N.D.Ill.: Officer’s embellishments of drugs involved told to others didn’t undermine the real PC that existed to stop def

Defendant’s conversations were picked up on a wiretap and concerned his marijuana dealing and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Despite officer embellishments in other types of drugs defendant was involved in shared with other officers (heroin, etc.), the court finds that probable cause still existed for the stop and search based on information from the wiretap. United States v. Edwards, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30537 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 27, 2019):

These mischaracterizations and embellishments are extremely concerning. Information about the likelihood that an individual will be armed and about the nature of their suspected criminal conduct bears directly on how law enforcement officers react to that individual’s actions. The mischaracterizations reflected by the record in this case needlessly inflated the perceived threat that Edwards posed, increasing the risk that Edwards or law enforcement officers would be injured because of their interaction. The Court can see no possible justification for such careless handling of information that impacts the safety of both law enforcement officers and the general public.

Although the Court finds these inconsistencies to be troubling, however, the Court does not find that they or other embellishments made from the stand were material for the purpose of this motion. Under the collective knowledge doctrine, it was sufficient for the officers who stopped Edwards to act in objective reliance on the information provided by St. Louis, so long as that information was itself sufficient to support a stop. As previously noted, St. Louis had enough evidence before it to support a reasonable suspicion that Edwards may be engaged in drug trafficking and was a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. St. Louis conveyed these suspicions to the Chicago agents, all of whom were consistent in their understanding that St. Louis suspected that Edwards was engaged in drug trafficking and was potentially armed. These communications of suspicion were sufficient to support the Chicago agent’s decision to stop Edwards, even if the Chicago officers had also been provided with additional, inaccurate information. See Nafzger, 974 F.2d at 912 (recognizing statements that the defendant was suspected of being a member of a stolen car ring and probably had stolen cars at his residence as sufficient to satisfy the collective knowledge doctrine). The inconsistencies previously discussed, although concerning, did not change the fact that St. Louis communicated enough true information to warrant an investigative stop.

The agents who stopped Edwards knew, from both their own investigation and from the information provided by St. Louis, that Edwards had engaged in conversations indicative of drug trafficking, that an individual stopped leaving Edwards’ house was in possession of large amounts of cash, that Edwards had a prior felony conviction and prior convictions for narcotics trafficking, that Edwards had stated that he was in possession of a firearm on the previous day, and that Edwards had been informed that he was being targeted for a robbery. These facts provided a reasonable basis for the belief that Edwards was carrying a firearm in violation of federal law.

Of course, agents could have stopped Edward at any time based on that suspicion. There is no real dispute here why Edwards was stopped when he was. …

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