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United States v. Porter

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

January 8, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DEMYIA S. PORTER (01) NAQUITA N. GRAVES (02)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARK L. HORNSBY, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Demyia S. Porter and Naquita N. Graves are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The charges arise out of a traffic stop on I-20 in Webster Parish, Louisiana. Before the court are Defendants' Motions to Suppress (Docs. 32 and 33). For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motions be denied.

         Relevant Facts

         The testimony at an evidentiary hearing together with the audio/video recording of the traffic stop, established the following facts. On August 20, 2018, Louisiana State Trooper Christopher Perry was on stationary patrol on I-20 in Webster Parish. A car approached him, and he noticed that it was traveling more slowly than the traffic around it. Trooper Perry let the car pass him, waited approximately one minute, then pulled out to follow the car.

         As he caught up to the car, Trooper Perry ran the license plate to identify the owner. He saw that there were two people in the car, the driver and a passenger. He also saw the car move onto the solid white fog line on the right-hand side of the interstate. He notified dispatch that he was making a traffic stop, and he ran a check of the license plate on the car. Perry learned the vehicle was a rental car. He then activated his emergency lights to conduct the traffic stop.

         When Trooper Perry initiated his lights, his car's dashcam automatically turned on. The camera backs up a period of about 30 seconds before the lights are activated. The violation that precipitated the traffic stop is not on the video because it happened before that 30 second time frame. However, Trooper Perry is heard on the video saying that an improper lane use violation had occurred.

         After stopping the vehicle, Trooper Perry spoke with Porter, the driver. Trooper Perry testified that Porter appeared nervous because Porter would not look at him and looked away when Perry asked direct questions. Porter said that he lived in Houston. He told Trooper Perry that Graves (the passenger) rented the car for about a week and came to Houston from Mississippi to pick him up.

         Trooper Perry then questioned Graves, the passenger, who said that another friend had rented the car for her the day before as a birthday present. Graves said that she and Porter both live in Mississippi. She said that they drove together from Mississippi to Houston the day before to eat dinner at Pappadeaux's for her birthday. She said that they were on their way back to Mississippi. While speaking to Trooper Perry, Graves called her friend to get a copy of the rental agreement, which showed that neither Porter nor Graves rented the car, and neither was an authorized driver on the rental agreement.

         Trooper Perry noted several factors that made him suspicious that Porter and Graves were involved in criminal activity. The car had been rented by a third party. The defendants were traveling from Houston, a known narcotics source city. The car was very clean and had only a Pappadeaux's doggy bag in the backseat. The Defendants' stories about where they lived and why they were traveling were totally inconsistent, and Porter appeared unusually nervous when speaking with the trooper.

         Trooper Perry returned to his vehicle to run the driver's license and criminal background checks for Porter and Graves. Porter's background check yielded an extensive criminal history that included shoplifting, domestic violence, simple assault, grand larceny, accessory after the fact, and traffic violations.

         Perry requested backup so that he could ask for consent to search the vehicle. Trooper Matt Titus, a canine handler, arrived. Trooper Perry then asked Porter for consent to search the vehicle. Porter consented to the search and signed a state police consent to search form. Gov. Ex 2. Trooper Perry conducted a search of the car and found $2, 647 in cash in Graves' purse and approximately 10 kilograms of cocaine in a suitcase in the trunk of the car.

         Porter and Graves were then placed under arrest. Trooper Perry read them their Miranda rights, and they indicated that they understood. Gov. Exs. 3 and 4.

         Defendants' ...


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