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United States v. Sakapala

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Newnan Division

January 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ABUBAKAR SAKAPALA and ALICK BANDA

          MAGISTRATE TUDGE'S REPORT, RECOMMENDATION, AND ORDER

          RUSSELL G. VINEYARD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Defendants Abubakar Sakapala ("Sakapala") and Alick Banda ("Banda"), jointly referred to as "defendants/' are charged in a two-count indictment with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A) and 846, and possessing with the intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 841(b)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. [Doc. 15][1]Both defendants have moved to suppress evidence and statements obtained following a stop of the tractor trailer in which they were traveling on March 13, 2018, [Docs. 33, 34, 35, & 36], and Banda filed a supplemental brief in support of his motion to suppress evidence, [Doc. 42]. Following an evidentiary hearing, [2] the parties filed post-hearing briefs on the motions. [Docs. 51, 57, 58, & 62] .[3] For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that defendants' motions to suppress evidence and statements, [Docs. 33, 34, 35, & 36], be DENIED.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         In December of 2017, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") received information from a confidential source ("CS") that an individual identified as Amani Sanga, whom the CS called "Andrew," was "involved in narcotics trafficking" using tractor trailers with "traps, typically along the front wall," to transport narcotics from California and Texas to Atlanta, Georgia. (Tr. at 13, 34-35, 64, 69-71).[4] After receiving this information, DEA agents performed database checks and discovered that Andrew, who was associated with an address in Katy, Texas, was the subject of a prior DEA investigation in Atlanta, in which he had been identified as an individual "transporting narcotics throughout the country via tractor trailer." (Tr. at 13, 70). After receiving the information from the CS and reviewing the information in the database that corroborated the CS's information, DEA agents sought and obtained a geo-location warrant for Andrew's phone. (Tr. at 13, 36-37, 71, 73-74).

         The CS subsequently advised DEA agents that a load of narcotics would be coming to Atlanta from California, and on February 10, 2018, geo-location data from Andrew's phone showed that he was at the Los Angeles International Airport, and about four hours later, that he was in Atlanta. (Tr. at 14, 95). On February 13, 2018, agents established surveillance at an apartment complex believed to be the location where Andrew resided while in Atlanta, and at approximately 1:00 a.m., geo-location data placed Andrew's phone in the vicinity of the apartment complex. (Tr. at 14). An agent positioned within a garage at the apartment complex observed a vehicle arrive driven by either a white or Hispanic male, who remained seated in the vehicle for about 45 minutes until a black male walked out of an apartment building and entered the vehicle. (Tr. at 14-15). Shortly thereafter, the vehicle departed the apartment complex and the geo-location data no longer placed Andrew's phone near the apartment complex, leading the agents to believe that Andrew was one of the men in the vehicle. (Tr. at 15). Based on information provided by the CS that Andrew possibly used a warehouse near the Patterson Avenue area to unload the tractor trailers when they arrived in Atlanta, the agents traveled to that area to conduct surveillance.[5] (Tr. at 15, 37-38). As agents were crossing over Patterson Avenue from East Ponce De Leon Avenue, they observed a tractor trailer stuck in the middle of the road. (Tr. at 15, 39). The white tractor had a "Venture Logistics" marking on the side. (Id.). At this time, geo-location data placed Andrew's phone near the warehouse at Patterson Avenue, and when agents arrived at the warehouse, they observed the vehicle that had earlier been at the apartment complex, as well as two black males, one of whom resembled Andrew. (Tr. at 15). Later, the tractor trailer that had been stuck in the road was observed at the warehouse, and agents saw the man they believed to be Andrew detach the tractor from the trailer, and a driver entered the tractor and drove away from the warehouse, leaving the trailer behind. (Tr. at 16).

         Agents maintained their surveillance of the trailer at the warehouse and observed "a lot of traffic around the warehouse" and later saw Andrew leave the warehouse, but then geo-location data revealed that he subsequently returned to the area, and he was observed sitting alone in a vehicle at a gas station away from the warehouse. (Id.). As some of the agents maintained surveillance on the warehouse, it "became clear to [them] that something was wrong, because there was movement at the warehouse but they weren't doing anything" and the agents concluded that their surveillance had been detected. (Tr. at 17, 41-42). The agents terminated surveillance between 11:30 and 11:45 p.m., and around 12:20 or 12:25 a.m. on February 14, 2018, geo-location data placed Andrew's phone back at the warehouse, where it remained for about three hours. (Id.). Agents did not observe what transpired at the warehouse during this time, but believed that Andrew or others unloaded the trailer. (Tr. at 17, 42). After the trailer left the warehouse on February 14, 2018, geo-location data placed Andrew's phone back in California. (Tr. at 18).[6]

