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United States v. Miner-Gittens

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 16, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MAURICE WILLIAM MINER-GITTENS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Defendant Maurice William Miner-Gittens ("Miner-Gittens") has moved to suppress the fruits of his stop and seizure on December 20, 2013. D. 84. Having considered the motion (and supporting memorandum, D. 85), the government's opposition, D. 93, the evidence (including testimony and exhibits) presented at the evidentiary hearing on the motion and oral argument held on November 6 and 12, 2014, D. 99-100, the Court DENIES the motion. Accordingly, the Court makes its findings of fact and legal analysis below.

II. Findings of Fact

These findings are based upon the testimony of U.S. Postal Inspectors Michael Connelly, Scott Kelley and Sean Boyce, and Boston Police Officers Joshua Delisle and private investigator Joseph Lutz who testified at the suppression hearing and the exhibits introduced at that hearing.

A. Postal Carrier Assaulted and Shot on His Route

The stop and arrest of Miner-Gittens arose out of the assault and shooting of a postal carrier in Dorchester on the evening of December 20, 2013. The postal carrier was delivering a package on Bailey Street in Dorchester. D. 99 at 18-19. When he returned to his postal truck, the postal carrier encountered an assailant in the cab of the truck. Id . The postal carrier described him as a black male, between 20 to 30 years old, 5'8 to 5'10 tall, who was wearing a ski mask and black hooded jacket or sweatshirt. D. 99 at 8-9, 18-19. The assailant put a gun to the postal carrier's head and demanded his phone, keys and the "drawer." D. 99 at 19-20, 66. The postal carrier informed him that he did not have a drawer and attempted to push the assailant out of the truck. Id. at 20. At this attempt, the assailant shot the postal carrier in the arm and pistol whipped him. Id . In the course of assaulting the postal carrier, the assailant broke the handle of the firearm over his head. Id . The assailant then ordered the postal carrier into the rear of the postal truck to remove his uniform. Id. at 20-21. The assault took the wheel of the truck and proceeded down Bailey Street. Id. at 21. While in the back of the truck, the postal carrier managed to open the back cargo door and escape. Id. at 21, 66. As he ran from the truck, the postal carrier observed that a white U-Haul van was right behind the postal truck. Id. at 21. He also observed that a black male, between 20 to 30 years old and with a dark complexion was driving the U-Haul van. Id. at 21-22, 40, 45, 46. The postal carrier remembered having seen a U-Haul van in the area, earlier on his route. Id. at 22, 41. The postal carrier managed to run down Bailey Street, ending up at a VFW post on that street. Id. at 8, 14. Witnesses in the area called 911 and the postal carrier was taken to Boston Medical Center. Id. at 8, 18-19.

B. The Investigation Begins

After the 911 calls, numerous law enforcement officers reported to the area of 74 Bailey Street, the scene of the crime. Id. at 6. Postal Inspector Michael Connelly reported to the scene about forty-five minutes to a hour after being called to the scene (roughly 6:45 to 7 p.m.). Id. at 7. Connelly was the primary investigator for the Postal Inspectors and worked closely with the primary investigator for the Boston Police Department ("BPD"). Id. at 7, 39-40. When officers arrived on scene, the postal truck was up on curb at Bailey and Clermont Streets. Id. at 10-11; D. 100 at 27; Exh. 1. Witnesses in the area had seen the driver of the postal truck park or crash it at this location and then flee on foot between two houses on Clermont Street. Id. at 15; see D. 100 at 30. Witnesses had also observed a U-Haul van trailing the postal truck; once the postal truck was up on the curb, the U-Haul was observed turning on Clermont Street at a high rate of speed. Id. at 15-16; D. 100 at 31.[1] While Connelly was on scene, other law enforcement officers had interviewed the victim, including Postal Inspector Reardon who interviewed him at Boston Medical Center. Id. at 8-9, 18-19, 20. The postal carrier's description of the assailant, described above, was transmitted to other officers involved in the investigation. Id. at 18-19, 20; D. 100 at 29 (Boyce testifying that transmittal of this description occurred around 8 p.m.).

Given the description of the assailant's flight path between houses on Clermont Street, the officers investigated this area and found fresh footprints in the snow leading from houses on Clermont Street into the backyard of a residence on Fuller Street. Id. at 24-25. This path lead to a chain link fence and a retaining wall where the officers found a portion of a purple, nitrile glove and what appeared to be blood. Id. at 25-26; D. 100 at 30; Exhs. 7-8. As part of canvassing the area, Postal Inspectors Scott Kelley and Sean Boyce reviewed surveillance footage from Fuller Market covering the intersection of Fuller and Washington Streets. Id. at 29-30, 70-71; D. 100 at 31-32. This intersection is approximately a half of a mile away from the crime scene. D. 100 at 34. The footage showed, around 6 p.m., a postal truck (that looked like the one later found up on the curb) followed shortly thereafter by a U-Haul truck that turned right on Washington Street in the direction of Bailey Street. Id. at 71, 102; D. 100 at 32-33; Exh. 24; see Exh. 2. A short time later, at approximately 6:09 p.m., the footage showed a U-Haul van alone crossing the intersection of Fuller and Washington Streets. D. 99 at 72; D. 100 at 33; Exh. 24. Also as part of the canvassing effort, Kelley and Boyce went to a nearby U-Haul rental location on Gallivan Boulevard to investigate whether any vans had been recently returned. Id. at 51, 74-75; D. 100 at 3-39. Although the location was closed, none of the vans' hoods were warm or otherwise indicated having recently been returned. Id.[2]

C. Postal Inspectors Spot a U-Haul in the Vicinity

After leaving the U-Haul rental location, Kelley and Boyce were traveling on Gallivan Boulevard toward Washington Street. Id. at 75. As they were making a left on to Washington Street, toward Bailey Street, Kelley and Boyce observed a U-Haul van traveling in the opposite direction. Id. at 76; D. 100 at 39. They observed that there was a driver and passenger in the front seat. They observed that they were both black males, id. at 76; D. 100 at 40, but they could not make out their relative complexions, height or hairstyles, id. at 114, or what clothing that they were wearing. D. 100 at 40. They, however, had not seen any other U-Haul vans in the vicinity. Id. at 77; D. 100 at 72. Upon spotting the van, the officers made a U-turn and followed the vehicle. Id .; D. 100 at 39. When the van got to the intersection at Gallivan Boulevard, it stopped in the middle of the intersection and appeared to be about to make a left turn, without signaling, but then instead pulled into a Sunoco station. Id. at 78, 81, 108; D. 100 at 43. (Upon this observation, the inspectors were concerned that the two men had spotted the officers and were engaged in counter-surveillance moves. D. 100 at 44-46). The agents pulled past the gas station and pulled alongside the station to observe the van. D. 100 at44. The van pulled into the bank of gas pumps to the left, but initially no one got out of the car. Id. at 82. At this point, Kelley called for backup. Id. at 83; D. 100 at 46.

D. Investigation Unfolds Rapidly at Sunoco Station

The driver of the U-Haul van, later identified as Miner-Gittens, got out of the vehicle and started to walk toward the gas station store. Id. at 83-84. Around this time, a marked BPD sports utility vehicle ("SUV"), driven by Officers Delisle and Christopher Goodman, arrived as backup. D. 100 at 7. Delisle testified that he parked ...


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