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United States v. Wilkerson

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 25, 2015


          For Willie L Wilkerson, Defendant: Daniel W Stiller, Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin Inc, Milwaukee, WI.

         For USA, Plaintiff: Stephen A Ingraham, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Department of Justice (ED-WI), Office of the U.S. Attorney, Milwaukee, WI.


         HON. RUDOLPH T. RANDA, United States District Judge.

         This 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 Joseph

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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.

         This 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.

         On 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. at 9.

         Officer 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.

         After 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 the arrest.

         At the 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 handcuffs.

         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

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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 ...

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