         On February 18, 2018, a license plate reader captured the tag on Andrew's trailer, traveling west on Interstate 40 through Holbrook, Arizona, which was a couple of hours away from the Los Angeles, California area. (Id.). A few days later, geo-location data showed Andrew's phone had traveled from California back to Atlanta, and a license plate reader showed Andrew's trailer traveling east on Interstate 40 through Holbrook, Arizona, toward Atlanta. (Id.).[7] On February 27, 2018, agents established surveillance at the Patterson Avenue warehouse and observed the white tractor with the "Venture Logistics" markings and Andrew's trailer attached to it parked alongside the warehouse as it had been the first time the agents saw it. (Tr. at 18, 44).

         Later that night, geo-location data placed Andrew's phone near the warehouse, and a few hours later, agents saw a second tractor trailer, later identified as being registered to Jordan Garcia, back in alongside of the warehouse. (Tr. at 19, 47). A black pick-up truck pulled in behind the second tractor trailer, and an unidentified male carried a ladder from the warehouse into the back of Andrew's trailer. (Tr. at 19). About ten minutes later, agents observed the same male bring the ladder out of the trailer, along with "suitcase-size items" that were placed in the back of the pick-up truck, leading the agents to believe that there was "a wall in the[ trailer] protecting the drugs." (Tr. at 19, 45, 59-60, 77-78). The agents then observed similar activity take place with regard to the second tractor trailer and subsequently saw the second tractor trailer, as well as the pick-up truck, leave the warehouse. (Tr. at 19-20, 45, 47).

         Thereafter, agents "received a court-authorized tracker to place onto [Andrew's] trailer/' and they maintained surveillance on the trailer, which was still at the warehouse, in order to install the tracker. (Tr. at 19-20). When Andrew's trailer left the warehouse, agents followed it to a Pilot gas station in the area of Bouldercrest and Interstate 285, where they were able to install the tracker on the trailer. (Tr. at 20, 43-44, 49). Once installed, the tracker showed that Andrew's trailer traveled westbound on Interstate 20 until it arrived in McKinney, Texas, the following morning, February 28, 2018, and that it stayed there until the morning of March 1, 2018, when it continued on to an area near the West Houston airport in Houston, Texas. (Tr. at 20-21, 48-49). Similarly, geo-location data from Andrew's phone showed that on March 1, 2018, his phone traveled from Atlanta to Houston and ultimately to the area near the West Houston airport. (Tr. at 21, 50).

         On the following day, March 2, 2018, geo-location data placed Andrew's phone at a warehouse near the West Houston airport, where it remained for about three hours, and then on March 3, 2018, geo-location data placed Andrew's phone back at the Houston warehouse, but the battery in the trailer tracker died that day. (Tr. at 21). On March 4, 2018, at approximately 6:00 a.m., geo-location data placed Andrew's phone at the Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, and about two and a half to three hours later, the data placed his phone in Atlanta and subsequently at the apartment complex where agents believed he stayed when in Atlanta, and it remained there until about 7:30 p.m. (Tr. at 21-22). Approximately 30 minutes later, geo-location data placed Andrew's phone at the Patterson Avenue warehouse, and agents arrived at that location between 9:00 and 9:20 p.m., at which time it was dark and they could not see the tag to confirm it was Andrew's trailer, but they believed it was his trailer based on the large dog emblem on the left-hand lower side of the trailer. (Tr. at 22). Shortly thereafter, agents observed a white tractor drive down Patterson Avenue and connect to Andrew's trailer, and once the trailer began moving, the agents were able to observe the tag and confirmed that it was Andrew's trailer. (Tr. at 22-23).

