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United States v. Vega

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 15, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RAUL VEGA

Page 645

For Raul Vega, Defendant: Richard M. Upton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Federal Public Defenders Office-BR, Baton Rouge, LA.

For USA, Plaintiff: Jessica Marie Podewils Thornhill, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office, Middle District of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, LA; Alan A. Stevens, United States Attorney's Office - BR, Middle District of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, LA.

OPINION

Page 646

JAMES J. BRADY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

RULING

Defendant, Raul Vega, moved for the suppression of all information and/or items intended for use at trial and Defendant's statements (doc. 11). The United States filed a responsive pleading (doc. 13). Subsequently, on February 3, 2015, a hearing was held on the motion to suppress. In accordance with this Court's request, Post-Hearing Memoranda analyzing the testimony and evidence in light of the factors set forth by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 95 S.Ct. 2574, 45 L.Ed.2d 607 (1975) were filed by both sides (docs. 17 and 18).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendant has been indicted for violating 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) and 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(B)(i), transporting illegal aliens for commercial gain. Defendant was arrested on December 10, 2014 on I-12 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The arrest was made by agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (" ICE" ).

According to the Defendant, the vehicle he was operating at the time of the stop had not committed a traffic violation (doc. 17, at 1). Instead, Defendant argues that the sole purpose of the stop by the ICE Agent was to check the nationality of the driver and passengers of the vehicle Defendant was operating. Id. The agent, " Agent Lively," stated in his report and testimony that his suspicions were aroused based on his observations of the van that Defendant was driving and that formed the basis for the stop of the vehicle. Id. at 2. At the time of the stop, Defendant was interrogated by the ICE agents and responded with statements that the United States intends to use at trial against Defendant. Id. It is Defendant's argument that the stop of his vehicle and the statements made in response to interrogation were made in violation of Defendant's rights and without proper consent or waiver

Page 647

of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment right and right to consult with counsel. Id.

Agent Lively testified that he noticed Defendant's vehicle was a " heavily laden gold Honda Odyssey minivan that appeared to have more passengers than seatbelts at the I-10 I-12 split" (doc. 18, at 1). Agent Lively testified that from his perspective in a stationery vehicle, perpendicular to the interstate, the van was going 60 to 70 miles per hour (doc. 17, at 6). He then pulled onto the interstate in an unmarked vehicle to further investigate (doc. 18, at 1-2). The minivan slowed " dramatically to 40 MPH" as Agent Lively approached. Id. at 2. Once alongside the minivan, Agent Lively noticed that the driver, the Defendant herein, was smoking profusely and appeared very nervous and would not look in the Agent's direction despite Agent Lively shining a flashlight into the minivan. Id. Agent Lively then noticed the number of passengers appeared to be less than when the minivan drove by his post earlier. Id. Once Agent Lively was behind the minivan, he observed a person's head pop up from the luggage area. Id. Agent Lively initiated an investigatory stop based on what he observed and his eighteen years of experience as a Border Patrol agent. Id. Once he approached the minivan, he saw eight individuals slumped on the floor. Id. During this investigatory stop, Defendant was not in ...


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