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United States v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 6, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Patrick Franklin Martin, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HONORABLE BRUCE G. MACDONALD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Currently pending before the Court is Defendant Patrick Franklin Martin's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 23). The Government has filed its response and Defendant replied. Govt.'s Response to Def.'s Mot. to Suppress (Doc. 31); Def.'s Reply (Doc. 36). Defendant is charged with two (2) counts of transportation of illegal aliens for profit and one (1) count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens for profit, all in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324. Indictment (Doc. 15) at 1-2. Defendant Patrick Franklin Martin seeks suppression of all evidence obtained as a result of an allegedly faulty investigatory stop. See Def.'s Mot. to Suppress (Doc. 23).

         Pursuant to LRCrim. 5.1, this matter came before Magistrate Judge Macdonald for an evidentiary hearing and a report and recommendation. On August 11, 2017, an evidentiary hearing was held before Magistrate Judge Macdonald regarding the motion. Minute Entry 8/11/2017 (Doc. 37). On August 18, 2017, the final transcripts were received and this matter became ripe for adjudication. The Magistrate Judge recommends that the District Court, after its independent review, deny Defendant's motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On February 5, 2017, United States Border Patrol Agent Gregory Sprintz was working at the Sonoita Border Patrol station. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) at 5:13-16, 9:18-21. Agent Sprintz has been employed with Border Patrol for eight (8) years. Id. at 5:17-18. His current assignment is at the Sonoita Border Patrol station. Id. at 5:3-16. Aside from a brief assignment in Ajo, Agent Sprintz has been stationed in Sonoita for his entire tenure. Id. at 6:4-8. In addition to his initial Border Patrol training, Agent Sprintz has continued to receive on-the-job or regular training, including particular smuggling tactics used in southern Arizona. Id. at 6:9-7:23.

         A. The Patagonia Area

         At approximately 9:00 a.m. on February 5, 2017, Agent Sprintz went out to Patagonia, Arizona to watch traffic. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) at 9:18-10:2. Agent Sprintz did a quick drive through town, and then parked at the Patagonia post office, located at Taylor Avenue and Highway 82. Id. at 10:4-12:25. Agent Sprintz testified that he was parked facing slightly southwest, where he could observe the traffic in both directions. Id. at 13:1-6. Agent Sprintz further explained that the location is very slightly elevated, which allowed him to see traffic that comes from the south on Highway 82, as well as all the roads in Patagonia that feed onto Highway 82. Id. at 13:7-20. As such, this location allowed Agent Sprintz to distinguish between people coming from Nogales or someplace south and those coming from Patagonia. Id. Agent Sprintz also testified that he is very familiar with Patagonia and the surrounding area, because he has been stationed there so long. Id. at 13:20-14:3.

         Agent Sprintz described State Route 82 as a rural, two-lane highway connecting Nogales to the southwest and Sonoita and Tombstone to the northeast. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) 14:4-15. Agent Sprintz further described Patagonia to be approximately ten (10) to fifteen (15) miles from the United States-Mexico international border. Id. at 15:25-16:3. Agent Sprintz testified that the closest border patrol checkpoint to Patagonia is located on State Route 83, just before the Las Cienegas park ends. Id. at 16:4-15. Agent Sprintz further testified that he is familiar with the traffic patterns along State Route 82, and that Patagonia receives some traffic coming from the border. Id. at 16:16-25. Agent Sprintz also testified that he was familiar with local traffic in this area, and would see cars that he recognized every day. Id. at 30:17-21.

         Agent Sprintz testified that prior to the February 2017 incident he had been involved with smuggling apprehensions in this area along State Route 82. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) at 17:11-18. Agent Sprintz further testified that based upon his training and experience smuggling along this route is moderately to very common. Id. at 17:19-18:6. Agent Sprintz also testified that Border Patrol apprehends a fair number of smugglers, and these individuals have indicated that there are a lot of incidents that are not apprehended. Id. 18:9-13.

         B. The Stop

         At approximately 10:50 a.m., Agent Sprintz saw an early 2000s model Chevrolet Cavalier driving northeast on State Route 82. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) at 18:17- 19:1, 66:21-67:1. Agent Sprintz testified that Defendant Patrick Franklin Martin was the sole, visible occupant. Id. at 19:2-9, 67:8-14. Agent Sprintz further testified that the vehicle's make and model drew his attention, because Border Patrol had recently seized a nearly identical vehicle that had been smuggling aliens. Id. at 20:11-15. Agent Sprintz went on to explain why this was important. Agent Sprintz testified that he observed a silver-gold metallic Saturn coupe parked in the vehicle seizure area when he arrived at work that day. Id. at 20:19-25, 23:14-20. Agent Sprintz further testified that he asked about the vehicle, and then a slide regarding the same was presented during muster-the start-of-shift meeting during which assignments are given and other intelligence is disseminated. Id. at 20:19-21:10.

         Agent Sprintz also testified that when the photograph of the silver-gold Saturn was shown during muster, agents were informed that three undocumented aliens were discovered in the trunk after the vehicle was stopped. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) at 23:21-24:18. Agent Sprintz testified that the Saturn shown during muster looked nearly identical to the Chevrolet Cavalier that he observed on February 5, 2017. Id. at 24:22- 25:4. Agent Sprintz further testified that a second stop involving a silver-gold, metallic, two-door vehicle was also described during muster around the time of the stop currently at issue. Id. at 25:5-7, 26:4-24. Agent Sprintz testified that the second vehicle was a 2003 Hyundai Accent, which had been involved in another alien smuggling event after the Saturn had been seized, and which also was very similar in appearance to the vehicle in the instant case. Id. at 26:18-27:4, 29:7-14. Agent Sprintz further testified that he had spoken with the agent that apprehended the Hyundai, and was informed that the stop occurred on February 1st and the vehicle had been traveling north on State Route 83. Id. at 27:5-28:23. Agent Sprintz also testified that he later learned that the vehicle seized on State Route 83, was a different vehicle from that shown during muster; however, on February 5, 2017 he believed it to be the same. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) at 28:4- 29:4.

         Agent Sprintz testified that agents had been advised that the small, metallic colored, coupes where the current strategy being used to smuggle aliens in the vehicle trunks. Id. at 29:15-30:2. Agent Sprintz explained that typically the transnational criminal organizations will use a similar type of vehicle for smuggling aliens or narcotics for period of time, until either Border Patrol had apprehended enough of them or the organization ran out of similar vehicles, at which point they will switch to a different vehicle type. Id. at 30:3-13, 57:16-58:13. Agent Sprintz further explained that he had learned about this strategy as part of his training, as well as from personal observation. Id.

         Agent Sprintz testified that he did not recognize the Chevrolet Cavalier as belonging to a local, nor did he recognize the driver. Id. at 30:22-31:1. Agent Sprintz further testified that as the Cavalier passed his position, he observed the driver, who appeared to be glancing around, they made very brief eye contact, and the driver then moved his hands into the 10 and 2 positions and sat up straight. Hr'g Tr. 8/11/2017 (Doc. 41) at 31:2-10, 45:14-47:18. Agent Sprintz interpreted the driver's actions as nervous behavior. Id. at 33:9-19. Agent Sprintz also testified that the rear of the vehicle appeared significantly depressed, to the point that the front of the vehicle was elevated. Id. at 31:20-32:14. Agent Sprintz testified that on the date in question, the State Route 83 checkpoint to the north was ...


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