         On March 5, 2018, agents maintained surveillance at the Patterson Avenue warehouse and observed Andrew's trailer and the same black pick-up truck previously seen at the warehouse on February 27, 2018. (Tr. at 23). They also observed someone take a ladder into a different trailer parked at the warehouse, but they could not see what took place inside that trailer, except that feet were moving along the bottom of the trailer. (Id.). The agents did not observe Andrew's trailer being unloaded on this day, and the tractor trailer subsequently left and traveled to an apartment complex, where agents were able to replace the dead tracker with a new one, and the tractor trailer remained there until the early morning hours of March 7, 2018. (Tr. at 23-24, 53). Thereafter, the tractor trailer traveled to the Thornton Road area, where it stayed for about four hours, and agents observed that it was hooked up to a red tractor, which was registered to Radiant Logistics, a company registered to Amani Sanga, Andrew's legal name. (Tr. at 24, 40-41).[8] The tracker data showed that Andrew's trailer traveled from the Thornton Road area back to the warehouse near the West Houston airport in Texas on March 7, 2018. (Tr. at 24). On March 8, 2018, geo-location data showed Andrew's phone traveled to Houston and was in the same area where the tracker placed Andrew's trailer, and it showed the same activity on March 11, 2018, with the trailer remaining at the Houston warehouse until March 12, 2018. (Tr. at 24-25).

         On March 12, 2018, tracker data showed that between noon and 12:30 p.m., Andrew's trailer had moved about ten miles from the West Houston airport area to the Sam's Club on Katy Freeway near Andrew's Katy, Texas address, where it remained for about two hours before it began traveling east on Interstate 10 toward Atlanta. (Tr. at 25, 50).[9] Agents estimated that Andrew's trailer would arrive at the Georgia state line around 3:00 to 3:30 a.m. on March 13, 2018, assuming there were no stops. (Tr. at 25-26, 50-51). Therefore, DEA Special Agent Danya Johnson ("Special Agent Johnson") coordinated to have DEA agents located between Birmingham, Alabama, and the Georgia state line to establish surveillance of the trailer as it approached the state line, and they reached out to Georgia State Patrol ("GSP") for assistance and relayed to GSP Trooper Brandon Howerton ("Trooper Howerton") the tag number for the trailer and all of the information they gathered from their investigation, including that the DEA had a tracker on Andrew's trailer; that they believed there would be a false wall inside the trailer; that they did not believe there would be any cargo inside since the tracker data showed that it had not stopped anywhere long enough between Texas and Atlanta to pick up a load; that they believed there would either be cocaine or heroin in the trailer since it was coming from Texas; and that they believed the red Volvo tractor agents observed previously pulling the trailer would be pulling the trailer that day. (Tr. at 11-12, 25-27, 53, 57-59, 196). Special Agent Johnson remained in contact with Trooper Howerton, providing him with updates on the trailer's location and expected time of arrival based on the tracker data. (Tr. at 27-28).[10]

         On March 13, 2018, Officer Kendall Stanley ("Officer Stanley"), of the Georgia Department of Public Safety's Motor Carrier Compliance Division, was instructed to be in Haralson County at the Georgia-Alabama state line at approximately 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. to assist DEA.[11] (Tr. at 98, 101, 128). He was informed by Trooper Howerton, who was serving as the liaison between GSP and DEA that day, that a "tractor trailer [] was coming that was suspected to have a large load of narcotics in it and that usually the vehicle [was] empty or had a small load and it was suspected to have a front wall compartment in the trailer," along with a brief description of the tractor trailer, including that the tractor was red and that it had a Texas license plate. (Tr. at 101-03, 132-33). At some point, Officer Stanley also had direct communications with DEA agents via the radio, and, at approximately 5:30 a.m., he overheard an agent comment that the tractor trailer was pulling into the Georgia Welcome Center and two males were observed in the vicinity of the tractor trailer taking turns going to the bathroom. (Tr. at 29, 53-57, 102-03). At that point, Officer Stanley, Trooper Howerton, and GSP Trooper Christopher Ramsey ("Trooper Ramsey") left the rest area where they had been waiting and proceeded about three or four miles down Interstate 20 to a cut-through in the woods to wait for the tractor trailer to start moving again, which occurred several hours later at about 9:00 a.m. (Tr. at 29, 57, 102-03, 134, 136). DEA agents continued following the tractor trailer and providing updates over the radio, including which mile markers they were passing. (Tr. at 103, 134-35). As the tractor trailer got closer, Officer Stanley pulled out from the cut-through and waited on the side of the road and when the tractor trailer passed, he first verified over the radio that he had the correct tractor trailer, [12]and then proceeded to activate his lights and pull the tractor trailer over at approximately 9:30 a.m. (Tr. at 53, 103-04, 136-37, 176-78), [13]

