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United States v. Anderson.

No. 21-2151. 3/14/2023. D.N.M. Judge Seymour. US Sentencing Guidelines—Sentencing Enhancement—Reasonable Suspicion—Motion to Suppress—Brady Violation.

March 14, 2023

A woman flagged down police and pointed to Anderson, who she said was harassing her. Sgt. Danius observed Anderson walking in the street in violation of a city ordinance and stopped him. Anderson denied having identification or weapons. But Sgt. Danius decided to conduct a pat-down for weapons because Anderson appeared nervous, raised his hands, and was wearing a bulky jacket. Anderson was noncompliant, so he was handcuffed. Sgt. Danius eventually conducted the pat-down but found no weapons. Because Anderson repeatedly provided police with false identifying information, he was arrested for concealing his identity. Law enforcement later ran Anderson’s fingerprints, determined his actual identity, and found that he had two outstanding felony arrest warrants. During a search incident to arrest, law enforcement found a firearm and a crystal-like substance determined to be methamphetamine on his person. Anderson was charged in state court with trafficking methamphetamine, among other crimes. Those charges were dismissed when he was indicted in this case for being a felon in possession. He filed a motion to suppress, arguing that police lacked reasonable suspicion both to stop him for committing harassment and to conduct a pat-down frisk. The court denied the motion. Anderson then pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession. At sentencing, the district court applied a four-level enhancement under US Sentencing Guideline (USSG) § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for possessing a firearm in connection with another felony offense and sentenced him to 51 months in prison.

On appeal, Anderson challenged the denial of his motion to suppress, arguing that Sgt. Danius lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him for committing harassment and to conduct a pat-down frisk and that the firearm was discovered in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. However, Sgt. Danius had reasonable suspicion to investigate the alleged harassment because the woman who flagged down police specifically claimed that Anderson was harassing her, and this indicated she was concerned about her safety. Further, Sgt. Danius’s observation of her demeanor supported a reasonable suspicion that Anderson’s actions were causing her emotional distress. Therefore, there was no Fourth Amendment violation for the investigative stop. Further, even if a defendant shows that a detention was impermissibly prolonged, the evidence will be suppressed only if the defendant establishes a causal link between the violation and the discovery of the contested evidence. Here, no evidence was found during the pat-down, and no evidence suggests that the Sgt. Danius’s reasons for continuing to inquire into Anderson’s identity were derived from the pat-down. Anderson thus failed to show a causal nexus between the pat-down and the discovery of the firearm. Accordingly, the district court properly denied the motion to suppress.

Anderson also argued that the district court erred in applying the USSG § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B)  enhancement because there was insufficient evidence to find that he possessed methamphetamine, primarily due to the court’s reliance on an uncorroborated police report authored by Sgt. Danius that was not admitted into evidence. However, while the police report was not admitted into evidence, it was twice included in the record; it was corroborated by Sgt. Danius’s body camera footage, which was admitted into evidence at the suppression hearing, and the state indictment; and the report was authored by a witness that the district court deemed credible. Accordingly, there was sufficient evidence for the court to rely upon in applying the sentence enhancement.

Anderson also contended that the government failed to disclose evidence of methamphetamine possession in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). To establish a Brady violation, a defendant must show that the government suppressed material evidence that was favorable to the defendant. Here, Anderson failed to produce evidence that would be favorable to him, so his Brady claim failed.

The denial of the motion to suppress and the sentencing enhancement were affirmed.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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