United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOT.ION TO
D. Borman, United States District Judge.
Remond Gordon has been charged in a one-count indictment with
Felon in Possession of a Firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1). The indictment arises from the seizure of a
pistol from Defendant's passenger Ms. Brieanna Expose by
the Michigan State Police during a routine traffic stop.
moves to suppress the seized firearm as evidence, alleging
that Trooper Benjamin Sonstrom unlawfully prolonged the
traffic stop without reasonable suspicion, and that the
firearm was discovered in a search conducted after such
prolongation. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds
that there was a violation of Defendant's rights under
the Fourth Amendment, and therefore grants Defendant's
Motion to Suppress.
Benjamin Sonstrom pulled Defendant over on southbound
Interstate 275 in Romulus, Michigan at approximately 2:10 PM
on July 12, 2017, for following too closely. (ECF No. 21,
Gov't Resp. Ex. A, Incident Report.) Sonstrom was driving
a fully marked patrol car, which was parked in the median of
Interstate 94 just east of the juncture between 1-94 and
1-275, when he observed Defendant's vehicle
"travelling at approx[imately] 1-2 car lengths behind
the vehicle that was in front of it at freeway speeds."
(Id. at 1, Pg ID 131.) Sonstrom illuminated his
emergency lights, and Defendant pulled over on the shoulder
of Interstate 275. (Id.)
OF TRAFFIC STOP
has introduced into evidence a video of the traffic stop and
subsequent arrest from Sonstrom's dashboard camera. (ECF
No, 19, Def.'s Mot. Ex. A, Video.) The factual summary
that follows reflects the events of the traffic stop as they
are depicted in the video, except where otherwise noted.
exiting his patrol vehicle, Sonstrom approached the passenger
side of Defendant's vehicle, advised Defendant that he
had pulled him over for driving too closely to the car in
front of him, and requested Defendant's driver's
license, registration, and proof of insurance. (Video at
02:10:09-02:10:36.) Defendant hands Sonstrom certain items,
and Sonstrom asks the passenger in the vehicle, Ms. Biieanna
Expose, whether she has identification as well. (Video at
02:10:37- 02:11:10; Incident Report at 1, Pg ID 131.)
tells Defendant that he is going to run his registration, and
asks Defendant to stand in front of Sonstrom's car so
that he can communicate with him more easily. (Video at
02:11:42-02:11-50.) Defendant asks Sonstrom whether he is
required to exit his car, to which Sonstrom responds that he
does, adding that he couldn't hear him easily from where
he was seated in the car. Defendant asks again whether he has
to exit his car, and Sonstrom responds in the affirmative.
Defendant asks whether he has to leave his car even if he
does not want to, and Sonstrom responds that he is legally
required to do so, and "can go to jail for resisting and
obstructing a police officer." (Video at
exits his vehicle and approaches Sonstrom, who explains to
Defendant that he needs to "run your stuff and that he
could not hear Defendant when Defendant was still seated in
his car. Sonstrom asks Defendant if he has any weapons on his
person, and asks to see his waistband. Sonstrom gets into the
driver's seat of his patrol vehicle while Defendant
remains outside on the passenger side, and the two men speak
through the open passenger-side window:
Sonstrom: Do you want to sit in here, or no?
Defendant: Uh, do you mind if I just stand out here?
Sonstrom: That's cool, man. How are you doing today?
Defendant: I can't complain. How about yourself?
Sonstrom: All right.
(Video at 02:12:28-02:13:10.) Sonstrom proceeds to ask
Defendant a series of questions, and in the course of that
conversation Defendant indicates the following: (1) the car
is registered in his name; (2) Ms. Expose is "just a
friend"; (3) Defendant and Expose were on their way to a
car auction in Carleton, Michigan; (4) Defendant intends to
buy a car at the auction, but that has not decided what kind
of car; (5) Defendant's driving record is
"fair" and his license is not suspended. (Video at
Sonstrom and Defendant then have the following exchange:
Sonstrom: Listen. My computer is slow for whatever reason.
You ever been in trouble for anything before?
Defendant: No, sir.
Sonstrom: You ever been arrested?
Defendant: Um, sir—I mean, I'm not being
disrespectful, but, I mean, is this a traffic stop, or
what's going on? I'm just not trying to be
disrespectful, but what's going on?
Sonstrom: I just, it's—I'm communicating with
you. It's part of my job. You know what I'm saying?