         Officer Stanley approached the passenger side of the tractor, knocked on the door, and stepped up on to the running board. (Tr. at 104-05, 140-41; Gov. Ex. 2a at 1:05).[14] He introduced himself and told the driver, later identified as defendant Sakapala, that he had stopped him to perform an inspection. (Tr. 104-05, 140-41; Gov. Ex. 2a at 1:05). Officer Stanley asked Sakapala for his driver's license, and he produced a driver's license bearing the name "Edward Dittu." (Tr. at 105, 142; Gov. Ex. 2a at 1:36). Officer Stanley also asked him for the paperwork for the inspection, including logbooks, and Sakapala informed Officer Stanley that his electronic logbook, which was required by the federal motor carrier administration, had malfunctioned. (Tr. at 105; Gov. Ex. 2a). Instead, Sakapala produced paper logs, but despite the requirement that paper logs consist of the current day and the previous seven days, he only produced three carbon copied pages, consisting of the current day, the previous day, and a blank page. (Tr. at 105-06, 143-45, 153-54, 192-93; Gov. Ex. 2a at 2:53), [15]

         Officer Stanley next asked Sakapala what he was doing on the trip, and Sakapala responded that he went to Tallapoosa, where the Welcome Center was located, to pick up the trailer that had been abandoned by someone who "had quit the company." (Tr. at 106, 148, 216; Gov. Ex. 2a at 3:41). Due to his prior knowledge of the investigation and the updates provided by the DEA, Officer Stanley knew that Sakapala's statements were not accurate. (Tr. at 106, 148). Sakapala also said that he did not know exactly where he was going or what he may be picking up, but that his destination was "the Petro," a truck stop that was a known "drug hot spot." (Tr. at 116-17, 165; Gov. Ex. 2a at 5:24, 9:20). Officer Stanley also asked Sakapala if he typically drove this tractor, and Sakapala responded that he did not, but Officer Stanley observed that there was a "Marine Corps license plate that[ was] zip-tied to the front" of the tractor, and while he was writing a number down, he asked Sakapala if he was in the Marine Corps, and Sakapala explained that his father was in the Marine Corps in reference to the license plate. (Tr. at 107, 150, 160-61; Gov. Ex. 2a at 7:42, 10:38, 12:15). Sakapala also told Officer Stanley that he was not transporting a load, but Officer Stanley observed that there was a padlock on the trailer, which, in his experience, was unusual if the trailer was empty. (Tr. at 105, 107, 180; Gov. Ex. 2a at 11:03). After Officer Stanley gathered all of the information for the inspection, he went back to his vehicle to enter the information into the "Aspen" system, which showed that "Edward Dittu" previously had been inspected in this tractor several times. (Tr. at 108, 160; Gov. Ex. 2a at 8:51, 13:13, 15:22, 16:26).

         Officer Stanley returned to the tractor and asked Sakapala to open the trailer in order to confirm he had no cargo, and Sakapala readily agreed, saying, "No problem," as Officer Stanley explained that he needed to confirm that Sakapala had not picked up an "odd ball" trailer with something in it, and Sakapala produced a key to the trailer and opened it, confirming that it was, in fact, empty. (Tr. at 110, 161, 166-67, 190; Gov. Ex. 2a at 23:30, 24:01-25:33). Officer Stanley then asked Sakapala if "there was anything illegal/' and Sakapala replied, "No, and he kind of made a motion like, you know, here it is[, ] [y]ou can... look." (Tr. at 110; Gov. Ex. 2a at 25:59-26:19). Officer Stanley then asked Sakapala for consent to search the trailer, at which time Sakapala said, "Sure," and Officer Stanley then provided him with a consent to search form and asked him to read it and if he agreed, to sign it, but added that, if he did not agree, he did not have to sign it, and after briefly looking at the form, Sakapala signed it at the bottom in the name "Edward Dittu." (Tr. at 110-14, 162-63, 166; Gov. Ex. 1; Gov. Ex. 2a at 26:20-26:53), [16]

