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United States v. Haldorson

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 23, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Michael P. Haldorson, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued September 26, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:15-cr-00623-1 - Matthew F. Kennelly, Judge.

          Before Bauer, Manion, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.


         Michael Haldorson is a self-proclaimed fireworks enthusiast. But he was also a drug dealer. Haldorson was arrested on his way to a second controlled buy and, along with drugs, officers found three pipe bombs in his car. He was charged with several counts related to drugs, explosives, and a firearm. Before trial, Haldorson filed several motions to suppress evidence, challenging his arrest, the admissibility of his post-arrest statements, and the searches of his car, apartment bedroom, and rented storage locker. All were denied.

         Haldorson proceeded to trial and a jury convicted him on four counts of the seven-count indictment: Count One for distribution of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); Count Two for possession with intent to distribute cocaine, 21 U.S.C.§ 841(a)(1); Count Three for possession of MDMA, or ecstasy, and cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 844(a); and Count Four for possession of an explosive during the commission of a felony, 21 U.S.C. § 844(h)(2). The jury acquitted him on two additional charges and the government dismissed another count at trial. The district court later vacated Count Three because it was a lesser-included offense of Count Two. The district court sentenced Haldorson to a term of imprisonment of 192 months.

         On appeal Haldorson raises three issues. First, Haldorson argues that the district court erred in denying the motions to suppress the evidence seized from his car and his apartment because the officers lacked probable cause to stop and arrest him and there were no exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless search of his apartment bedroom. Second, he asserts that the jury instructions constructively amended Count Four of the indictment, unlawfully carrying an explosive, in violation of the Fifth Amendment by permitting the jury to convict him on a broader basis than the indictment charged. Third, and finally, Haldorson contends that he did not receive a fair trial due to a multitude of alleged mistakes and errors during the investigation and asks us to vacate his convictions.

         We conclude that probable cause supported the arrest, exigent circumstances existed for the search of the bedroom, and Haldorson had a full and fair opportunity to defend himself at trial. We, therefore, affirm the district court's judgment in all respects.

         I. The Arrest and Vehicle Search

         We begin, naturally, with Haldorson's arrest and the resulting search of his vehicle.

         A. Background

         Haldorson was arrested on June 23, 2015, but his case starts a few weeks earlier. Sometime in April or May 2015, Haldorson first came on the radar of Officer Thomas Insley via a confidential informant. Officer Insley was, at the time, a patrol officer with the Village of Rockdale Police Department in Illinois. He was also assigned to a specialized narcotics unit, the Will County Cooperative Police Assistance Team (CPAT)-a collective of officers from local police departments under the umbrella of the Illinois State Police-as an Inspector. (For ease we will use the title of "Officer" for Insley throughout, although he also held the title of "Inspector" during the relevant time period.) CPAT inspectors, in general, conduct narcotics investigations, control informants, and go undercover. Officer Insley was the primary CPAT investigator for Haldorson's case.

         Officer Insley had been working with this particular confidential informant for a few months-a detail we will return to later-when the informant told Officer Insley that he could purchase cocaine from an individual he knew as "Mike Jones." The informant provided Officer Insley with a picture of Mike Jones's vehicle, including the license plate (that read "MKJNZ"), and his telephone number.[1] Officer Insley ran the license plate through a law enforcement database and learned that it was registered to Haldorson. The vehicle information listed on the registration also matched the photograph of Haldorson's car-a black Pontiac G8. Officer Insley then showed the informant a picture of Haldorson, who the informant identified as Mike Jones. At this point, Officer Insley asked the informant to set up a deal.

         On June 1, 2015, the informant contacted Officer Insley and told him that he could make a buy from Haldorson. Officer Insley proceeded to prepare for the controlled purchase by providing the informant with funds to buy the narcotics, wiring the informant with an audio transmitter and recorder to monitor the deal, and setting up a visual surveillance team of other CPAT officers. Before heading to the controlled buy, Officer Insley also searched the informant and his vehicle to make sure that he had no contraband, as is standard in these operations.

