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United States v. Beckley

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 4, 2016




         This matter came before the court on defendant Dantez Beckley's July 27, 2016 motion to dismiss, motion to dismiss Count II, and motion to suppress evidence. The government filed responses to the motions to dismiss August 12, 2016, and to the motion to suppress August 18, 2016. Defendant filed a reply to the motion to suppress August 25, 2016. The government filed a motion for leave to file a sur-reply September 1, 2016. Oral argument was heard September 22, 2016.


         On the night of July 15, 2014, witnesses reported that a large, black man, approximately 6'4" and 260 pounds, entered the Auto Zone store on Van Born Road in Romulus, Michigan, wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt, with the hood pulled over his head and a black mask covering his face. The man yelled, “Everybody on the fucking ground!” while pointing a silver and black, 9mm handgun at the employees. He ordered a store employee to give him the cash in the register and fled.

         An employee followed outside, hoping to get a description of the getaway vehicle or its license plate. The robber got in the passenger side of a gray Dodge neon with a black car bra on the front. Before leaving, the robber fired a shot in the direction of the employee. Fresh, broken glass was found in the corner of the lot where the car had been parked. Romulus Police Department issued an alert to area police to look for the gray Neon and a heavy-set, 6'4" black man.

         A few days later, on July 19, Taylor police saw a gray Neon that matched the description of the getaway car. Officers stopped the car and spoke to the occupants, the driver Shamiea Beckley and passenger Tonisha Beckley. Tonisha Beckley informed the officers that she owned the car but that her brother Dantez had had the car on the night of July 15. She suggested that may be why the passenger window was broken and there were holes in the dashboard and side mirror.

         As the officers inspected the car, two men approached. One was a large, black man, approximately 6'4" and 300 pounds. He identified himself has Dantez Beckley. When the officers asked him if he had had the car the night of July 15, he stated that he had it from 7:00 p.m. that night until the following morning. However, Beckley explained that at 7:00 he drove to Detroit to see his girlfriend. He said he found the window broken and the bullet holes in the dash and mirror when he woke the next morning.

         The Taylor police detained Beckley for investigation. Romulus police arrived, arrested him, and took him to the Romulus Police Department, where he was booked. As part of the booking process, Beckley provided the following information: his name, address, date of birth, and phone number. Officers advised Beckley of his Miranda rights, but he declined to speak further. He was released the following day, pending further investigation.

         Three days later, on July 23, Romulus police learned that a warrant for Beckley's arrest had been issued by Detroit police. Officers requested a copy of the police report underlying the warrant. The report identified Beckley as a suspect in the theft of money and a firearm from his prior employer days before the Auto Zone robbery. The police report also identified his phone number, the same number he had provided to Romulus police. The next day Romulus police obtained a state search warrant for Beckley's phone records from MetroPCS.

         Defendant Beckley's motion to suppress evidence is based on his contention that the warrant lacked probable cause to search his MetroPCS call detail records. In his reply brief, Beckley asserts that he was arrested illegally. Defendant's motion to dismiss asserts that the Hobbs Act is unconstitutional. His motion to dismiss Count II is based on his assertion that the Hobbs Act robbery charge in Count I fails to qualify as a crime of violence to support Count II.


         Defendant Beckley's motion to dismiss seeks to dismiss Count I of the indictment, the Hobbs Act robbery of the Auto Zone in Romulus in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), arguing that the Hobbs Act: 1) is an unconstitutional exercise of the Commerce Clause; 2) infringes on Michigan's sovereignty in violation of the Tenth Amendment; 3) is overbroad; and 4) does not provide fair notice as required by the Due Process Clause.

         The Hobbs Act prohibits interference with interstate commerce by robbery or extortion. Defendant argues that the statute is unconstitutional, citing United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995) as support. However, Lopez attacks on federal offenses have been soundly rejected. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reaffirmed the need for only a de minimis effect on interstate commerce in United States v. Baylor, 517 F.3d 899 (6th Cir. 2008). Earlier this year the United States Supreme Court found, “The only way to escape the conclusion would be to hold the Hobbs Act does not exercise the full measure of Congress's commerce power. But we reached the opposite conclusion more than 50 years ago[.]” Taylor v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2074, 2081 (2016).

         The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has also held that Congress does not violate the Tenth Amendment when it enacts legislation through the lawful exercise of its commerce clause power. United States v. McHenry, 97 F.3d 125, 131 (6th Cir. 1996). The Sixth Circuit specifically has held the Hobbs Act does not infringe ...

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