         After Sakapala signed the consent to search form, he stood on the side of the road with Trooper Howerton, and as Officer Stanley and Trooper Ramsey were about to begin the search, Sakapala informed them that he had a passenger in the sleeper area, who then emerged from the tractor; produced an identification, bearing the name of Banda; and stated that he was not the driver and that he was just along for the ride because he was thinking of getting his commercial driver's license. (Tr. at 114-15, 166-69; Gov. Ex. 2a at 29:30-29:55, 30:56-32:45).[17] Officer Stanley explained to Banda that Sakapala had consented to a search of the trailer and then asked him to exit the tractor and to stand with Sakapala and Trooper Howerton behind the trailer. (Tr. at 115, 117, 198, 208; Gov. Ex. 2a at 32:47-33:20), [18] Officer Stanley and Trooper Ramsey then proceeded to search the tractor trailer, and Officer Stanley first observed that the trailer was new and in very clean condition. (Tr. at 117-18; Gov. Ex. 2a at 28:43). He also observed handprints on the ceiling of the trailer and metal shavings on the floor near the front wall of the trailer; that there was a plywood wall, which was common, but that there were handprint smudges on the plywood; that the screws in the front plywood wall were unevenly screwed in; that the caulking along the top of the front wall did not match the caulking on the other walls of the interior of the trailer; and that a metal plate on the floor near the front wall had some bolts that were backed out and painted over. (Tr. at 118, 171-72, 191; Gov. Ex. 2a at 28:45, 33:27, 37:01-37:42, 45:30-48:17, 50:19-52:15). Based on his observations, Officer Stanley believed that there was a concealed compartment behind the front plywood wall of the trailer, or, in other words, a "trap, "[19] and he retrieved his tools from his vehicle, walked past the defendants to return to the trailer carrying his tools, and removed a part of the plywood front wall of the trailer. (Tr. at 119-20, 122, 173; Gov. Ex. 2a at 52:58-55:45). At this time, Officer Stanley observed a metal wall with an access panel, (Tr. at 120, 173-74), and defendants were then placed in handcuffs while Officer Stanley removed the access panel and subsequently retrieved suitcases and duffel bags from the compartment, which contained kilogram-sized bags of narcotics, later determined to be cocaine, (Tr. at 120-22, 174; Gov. Ex. 2a at 58:18-59:21).[20] Thereafter, DEA was notified of the seizure and responded to the scene. (Tr. at 30, 122).[21]

         Trooper Ramsey transported defendants from the scene to the DEA office in Atlanta, Georgia, which took at least 30 minutes.[22] (Tr. at 218-19; Gov. Ex. 3a). During the ride, Trooper Ramsey overheard part of the conversation between defendants, including that Sakapala said to Banda, "Man, they know." (Tr. at 220-21, 227, 230-32, 235-37; Gov. Ex. 3a). In addition, during the booking process at the DEA office, Banda asked Special Agent Sherezad Dunn ("Special Agent Dunn") what the charges were against him, and Special Agent Dunn advised him that it was conspiracy to traffic cocaine. (Tr. at 240, 242-43). Banda then replied that he "did not know what [Special Agent Dunn] was talking about/' but also commented that he "was screwed." (Tr. at 240-41, 243-45).

         At approximately 2:30 p.m. on March 13, 2018, Special Agent Johnson, along with Intelligence Analyst Gina Wright ("Wright") and Task Force Officer John Cheek, interviewed Sakapala at the Atlanta DEA office. (Tr. at 30-31, 88-90). During the interview, the door was closed, but cracked; Sakapala was not handcuffed; no one made physical contact with Sakapala; and no one was armed. (Tr. at 31-34). Special Agent Johnson first obtained biographical information from Sakapala, including name, date of birth, and address, and he then advised Sakapala of his Miranda[23] rights. (Tr. at 32; Gov. Ex. 4). Specifically, Agent Johnson advised Sakapala that he had the right to remain silent and that any statements he made could be used against him. (Tr. at 32; Gov. Ex. 4). He further advised Sakapala that he had the right to speak to an attorney, to have one present during the questioning, and to have one appointed for him if he could not afford one. (Tr. at 32; Gov. Ex. 4). Sakapala indicated that he understood his rights, and, at 2:42 p.m., he placed his initials beside each question on the pre-printed Miranda form and then read and signed the waiver of rights portion, which states:

I have read or someone has read to me this advice of rights and I understand what my rights are. At this time, I am willing to freely and voluntarily answer questions without a lawyer present.