         Officer Insley followed the confidential informant to a Walmart parking lot in Joliet, Illinois, where he was going to meet Haldorson, and parked about an aisle over from the informant. Haldorson then arrived, parked next to the informant's car, and the informant got out of his car and into Haldorson's car. At about that same time a customer pulled into the lot and parked in between Officer Insley and Haldorson's car, obstructing Officer Insley's view of the transaction. Not to worry, though, Officer Insley was still able to listen to the deal in realtime from the audio transmitter.

         After the deal went down, Officer Insley observed a black car matching the description of Haldorson's car drive away and relayed to the rest of the surveillance team that the controlled buy was successful and to follow Haldorson's car. Meanwhile, Officer Insley followed the informant to a prearranged location where Officer Insley retrieved the drugs from the informant, as well as re-searched the informant and his vehicle. The confidential informant had purchased 1.7 grams of cocaine from Haldorson in the transaction.

         The surveillance team did not stop Haldorson that evening; the officers eventually lost him when they got stopped at a red light. But the plan was never to stop or arrest Haldorson on June 1st because Officer Insley was just beginning his investigation into Haldorson. Further, Officer Insley testified that if the officers arrested Haldorson immediately after the controlled buy, it would have tipped off Haldorson that he had been set-up by the confidential informant. Officer Insley was using the same informant in other ongoing investigations and did not want to burn the informant's identity.

         From the record it appears that very little was done to advance the Haldorson investigation between the June 1st controlled buy and June 23rd. There were perhaps, though it is somewhat unclear, attempts by the confidential informant to reach out to Haldorson to set up another controlled buy on June 2nd and 5th, but those went nowhere.

         On June 23, 2015, the day at the center of this case, the confidential informant told Officer Insley that he could arrange another drug deal with Haldorson. The plan this time was for the informant to set it up but for officers to stop Haldorson on his way to the deal and arrest him. Stopping and arresting Haldorson before the actual drug deal would, once again, preserve the confidential informant's anonymity. Eventually Haldorson and the informant agreed to meet in the Village of Plainfield, Illinois, specifically at Plainfield Central High School. Officer Insley then arranged for a Plainfield police officer in a marked car to pull Haldorson over.

         Officer Friddle of the Plainfield Police Department positioned himself near the high school and waited for Haldorson to pass by based on a description of Haldorson's vehicle that CPAT officers provided: black Pontiac G8 with a White Sox specialty license plate and red lights in the front grille of the car (that may or may not be illuminated). According to Officer Friddle, he soon saw a black car approaching with red lights in the grille.[2] As it got closer, he could see the White Sox specialty plates too. Officer Friddle pulled out to follow Haldorson's car, activated his emergency lights, and pulled Haldorson over at the entrance of Plainfield Central High School. The stop was pretextual, and Officer Friddle made up some excuses to buy time for CPAT officers to arrive on scene and take over.

         Officer Mario Marzetta, a police officer with the Plainfield Police Department who at the time was also assigned to CPAT, arrived at the traffic stop shortly thereafter and arrested Haldorson. Another officer transported Haldorson to the Plainfield Police Department. Officer Marzetta then also drove Haldorson's vehicle to the Plainfield Police Department and parked it in the sally port, or the garage at the station, where he and another CPAT inspector searched it.

         The officers found numerous drugs-marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, MDMA or ecstasy, prescription pills, psilocybin mushrooms-fireworks, and suspected pipe bombs in Haldorson's car. Upon discovering the pipe bombs, the officers ceased their search and called in agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Cook County Sheriff's Police Bomb Squad. The ATF agents and bomb technicians removed the explosives from the vehicle to a safe area and rendered them safe.

         We pause the story here to address Haldorson's challenge to his arrest and the search of his vehicle.

         B. Analysis

         Haldorson was later indicted on several federal charges. He thereafter moved to suppress, among other evidence, the explosives and narcotics discovered during the vehicle search because the officers lacked probable cause to stop and arrest him. The district court, after holding a two-day evidentiary hearing, denied his motions to suppress. In reviewing the district court's denial of a motion to suppress, we review questions of law de novo and factual findings for clear error. United States v. Cherry,920 F.3d 1126, 1132 (7th Cir. 2019). We must defer to credibility ...

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