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United States v. Mills

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

August 15, 2019

EDWIN MILLS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Edwin Mills's motion to suppress all evidence acquired during a traffic stop on or about March 25, 2016 (Dkt. 662). The Government filed a response in opposition to the motion (Dkt. 706), to which Mills replied (Dkt. 744).[1] For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment on February 28, 2018, charging the eleven defendants in this case with various crimes, including violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. See generally 2d Superseding Indictment (Dkt. 292).[2] That indictment claims that Defendants were members and associates of a criminal enterprise-the “6 Mile Chedda Grove” street gang in Detroit-one of whose purposes was to “preserv[e] and protect[] the power, territory, reputation, and profits of the enterprise through murder, robberies, intimidation, violence, and threats of violence.” Id. at 2, 6. The enterprise purportedly operated on the east side of Detroit within an area bordered roughly by East McNichols Road to the north, Kelly Road to the east, Houston-Whittier Street to the south, and Chalmers Street to the west. Id. at 2. The “Chedda Grove” part of the enterprise's name is partially derived from one of the main streets in this territory- Cedargrove Street. Id.

         The indictment further alleges that the enterprise's profits derived primarily from the sale and distribution of controlled substances, including crack cocaine, heroin, and morphine. Id. at 5. The sale and distribution alleged were not limited to Michigan; gang members and associates purportedly sold and distributed controlled substances in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and West Virginia. Id.

         Defendant Edwin Mills has been charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) (Count One); two counts of murder in aid of racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1) (Count Eight involves victim A.T.; Count Ten involves victim S.H.); two counts of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c) and 924(j) (Count Nine involves victim A.T.; Count Eleven involves victim S.H.); two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3) (Count Twelve involves victim M.A.; Count Thirteen involves victim T.M.); and one count of using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count Fourteen, based on Counts Twelve and Thirteen). See generally 2d Superseding Indictment. On March 1, 2018, the Government filed its notice of intent to seek a sentence of death against Mills and co-Defendant Carlo Wilson (Dkt. 293). Defendants' trial is set to begin on April 21, 2020. See 8/31/2018 Order at 3 (Dkt. 475).

         For purposes of the present motion, the facts surrounding the traffic stop on March 25, 2016, are from an opinion issued by Judge Gershwin A. Drain in this District following an evidentiary hearing in an unrelated case involving Defendant Lomnil Jackson.

On March 25, 2016, Defendant [Lomnil Jackson] and two friends went to the Erotic City nightclub. The nightclub is located on Conant and 7 Mile Road in the City of Detroit. [Detroit Police] Officer Adnan Balija testified that Erotic City is known to be a magnet for violence, including assaults and shootings in the parking lot, as well as other nefarious activity. After midnight on March 25, 2016, Officer Balija and his partner, Jamarian Holloway, were on routine patrol when they received a call for assistance at Erotic City. Both officers were assigned to the Tactical Response Unit, which is a specialized unit that works in high crime areas. Balija has been a police officer for five years and Holloway has worked as a police officer for seven years. After they were directed to provide assistance at the club, they set up surveillance from their scout car where they could observe the parking lot.
During the hearing Jasmine Coates, Defendant's good friend, testified that she arrived at the nightclub after midnight to give Defendant and her boyfriend, “Bush, ” a ride home because the key to their vehicle was broken. Coates testified that Bush became angry when she would not let him drive her vehicle. She believed he was too intoxicated to drive. The two exchanged verbal and physical blows. Defendant intervened and separated Coates and Bush. The officers observed this physical altercation in the parking lot and made contact with the participants in the fight. They advised everyone to go to their cars. Defendant claims that one of the officers conducted a pat down search and did not recover any contraband from him. Both officers deny conducting a pat down search of Defendant.
After the officers told everyone involved in the milieu fight to go [to] their cars, they proceeded to their scout car. The officers exited the parking lot and parked their car directly across the street where they continued to observe the nightclub's parking lot. At that vantage point, they observed Defendant return to the front entrance of the club and begin arguing with someone. They both claim they witnessed Defendant clutching his waistband before he entered the passenger side of a white Chevrolet Malibu.
The Malibu was driven by Dericka Knight, who was involved in an intimate relationship with Defendant. Also, in the car were Knight's friend[s], Danielle Bishop and Edwin Mills. The officers observed Knight fail to use her signal when she made a right turn onto Cona[n]t street. The officers conducted a traffic stop at a well lit Mobil gas station, located less than a half-mile from the nightclub. The officers called for backup for what they referred to as “moral support.” Officer Holloway testified because there were four occupants in the car and only two of them, they requested other officers to assist during the stop.
The officers exited their vehicle and approached the Malibu. Officer Balija approached the driver's side and Officer Holloway approached the passenger side of the vehicle. As the officers approached the car, they observed Defendant make motions towards the floorboard.
Knight immediately informed Balija that she was a concealed pistol license (“CPL”) holder and had a gun in her purse. Simultaneously, Officer Holloway illuminated the floorboard on the front passenger side where he observed a holstered 9mm handgun. He alerted Officer Balija to the presence of a firearm and ordered Defendant out of the car. He put Defendant in handcuffs and placed him in the back of the scout car.
After all of the occupants exited the vehicle, Officer Balija went to the passenger seat and used his flashlight to recover the handgun observed by Officer Holloway. While Holloway testified that he saw the handgun on the floorboard, between the Defendant's legs, Officer Balija testified that he recovered the 9mm handgun from ...

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