Defendant: I mean, if you don't mind, I'd just
rather—I mean, if you're going to write me a ticket
or whatever, I'd just kind of rather at this point remain
Sonstrom: Hang tight for me for a minute, okay?
Sonstrom: Hang tight right here. I'll be right back.
(Video at 02:14:29-02:15:03.)
approaches the passenger side of Defendant's vehicle to
speak with Ms. Expose. They speak for approximately 45
seconds, and while their conversation is not fully audible in
the video, Sonstrom described it as follows in the incident
I briefly exited my car and made contact with the passenger,
EXPOSE. She was playing a video game on her phone. I asked
where she was heading and she said she was just riding. She
advised she was going to hang out with GORDON. She could not
tell me exactly where she was heading.
Report at 2, Pg ID 132.)
gets back into his patrol vehicle, and over the next minute
and a half, he can be heard in the video speaking into his
radio in short intervals. Specifically, Sonstrom can be heard
communicating his location on Interstate 275, and then
reading an eight-digit number into the radio. (Video at
02:16:00-02:17:33.) Sonstrom tells Defendant, who is still
standing outside of Sonstrom's passenger-side window,
that he is going to roll up the window to make a phone call.
Defendant asks if he can go back to his car, and Sonstrom
tells him that he can wait in front of the patrol vehicle,
but not get back into his car yet, (Video at
then places a call, stating: "I am on a traffic stop,
and I need to run an individual—two people in a car,
please. Thanks." (Video at 02:18:28-02:18:45.) Shortly
thereafter, a voice on Sonstrom's radio states:
"I'm showing a couple of felony 3500s from '91
and '92, and a felony 5200 from '99." (Video at
minute and 20 seconds later, Sonstrom can be heard making a
phone call apparently regarding the traffic stop: he provides
his name and a four-digit number, identities his location,
states "it's going to be 'following too close,
'" and provides identifying information about
Defendant. (Video at 02:21:00-02:22:24.) Sonstrom then radios
to ask whether there are any female officers in the area, and
is told that a female officer would come to the scene within
about five minutes. (Video at 02:24:50-02:25:15.) Ten seconds
after that, Sonstrom can be heard saying: "Okay. Pull up
previous queries. I'm trying to see if one was mine or
not." After a 15-second pause, he says: "Okay. That
wouldn't have been me. That's okay. If that's the
most recent one, don't worry about it." (Video at
02:25:25-02:25:56.) About 30 seconds later, he says:
"What's the NADDIS number? Okay. Okay. Um, that's
okay. Yep." Sonstrom then identifies "the second
subject" as Ms. Expose, spells her name, and provides
identifying information. (Video at 02:26:31-02:27:34.)
three minutes later (and by this time approximately 20
minutes into the traffic stop), Sonstrom apparently receives
a second phone call:
Ma'am, can I put you on hold for one second? Okay.
Hey, bro. Sorry, I'm on with Epic. What's
cooking? Yeah. Oh. Okay. No, I—he looks very familiar.
I'm trying to figure the guy out. Let me finish with Epic
and I'll call you right back. Good to know. Yeah, bye.
Hello? You know what? Okay. Anything on—negative for
her? Okay. I'm good, I'm on the phone with DEA now,
so I'm all set. Thank you. Yeah, bye.
at 02:30:16-02:31:06) Sonstrom requests additional backup on
his radio, and a few seconds later, he says: "Is that
the NADDIS number?" He then confirms his location on
1-275 over the radio for the backup trooper he had requested.
(Video at 02:31:30-02:32:26.)
after about twenty seconds of silence, Sonstrom can be heard
laughing, and then saying the following:
What did I stop him for? Did I get anything? Out of where?
Okay. Yes, yes, yup, yup. He came out of the Dollar Store or
something, right? Or the Aldi's, or whatever it was.
Okay. He's being real evasive. Denied a criminal history.
He's got a girl in the car. Says he's going to car
auction but doesn't know what kind of car he's
getting. She says she's just riding, going to spend time
with her boy. They're doing something up to no good, you
know? Well, hopefully today will be that day, so. Okay. I
will. Thanks. Yeah, bye.
(Video at 02:32:43-02:34:05.)
Sonstrom concludes the call, Defendant approaches the
passenger side of his patrol car, and the two men have the
Defendant: What's going on, sir?
Sonstrom: I've got to finish doing all of my
investigation work here.
Defendant: I'm sorry?
Sonstrom: I've got to finish doing all of my ...