(Tr. at 32-33; Gov. Ex. 4). Wright also signed the form as a witness. (Tr. at 32; Gov. Ex. 4). After advising Sakapala of his rights, Special Agent Johnson asked him various questions, and Sakapala proceeded to make certain incriminating statements. (Tr. at 90). During the interview, no one made any threats or promises in order to induce Sakapala to waive his rights and speak with the agents, nor did anyone have any physical contact with him. (Tr. at 33-34).[24]

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants challenge the initial stop on March 13, 2018, as not supported by probable cause or valid under the Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance Enforcement Section, and therefore, contend that all evidence and statements obtained as a result of the stop should be suppressed. [Docs. 57 & 58]. Defendants also argue that Sakapala's consent to search the trailer was not valid because it was the product of an illegal stop and not voluntary, and even if valid, Officer Stanley exceeded the scope of the consent. [Doc. 58 at 25-28].[25] Finally, Banda moves to suppress the statement he made during the course of the booking process as immaterial, [Id. at 29-30], and Sakapala seeks to suppress the statements he made while in the backseat of Trooper Ramsey's vehicle and at the DEA office as fruit of the poisonous tree, as well as, violative of his Miranda rights, [26] [Doc. 36; Doc. 57]. The Court will address each of these arguments.

         A. Validity of the Initial Stop

         "The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure." United States v. Rowls, 402 Fed.Appx. 467, 468 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (unpublished) (citation and internal marks omitted). The" [t] emporary detention of individuals during the stop of an automobile by the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a 'seizure' of 'persons' within the meaning of [the Fourth Amendment]." Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996) (citations omitted); see also United States v. Purceil, 236 F.3d 1274, 1277 (11th Cir. 2001); United States v. Edenilson-Reyes, Criminal Action File No. 1:09-CR-00361-RWS-AJB, 2010 WL 5620439, at *9 (N.D.Ga. Oct. 26, 2010), adopted by 2011 WL 195679, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Jan. 20, 2011).

         A traffic stop is reasonable if the officer had probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred, or if the traffic stop is justified by reasonable suspicion in compliance with Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). Edenilson-Reyes, 2010 WL 5620439, at *9 (citing United States v. Spoerke, 568 F.3d 1236, 1248 (11th Cir. 2009); Purcell, 236 F.3d at 1277); see also United States v. Monzon-Gomez, 244 Fed.Appx. 954, 959 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (unpublished); United States v. Simmons, 172 F.3d 775, 778 (11th Cir. 1999); United States v. Sierra, Cr. No. 2:10crl83-MEF, 2011 WL 1675217, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Apr. 19, 2011), adopted by 2011 WL 1675180, at *1 (M.D. Ala. May 4, 2011), aff'd by 501 Fed.Appx. 900 (11th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (unpublished). Thus, "[a] traffic stop ... is constitutional if it is either based upon probable cause to believe a traffic violation has occurred or justified by reasonable suspicion. . ., "[27] Edenilson-Reyes, 2010 WL 5620439, at *9 (alterations in original) (citations and internal marks omitted); see also United States v. Boyd, 388 Fed.Appx. 943, 947 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (unpublished); United States v. Woods, 385 Fed.Appx. 914, 915 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (unpublished). The government bears the burden of presenting facts to establish that the traffic stop is supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. See Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 749-50 (1984); see also United States v. Kelly, No. 1:13-cr-108-WSD-JSA, 2014 WL 1153375, at *8 (N.D.Ga. Mar. 21, 2014), adopted at *4 (citations omitted).

         The government maintains that Officer Stanley "had the statutory authority to stop the tractor trailer without reasonable articulable suspicion," since "defendants had consented to regulatory compliance inspections by operating a commercial vehicle in Georgia." [Doc. 62 at 24]. The government also argues that law enforcement had probable cause to stop and search the tractor trailer, and that "at a minimum, [they had] reasonable articulable suspicion to stop this tractor trailer." [Doc. 51 at 20 (citation omitted); Doc. 62 at 2-24]. Defendants contend that while O.C.G.A. § 35-2-101 authorizes inspections of commercial vehicles, "Officer Stanley's stop of Sakapala's truck had no connection to performing a legitimate safety inspection," but was "at the behest of the DEA to find evidence of drug smuggling," and that the "law prohibits the use of warrantless administrative searches, intended for a specific purpose, in this case public safety, to be used for an alternate exclusive purpose of collecting evidence of a crime, which [was] precisely what Officer Stanley was doing." [Doc. 57 at 1-2, 5]; see also [Doc. 58 at 17-20]. Alternatively, defendants contend that Officer Stanley lacked probable cause to stop the tractor trailer. [Doc. 57 at 7-12; Doc. 58 at 20-25]. While the parties spend a considerable amount of time arguing about whether Officer Stanley lawfully stopped the tractor trailer pursuant to statutory authority, the Court need not reach this issue as the Court finds that Officer Stanley had reasonable articulable suspicion to support the stop, independent of the statutory authority.[28]

