew Prouty, and Special Agent Thomas Jusianiec. Neither Hendrickson nor the government filed further briefing following the hearing.
For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Defendant's motion.
The following facts are taken from the evidence presented at the October 10 hearing, and from other documents submitted as evidence by the parties. On April 1, 2012, at approximately 11:00 p.m., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") Supervisory Special Agent, and Resident Agent in Charge of Vermont, James Mostyn ("Agent Mostyn") interviewed a cooperating source ("CS") who contacted him to provide information. Suppression Hr'g Tr. at 4, Oct. 10, 2012 ("Hr'g Tr."). The CS lived in Rutland, was involved in prostitution, narcotics, and robberies, and had used heroin that day but was lucid and articulate.*fn1 Id. at 5, 24-26. The CS informed Mostyn that "Ghost," whose real name was Will Hendrickson,*fn2 was in possession of a firearm, had committed robberies of drug dealers in the past, and was looking to commit another robbery. Id. at 6. The CS had participated in some of those robberies with Hendrickson. Id. at 17. Agent Mostyn determined through a record check that Hendrickson had a felony record. Id. at 7. The CS informed Agent Mostyn that Hendrickson was dating Courtney Samplatsky and they were staying at the Orchard Motel on Route 4 in Mendon just outside Rutland. Id. at 8-9, 18. The CS stated Hendrickson was in possession of a silver handgun with black tape on the handle which he carried in a backpack and that Hendrickson and Samplatsky traveled in Samplatsky's red SUV.
Id. at 10-11. A records check for Samplatsky by Rutland City Police returned a red Trailblazer registered to her and a drive-by of the Orchard Motel confirmed a red Trailblazer in the parking lot. Id. at 11-12.
Agent Mostyn testified he was concerned for the safety of the community, given the confirmation that Hendrickson was a convicted felon and the CS's information that he was armed and looking to commit a robbery. Hr'g Tr. at 12. He summoned ATF agents to Rutland and directed the CS to contact Hendrickson via text message regarding a robbery target. Id. at 12-13. The CS, at Agent Mostyn's direction, engaged in a text dialogue to set up a meet location for that night. Id. at 13. Agent Mostyn testified he directed the CS to ask if Hendrickson had a "blick," a street term for firearm, to which he affirmatively replied, and Hendrickson asked whether the target was alone and/or armed, to which Agent Mostyn directed the CS to answer no. Id. at 14.
Agent Mostyn then coordinated with the Rutland City Police to surveil the motel. Agent Mostyn, a City police officer, and the CS were across the street from the motel in Agent Mostyn's car. Hr'g Tr. at 14, 21. Other units were stationed down Route 4 towards Rutland. Id. Agent Mostyn directed the CS to text Hendrickson that she was ready, he responded he was on his way and had a ride, the motel door opened, and a male and female, one of which the CS identified as "Will," entered the red Trailblazer and drove toward Rutland. Id. at 15. The CS also stated that she saw Will put a bag in the back of the car. Id. at 15, 20. Agent Mostyn and his passengers followed the Trailblazer until the other units moved in between them. Id. A marked Rutland City Police cruiser entered the caravan and initiated a stop. Id. Agent Mostyn parked nearby with his headlights off, they watched the stop for a period of time, and then Agent Mostyn drove by with his headlights on and the CS again identified Hendrickson. Id. at 16.
Sergeant Matthew Prouty ("Sergeant Prouty"), a Rutland City Police Officer, stopped Hendrickson at approximately 1:35 a.m. on April 2, 2012. Hr'g Tr. at 38. Sergeant Prouty had been advised the red Trailblazer had left Mendon and observed it traveling on Route 4 toward Rutland. Id. at 28. Because it had a loud exhaust, Sergeant Prouty noted a non-moving violation of defective equipment. Id. at 29. However, he also testified he would have pulled over the vehicle regardless of the violation. Id. He approached the driver's side of the Trailblazer and recognized the driver as Courtney Samplatsky but not the passenger, who had a black handkerchief around his neck. Id. at 29-31. Samplatsky provided her license and registration, which Sergeant Prouty verified, and Hendrickson stated he was not Martin Nichols, a fugitive Sergeant Prouty was seeking. Id. at 30-31, 34. Sergeant Prouty was quickly assisted in the stop by ATF Special Agent Thomas Jusianiec ("Agent Jusianiec"), ATF Agent Ben Cohen ("Agent Cohen"), and Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Rullo. Id. at 33.
The three officers had been advised by Agent Mostyn of the information received from the CS and that Mr. Hendrickson was a convicted felon. Hr'g Tr. at 40-41, 43. They had observed the red Trailblazer pass on Route 4, followed it until Sergeant Prouty pulled it over, and assisted in the stop. Id. at 42-43. While Sergeant Prouty verified Ms. Samplatsky's information, Agent Jusianiec talked with her to determine her intentions and whether there was contraband or weapons on her person or in the vehicle. Id. at 43-44, 46. Ms. Samplatsky stated they were going to the "Gut," a lower income neighborhood of Rutland, to meet a friend and refused to consent to a search of her car. Id. at 45. Samplatsky exhibited nervous behavior but provided information regarding their intended actions and denied possession of any contraband or weapons. However, a knife was found on or under her leg. Id. at 44, 46-47. She stated she forgot she had the knife and reiterated there were no other weapons in the car. Id. at 47.
Mr. Hendrickson had voluntarily exited the vehicle but was fidgety and nervous. Hr'g Tr. at 46. When asked what their intentions were, he responded that they were going to Rutland to get something to eat and to meet a friend. Id. at 46. Agent Jusianiec noticed that Samplatsky and Hendrickson mentioned meeting a friend, but referred to different genders. Id. Mr. Hendrickson, who was unarmed, gave the agents consent to search his belongings in the car, a suitcase and a bag in the rear of the vehicle, and no firearms were found. Id. at 48, 56-57. Agent Jusianiec called Agent Mostyn to advise him of the findings of the stop. Id. at 49. At approximately 2 a.m, Agent Jusianiec searched the car and found a loaded silver revolver in the glove compartment and three cell phones, which were also seized. Id. at 49-51, 60. When the gun was found, Ms. Samplatsky stated it was hers, had forgotten it was in the car, and had a bill of sale for it. Id. at 51. The Agents found a paper in her purse purporting to memorialize a March 25, 2012 private firearm sale. Id. at 52, 66; Hr'g Ex. 5. Hendrickson was ...