United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
JEFFREY J. HELMICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Introduction and Background
judge is tasked with determining whether a piece of evidence
is admissible, the law consistently favors providing the
judge with more information, rather than less, in the
expectation “the judge should receive the evidence and
give it such weight as his judgment and experience
counsel.” United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S.
164, 174 (1974). The omission of information “affecting
[the] credibility” of a given witness unfairly places a
thumb on the scale, particularly when the reliability of that
witness's testimony “may well be determinative of
guilt or innocence.” Giglio v. United States,
405 U.S. 150, 154 (1972).
August 7, 2018, I held a hearing on the motion of Defendant
Ronmetrius D. Scott to suppress evidence obtained during and
following a traffic stop of a vehicle Scott was driving.
(Doc. No. 12). The government presented one witness, Toledo
Police Officer Zack Peterman, who testified concerning
evidence obtained pursuant to an inventory search of
Scott's vehicle prior to the vehicle being towed. I
denied Scott's motion following the hearing. (Doc. No.
to the hearing, Peterman had informed the government, upon
inquiry, that he previously had been removed from the Toledo
Police Department gang unit due to a pursuit violation. In
preparation for trial, the government reviewed Peterman's
Internal Affairs (“IA”) file and learned
Peterman's characterization of the 2016 incident was not
true. (See Doc. No. 41, filed under seal). Further,
the government learned Peterman had failed to disclose a
separate 2017 IA investigation in which Peterman was
suspended for 30 days after it was determined Peterman had
kicked a handcuffed suspect while the individual was lying on
the ground. The government also disclosed two additional
incidents of misconduct involving the use of force against
suspects and an incident in which Peterman failed to follow a
department policy on proper court procedures, all of which
occurred after Peterman's testimony at the suppression
result, Scott seeks to renew his motion to suppress. See
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 678 n.6 (1980)
(“A district court's authority to consider anew a
suppression motion previously denied is within its sound
judicial discretion.”). I conclude there is not
sufficient evidence to establish the inventory search was
permissible under the Fourth Amendment, and I grant
may conduct an inventory search of a vehicle that is being
impounded, without obtaining a warrant, in order to protect
(1) “the owner's property while it remains in
police custody, ” (2) “the police against claims
or disputes over lost or stolen property, ” and (3)
“the police from potential danger.” South
Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 369 (1976). The
inventory search “must be conducted according to
standard police procedures.” United States v.
Smith, 510 F.3d 641, 651 (6th Cir. 2007).
The Toledo Police Department maintains a standard operating
guideline concerning the use of towing of motor vehicles.
(See Gov't's Exhibit 5). That policy
requires officers to impound a vehicle if the driver of the
vehicle “has a Suspended Operator's License,
regardless of the State that issued the suspension or
regardless of the type of suspension.” (§ 2.3.4,
Ex. 5 at 3).
(Doc. No. 24 at 2-3).
Supreme Court has “accorded deference to police
caretaking procedures designed to secure and protect vehicles
and their contents within police custody.” Colorado
v. Bertine, 479 U.S. 367, 372 (1987). The issue of
whether Officer Peterman understood the towing policy, and
whether he applied that policy in this instance
“according to standard police procedures” and not
“for purposes of investigation, ” United
States v. Hockenberry, 730 F.3d 645, 659 (6th Cir. 2013)
(quoting United States v. Jackson, 682 F.3d 448, 455
(6th Cir. 2012)), was pursued extensively during the August 7
suppression hearing. (See Doc. No. 31). My earlier
ruling depended upon my conclusion that Peterman's
testimony established that the inventory search “was
conducted pursuant to and consistent with a written
department policy.” (Doc. No. 24 at 4).
conclusion is no longer tenable. Peterman failed to disclose
an incident in which he was formally disciplined for
improperly using force against a handcuffed suspect, and
perhaps even more troubling, failed to tell the truth
concerning the one incident he did disclose. Though these
omissions do not directly relate to the traffic stop leading
to Scott's arrest, Peterman's failure to disclose the
incidents, as well as the incidents themselves, raise grave
questions about his level of compliance with departmental
policies and his truthfulness. See, e.g., Kyles v.
Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 433, (1995) (stating
“favorable evidence is material, and constitutional
error results from its suppression by the government,
‘if there is a reasonable probability that, had the
evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.'”) (quoting
United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682 (1985)).
his subsequent conduct - including the incident in which he
failed to follow departmental procedures when he submitted an
overtime request for time allegedly spent at a court hearing
that in fact had been cancelled - demonstrates a ...