United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Willie L Wilkerson, Defendant: Daniel W Stiller, Federal
Defender Services of Wisconsin Inc, Milwaukee, WI.
USA, Plaintiff: Stephen A Ingraham, LEAD ATTORNEY, United
States Department of Justice (ED-WI), Office of the U.S.
Attorney, Milwaukee, WI.
RUDOLPH T. RANDA, United States District Judge.
matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph for
proceedings to determine whether City of Milwaukee police
officers had probable cause to arrest Willie Wilkerson for
loitering. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, Judge
issued a recommendation answering that question in the
negative. The United States objects. For the reasons that
follow, the Court finds that Wilkerson's arrest was
supported by probable cause. Therefore, Wilkerson's
motion to suppress is denied.
Court is charged with conducting a de novo review of
" any part of the magistrate judge's disposition
that has been properly objected to." Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(3). The government objects to Judge Joseph's legal
analysis, but does not object to her findings of fact, which
are set forth at pages 2-6 of her Recommendation. ECF No. 57.
What follows is a condensed version of those facts.
September 19, 2014, at 3:30 p.m., Officer Eric Rom was
conducting surveillance at 1907 North 29th Street in
Milwaukee. Officer Rom was surveilling that residence because
he had obtained a search warrant for Wilkerson's
residence at 4226 West Lloyd Street, he knew that Wilkerson
spent time at 1907 North 29th Street, and he believed that
Wilkerson sold drugs at that location. Officer Rom was hoping
to arrest Wilkerson in order to have an easier and safer time
executing the search warrant. Even so, Officer Rom was not
bent on arresting Wilkerson no matter what. ECF No. 53, Tr.
Rom saw seven or eight people standing in front of the 29th
Street house, including Wilkerson and Pablo Johnson, whom
Officer Rom had been " dealing with" for years.
Officer Rom described the area where the group was standing
as " two houses up from the corner ... it's a common
area for a long time now ... [e]verybody just hangs out
there. There's a lot of drug sales that go on
there." Officer Rom observed the following activities:
the group of people standing outside, people coming on and
off the porch, people coming out to the street itself, and
several passing cars stopping and having conversations with
the people in the group.
observing Wilkerson for approximately 25 minutes, Officer Rom
believed that Wilkerson was either loitering or trespassing
because Officer Rom knew there was a no trespassing and no
loitering sign posted on the house. Officer Rom did not want
to compromise his undercover vehicle, so he returned to the
police station, retrieved his normal squad car, and informed
his sergeant that Wilkerson was outside the 29th Street
residence. Ultimately, the information gathered by Officer
Rom was relayed to Officer Lyndsey Peters and Officer Ryan
McElroy, who went to the 29th Street location to effectuate
29th Street residence, Officer Peters and Officer McElroy
exited their squad car and approached Wilkerson on foot.
After bringing Wilkerson over to the curb, they spoke with
him briefly and called for a wagon. Neither Officer Peters
nor her partner explained anything to Wilkerson at the time
in an effort to downplay the situation because of the number
of individuals at the location. Once the wagon arrived,
Wilkerson was told that he was under arrest and placed in
determining whether probable cause existed at the time of a
warrantless arrest, the Court must ask if " at that
moment the facts and circumstances within [the officers']
knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy
information were sufficient to warrant a prudent man in
believing that the [defendant] had committed or was
committing an offense." Beck v. State of Ohio,
379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964).
Probable cause is a " practical, nontechnical
conception" that deals with " the factual and
practical considerations of everyday life on
which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians,
act." Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 370,
124 S.Ct. 795, 157 L.Ed.2d 769 (2003) (quoting Illinois
v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 231, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d
527 (1983)). Courts examine the events leading up to the
arrest, and then decide " whether these historical
facts, viewed from the standpoint of an objectively