United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
L. RUSSELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Yargee's Motion to Suppress
evidence seized in a purported traffic stop on July 4, 2016,
Doc. 1128. The Court held a suppression hearing on
January 3, 2018, and denied the Motion based on the evidence
presented and the parties' arguments. The Court finds
that the traffic stop was justified at its inception,
officers had reasonable suspicion to extend the stop, and in
the alternative, Defendant Yargee fails to show a factual
nexus between his alleged illegal seizure and the challenged
facts surrounding this stop and drug seizure are largely
undisputed. Four officers from the Oklahoma City Police
Department-informed by the FBI's contemporaneous wiretap
evidence and ground surveillance of an Irish Mob drug deal
that occurred only twenty minutes earlier-stopped a maroon
Audi vehicle on the highway in Oklahoma City after observing
an expired tag in violation of 48 Okla. Stat. §
1151(A)(5) (“It shall be unlawful for any person to . .
. operate a vehicle without proper license plate or decal . .
. .”). Defendant Yargee was a backseat passenger in the
Audi. Oklahoma City Sergeant Patrick Morgan testified that
(1) Yargee and another passenger appeared abnormally nervous
during the traffic stop, (2) passengers gave implausible and
inconsistent responses to the officers' questions
regarding their travel plans, and (3) passengers exhibited
various Irish Mob insignia on their persons. An officer asked
and was denied consent from the driver to search the vehicle,
after which the officer called for a drug-sniffing dog. The
officers then removed the driver and passengers one-by-one,
handcuffed them, and placed them in separate police vehicles
while officers waited for the dog to arrive. The dog arrived
around twenty minutes after the stop began and alerted
officers to the presence of drugs. A subsequent search
revealed a loaded .32 caliber Bryce semi-automatic handgun in
the glovebox and a Dillard's bag in the trunk containing
about a pound of methamphetamine. See Doc. 1189, at
3. Defendant Yargee now moves to suppress the gun and drugs
as fruit of an unlawful search and seizure.
suppress evidence as the fruit of his unlawful detention, [a
defendant] must make two showings: (1) ‘that the
detention did violate his Fourth Amendment rights'; and
(2) that there is ‘a factual nexus between the
illegality and the challenged evidence.'”
United States v. DeLuca, 269 F.3d 1128, 1132 (10th
Cir. 2001) (quoting United States v. Nava-Ramirez,
210 F.3d 1128, 1131 (2000)). The Court's Fourth Amendment
inquiry into whether a search or seizure was reasonable is
twofold: “first, one must consider ‘whether the
action . . . was justified at its inception' . . .;
second, one must determine whether the search as actually
conducted ‘was reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances which justified the interference in the first
place.'” New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S.
325, 341 (1985) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1,
Police Department's stop was justified at its inception
for two reasons. First, under the “vertical collective
knowledge doctrine, ” officers reasonably relied on the
FBI's information that a maroon Audi with a specified
license plate was leaving Walmart eastbound in possession of
illegal drugs from an Irish Mob deal. United States v.
Whitley, 680 F.3d 1227, 1235 (10th Cir. 2012). FBI
Special Agent David Wardlaw testified that on the afternoon
of July 4, 2016, wiretap intercepts from Defendants Potts and
Brown's cellphones revealed the location, timing, and
cars that would soon exchange “pizza, ” or
methamphetamine. See Government's Suppression
Hearing Exhibits 3-G through 3-Q. Law enforcement then
surveilled those cars in the Walmart parking lot, as
predicted, and confirmed a package exchanged into the maroon
Audi. To stop the Audi, officers could have relied on the
wiretap intercepts and surveillance alone; they provided
reasonable suspicion, if not probable cause, to believe the
car and its passengers were involved with drug-trafficking.
However, the FBI wanted to protect ongoing wiretaps of two
Irish Mob leaders. Therefore, with the help of aerial
surveillance and the FBI's tip, officers conducted a
pretextual traffic stop at 6:30 P.M. that same day based on
an expired tag. Even without disclosing their true motive for
the stop, officers' suspicion of drug-trafficking was
sufficient. See Whren v. United States, 517 U.S.