         As previously stated, "[p]robable cause is not required to justify an investigative stop; reasonable suspicion is sufficient." United States v. Pineda-Zuniga, CRIMINAL CASE NUMBER: l:16-CR-00323-2-LMM-JSA, 2017 WL 9477640, at *5 (N.D.Ga. Aug. 18, 2017), adopted by 2017 WL 4074785, at *3 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 14, 2017) (footnote and citations omitted). "In deciding whether there is reasonable suspicion, the Court is to consider the collective knowledge of all law enforcement officers working together, to the extent they maintained at least a minimal level of communication during their investigation." Id. (citing United States v. Willis, 759 F.2d 1486, 1494 (11th Cir. 1985)). "Moreover, officers may use a tip to develop reasonable suspicion, so long as the tip exhibits sufficient indicia of reliability." United States v. Diaz-Fonseca, No. CR112-242, 2013 WL 3147903, at *8 (S.D. Ga. June 19, 2013), adopted at *1 (citation and internal marks omitted); see also Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 331 (1990) (finding reasonable suspicion for the stop due to the correlation of the defendant's actions with those predicted in the anonymous tip, even though law enforcement never observed any illegal activity prior to stopping the defendant); United States v. Baptiste, 388 Fed.Appx. 876, 879-80 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (unpublished) (noting that an informant's tip that a truck would deliver a large shipment of marijuana to a specific location provided reasonable suspicion to support a stop, even though the truck that was stopped was a different color than that predicted by the informant). "Also, [a] reasonable suspicion of criminal activity may be formed by observing exclusively legal activity, . . . even if such activity is seemingly innocuous to the ordinary citizen." United States v. North, CRIMINAL CASE NO. l:16-CR-00309-WSD-JFK, 2017 WL 9473407, at *5 (N.D.Ga. Aug. 8, 2017), adopted by 2017 WL 3821854, at *6 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 1, 2017) (alterations in original) (citations and internal marks omitted). Here, "the stop of [the tractor trailer] was justified by reasonable suspicion based on information obtained through the agents' collective investigation and surveillance." United States v. Goldenshtein, Criminal Case No. 1:10-CR-00323-TCB-RGV, 2011 WL 1321573, at *10 (N.D.Ga. Feb. 22, 2011), adopted by 2011 WL 1257147, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Apr. 1, 2011).

         In particular, agents received information from a CS that "Andrew" was involved in trafficking narcotics from California and Texas to Atlanta, and the CS described the manner in which he did so, leading agents to perform database checks that revealed Andrew previously was investigated by the DEA in Atlanta as an individual suspected of transporting narcotics via tractor trailer. (Tr. at 13, 34-37, 64, 69-71). Agents then began conducting surveillance and observed activity consistent with the information provided by the CS, who was a member of Andrew's inner circle. (Tr. at 13, 34-37, 64, 69-71, 73-74). Thereafter, DEA agents applied for and obtained a court order for a geo-location warrant for Andrew's phone, and this geo-location data demonstrated a pattern of activity, coupled with surveillance, that was consistent with the information provided by the CS, including that Andrew traveled from California to Atlanta on February 10, 2018, and was observed a few days later at a warehouse where a tractor trailer was parked, and this trailer was the same one that was stopped on March 13, 2018. (Tr. at 14-18, 37-39, 42, 95). Later, geo-location data showed that Andrew traveled back to California and a license plate reader also captured that the trailer was traveling toward California. (Tr. at 18). The CS provided additional information to the agents, including that there were potentially two tractor trailers containing narcotics coming to Atlanta, and a few days later, Andrew traveled back to Atlanta, as did his trailer, and on February 27, 2018, agents observed Andrew and the trailer at the same warehouse, as well as a second tractor trailer, where unidentified men were seen carrying a ladder into the trailers and then exiting the trailers with suit-case sized items, which was consistent with the CS's information that Andrew used trailers with "traps" to transport the drugs. (Tr. at 18-20, 44-45, 47, 59-60, 77-78, 95). Thereafter, agents obtained a warrant and court order to place a tracker on Andrew's trailer, and data from the tracker showed a continued pattern of traveling to Texas and then back to Atlanta, with similar activity occurring on March 5, 2018, of unidentified men taking a ladder into a trailer parked at the warehouse, and then a few days later, the trailer and Andrew's phone were back in Texas in the area of a warehouse used near the airport, and once again, the trailer headed back toward Atlanta on March 12, 2018. (Tr. at 19-26, 40-44, 48-51, 53).

