The lies told by Detroit, Michigan police officers at a traffic stop were so outrageous that a federal judge had no option but to let the motorist walk on firearms charges last week. US District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith was outraged at the conduct of Officers Quinton Jackson, Xiong Vang and Matthew Morrison who stopped and searched Jaquane Smith on the east side of the city on August 20, 2017.
Ricardo Young was in a blue Chevy pickup truck parked on Brentwood Street surrounded by two other men. That is the only point on which all three officers agreed. The rest of the accounts of what happened next differed in key details. Officer Vang said he drove up to the truck and told them to “keep it moving” because they were impeding traffic. He then claimed when Smith turned around, a handgun-shaped bulge appeared in his pocket. Officer Vang did not use the code word “he’s ripped” meant to inform the other officers about his suspicion that the suspect is armed.
Officer Jackson asked the men if he could search them for guns, and he claimed they said yes. No mention of the consent was made in the police report. Smith was found carrying a Smith and .38 caliber Wesson Model 60 revolver that he was prohibited from carrying.
Officer Smith testified that he was the one who drove up to the truck and asked if anyone called called in a disturbance report. He then said that one of them had to have a weapon, because his detection “wand” had gone off — a ruse he used to trick people into admitting they had a weapon. The three men denied they had anything, but they were searched anyway. The pickup driver, Young, largely confirmed this account. Smith argued the search violated the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches, and Judge Goldsmith agreed.
“One critical factual assertion — that Smith consented to the search — is totally without merit and tarnishes the entirety of the government’s case,” Judge Goldsmith ruled. “Although Vang and Jackson testified that the Smith and the others present consented, the court finds that testimony utterly lacking in credibility.”
Because consent is such a critical factor in resolving a court challenge, the judge found it impossible to believe that the officers would fail to mention it in their police report if they had actually received it.
“The explanation offered for its omission — that Vang ‘believed at the time that we already had enough probable cause,’ — is particularly lame,” Goldsmith noted. “No reasonable officer would have omitted reference to the ‘gold standard’ for validating his search just to save a few keystrokes in typing up a report. The absence of such a fundamental ‘fact’ is eloquent evidence that the alleged fact never occurred.”
The court concluded that the officers wilfully lied about what happened, and the lack of consistency in the officers’ accounts destroyed their credibility.
“Because both Vang and Jackson were not truthful at the suppression hearing, the court does not believe other points of their testimony, as it is entitled to do.”
The judge went through every piece of evidence and found flaws in every element of the police account.
“What then is left of the government’s case for opposing suppression?” he asked. “That Smith was in a high crime area at 10:45pm? That hardly suffices to establish reasonable suspicion that Smith was armed and dangerous or that crime was afoot. Those minimal circumstances would describe virtually anyone encountered by police at night in a rough part of town.”
The court ordered the evidence against Smith suppressed. A copy of the decision is available in a 45k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: US v. Smith (US District Court, Eastern District Michigan, 4/12/2018)