806, 813 (1996) (“Subjective intentions play no role in
ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis.”).
the stop was justified at inception because the officers
observed a traffic violation. See Rodriguez v. United
States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614 (2015). Defendant's
argument that taxes were owed to the sovereign Cherokee
nation, and not to the State of Oklahoma, is meritless. The
statute clearly prohibits both operating a car “on
which all taxes due the state have not been paid”
and driving with an “[im]proper license plate
or decal.” 48 Okla. Stat. § 1151(A)(5). Thus, the
plate's expired tag justified the stop. See Doc.
stop was also “reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances which justified the interference in the first
place.” Terry, 392 U.S. at 20. Again, officers
had two grounds to stop the Audi. Looking to the
drug-trafficking justification, a twenty-minute detention was
reasonable. The Supreme Court held in Rodriguez
“that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle
the matter for which the stop was made violates the
Constitution's shield against unreasonable
seizures.” 135 S.Ct. at 1612. To examine whether their
suspicions of drug-trafficking were correct, officers
reasonably waited twenty minutes for the drug-sniffing dog to
arrive. Alternatively, assuming officers stopped the Audi
because of the expired tag, officers presented additional
evidence needed to extend the traffic stop, which is
typically a “relatively brief encounter.”
Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 117 (1998). The Court
is skeptical that passengers' nervousness was abnormal
after four uniformed officers' flanked both sides of the
vehicle in an abrupt show of force. Nonetheless, officers
found reasonable suspicion in passengers' statements,
which reflected inconsistent and implausible travel plans,
their apparent affiliation with the Irish Mob. Therefore, the
stop was reasonable in scope based on either
even if officers unconstitutionally seized Defendant Yargee,
he lacks standing to suppress the gun and drugs because he
failed to demonstrate a “factual nexus” between
his unlawful detention and discovery of the evidence.
DeLuca, 269 F.3d at 1133. The defendant has the
burden to show Fourth Amendment standing or factual
nexus-“that the methamphetamine would never have been
found but for his, and only his, unlawful
detention.” Id. To do so, Yargee would have to
show that “had he requested to leave the scene of the
traffic stop, he would have been able to do so in the [seized
car].” The maroon Audi appeared to belong to Defendant
Derek Soeten, and Yargee does not claim he had permission to
use the car. See Government's Exhibit 3-K, at 1.
“[W]ithout any evidence to the contrary, we must assume
that regardless of [Defendant Yargee's] presence, the car
and its owner would have continued to be detained and the
officer would still have found the methamphetamine.”
DeLuca, 269 F.3d at 1133. Therefore, Defendant
Yargee's Motion to Suppress, Doc. 1128, is DENIED.
 The Court denied Defendant Potts'
motion (Doc. 1136) to join this Motion to Suppress because
Potts lacks standing. See Doc. 1266. Defendant Brown
did not join this Motion, nor would he be able to show
standing. See Docs. 1138, 1139.
 Sergeant Morgan testified that one
passenger told an officer they were headed to Tulsa, whereas
another said they were headed to a different location.
Additionally, a passenger allegedly said they were driving to
pick up his uncle, even though the vehicle was already at
capacity with five passengers.
 Morgan also testified that had he been
able to disclose and rely on the wiretap evidence, he would
have conducted a probable cause search of the car even before
the drug-sniffing dog arrived. The Court will not speculate
whether probable cause existed when officers first initiated
the stop. Reasonable suspicion was enough to conduct the
stop, and the “tolerable duration” of that stop
is “determined by the seizure's
‘mission.'” Rodriguez v. United
States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614 (2015) (quoting
Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2005)).
Either mission, in light of officers' observations during
the encounter, justified the twenty minute stop in this case.
The Court also declines to decide whether the manner in which
the stop was effectuated- handcuffing the passengers and
placing them in separate vehicles before the dog
arrived-constituted an unconstitutional arrest, rather than a
valid “Terry stop, ” Knowles v.