         Prior to the stop on March 13, 2018, Officer Stanley was briefed regarding the DEA's investigation, including the information provided by the CS and the pattern of activity that occurred on February 13, February 27, and March 4-5, 2018, and he knew that a specific tractor trailer was traveling from Texas with a suspected load of narcotics, that the trailer was usually empty, and that the drugs would likely be located in a compartment in the trailer behind the front wall, (Tr. at 11-12, 25-28, 53, 57-59, 101-04, 132-33, 159, 196), and these "facts provided a specific, concrete, and quite strong basis to conclude that criminal activity was afoot, and that [the tractor trailer] was transporting evidence," Pineda-Zuniga, 2017 WL 9477640, at *5; see also Diaz-Fonseca, 2013 WL 3147903, at *8, 11 (S.D. Ga. June 19, 2013) (finding law enforcement "had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle to investigate possible narcotics trafficking based on the information they had been given about [the vehicle] traveling eastbound on 1-20 that was associated with a person by the name 'Fonseca' or 'Fonseco, '" who would occupy or otherwise be involved with the vehicle). Thus, the "stop was justified at least by reasonable suspicion." Pineda-Zuniga, 2017 WL 9477640, at *5 (footnote and citations omitted); see also United States v. Nunez, 455 F.3d 1223, 1226 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (finding stop was based on reasonable suspicion since defendant was seen entering a house known to contain a marijuana growing operation and subsequently left with a garbage bag); United States v. Khan, CRIMINAL CASE NO. l:17-CR-0040-SCJ, 2018 WL 2214813, at *7 (N.D.Ga. May 15, 2018) (citation omitted) (finding officers had probable cause to stop vehicle where "prior to the traffic stop of [defendant's car, [the] [t]rooper [] had been contacted by the DEA and was told that someone would be bringing Spice (synthetic marijuana); that on the date in question, [he] was on stand-by at the DEA's request; that [he] had a DEA radio mounted in his car; that the DEA was communicating with [him] by radio on the day of the [defendant's traffic stop; and that [he] knew what was happening via the updates over the DEA radio"). Accordingly, Officer Stanley had, at a minimum, reasonable suspicion to stop the tractor trailer on March 13, 2018.[29] See United States v. Patton, Case No. 15-20246, 2018 WL 3370545, at *7 (E.D. Mich. July 10, 2018) (finding that the "DEA had at least reasonable suspicion to stop and search the vehicle, based on the reliability of the confidential informant, the level of detail provided by the informant, and the independent corroboration of the tip," which included electronic surveillance and geo-location information pertaining to a phone).

         Where an officer initiates a legal stop, he has "the duty to investigate suspicious circumstances that then [come] to his attention." United States v. Cantu, 227 Fed.Appx. 783, 785 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (unpublished) (alteration in original) (citation and internal marks omitted). Indeed, "a traffic stop may last longer than the purpose of the stop would ordinarily permit if an officer, based on specific facts and rational inferences drawn from those facts in light of his training and experience, has an objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion that illegal activity has occurred or is occurring." United States v. Dejesus, 435 Fed.Appx. 895, 900 (11th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (unpublished) (citations omitted). Moreover, an officer may as a matter of course order the driver of a lawfully stopped vehicle to exit his vehicle. See Pennsylvania v. Mimms,434 U.S. 106, 111 (1977); United States v. Rodriguez, Criminal Case No. 1:10-CR-0407-TWT-JFK-3, 2011 WL 5191805, at *10 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 23, 2011), adopted by 2011 WL 5191798, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Oct. 31, 2011) (citations omitted); United States v. Espinal, Criminal Case No. 1:ll-cr-00060-ODE-RGV, 2011 WL 7004195, at *9 n.12 (N.D.Ga. Aug. 29, 2011), adopted by 2012 WL 92451, at *3 (N.D.Ga. Jan. 10, 2012) (citation omitted). In addition, "[a]n officer may prolong the stop to investigate the driver's license and the vehicle registration and to perform a computer check." Edenilson-Reyes, 2010 WL 5620439, at *10 (citation omitted). "The officer can lawfully ask questions, even questions not strictly related to the traffic stop, while waiting for a computer check of ...


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