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Moscoso v. Cook

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 20, 2019

REMBER Y. MOSCOSO, Petitioner,




         Petitioner, a state prisoner, brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter is before the Court on the Petition, Respondent's Return of Writ, and the exhibits of the parties. For the reasons that follow, the Undersigned RECOMMENDS that the Petition be DENIED and this action be DISMISSED.


         Petitioner challenges his convictions after a trial in the Muskingum County Court of Common Pleas on trafficking in drugs and fabrication of a vehicle with a hidden compartment.

         The Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals summarized the facts and procedural history of the case as follows:

{¶ 2} On April 9, 2017, the Muskingum County Grand Jury indicted appellant on one count of possession of drugs (methamphetamines) in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A), a felony of the first degree. The count was accompanied by forfeiture and major drug offender specifications. Appellant also was indicted on one count of trafficking in drugs (methamphetamines) in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2), a felony of the first degree, with major drug offender and forfeiture specifications and one count of fabrication of a vehicle with a hidden compartment in violation of R.C. 2923.241(C), a felony of the second degree. Because appellant was determined to be indigent, the trial court appointed counsel to represent him. At his arraignment on August 16, 2017, appellant entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.
{¶ 3} On October 11, 2017, appellant filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence, seeking to suppress “any and all evidence obtained in the course of, as a result of, and subsequent to, the arrest of Defendant and the search of his hotel room...” Appellant argued, in part, that the search of his hotel room was improper due to lack of consent and/or lack of a search warrant. Appellee filed a response to the Motion to Suppress on October 24, 2017. A suppression hearing was held on November 10, 2017.
{¶ 4} At the hearing, Detective Adam Hoskinson of the Licking County Sheriff's Office testified that he was assigned to the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement (“CODE”) Task Force. He testified that on July 11, 2017, he was in a marked cruiser when he noticed a vehicle following too close to a gasoline tanker truck in front of it. He testified that the vehicle later changed lanes but did not “signal for at least 100 feet” before it did so. Transcript of November 10, 2017 hearing at 15. Detective Hoskinson testified that he initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle which was a silver Kia Sportage with Illinois plates which had been rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in the name of Amber Connor. The following testimony was adduced when he was asked if the registration came back with anything of note to him:
{¶ 5} A: ...[T]he Illinois plate, it came back as a rental vehicle. Rental vehicles have stickers, they are like bar codes on them usually in several places. Typically either the front window, the side passenger window, or on the rear window. I did not see any of these stickers on the vehicle, so that raised a lot of suspicions to me like why is that; and with my training and education, it tells me that a lot of the times the drug traffickers, drug couriers will remove those stickers to make it appear that somebody actually is private ownership of the vehicle to blend in with traffic.
{¶ 6} Q: Okay. Through your training and experience, do drug couriers oftentimes use rental vehicles?
{¶ 7} A: Yes, they like to use rental cars, one, because of the seizure clause, if they get caught. Two, they are dependable cars, you know, they would rather drive a 2016, 2017 car over 2005 or 2010 because they are newer and more dependable, and they blend in better.
{¶ 8} Transcript of November 10, 2017 hearing at 16.
{¶ 9} After he pulled the vehicle over and approached the passenger's side, Detective Hoskinson immediately smelled an “odor, abundant amount of raw marijuana coming from inside the vehicle” Transcript of November 10, 2017 hearing at 16-17. He testified that he could observe marijuana flakes throughout the center console area of the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle, Jose DeJesus Barragan Buenrostro, consented to a search of the same and of his person and had flakes of marijuana on his shirt and pants. The Detective located three hotel key cards to the Quality Inn in Zanesville, Ohio on Buenrostro's person. A search of the vehicle yielded a Quality Inn hotel receipt for room 324 in the hotel which was in Zanesville, Ohio.
The name on the receipt was appellant Rember Moscoso. A large bag with two or three ounces of suspected marijuana was found in the center console. When he opened up the rear cargo area of the Kia, Detective Hoskinson located a spare tire sitting on the carpeted area and noticed that the lug pattern on the spare tire was for four lugs when the tires on the vehicle had five lugs. Because he was concerned that there could be a hidden compartment in the tire, he examined the tire and saw that there was a rectangular cut with a flap sticking up on the tire. He testified that this was a common way of transporting illegal narcotics or contraband. There was nothing inside the compartment, but a residue of methamphetamine was later found inside the tire. Also in the vehicle, a traffic citation from Oklahoma City that had been issued in the name of Hector Gomez was located. Buenrostro, who did not have a driver's license, was arrested on an outstanding ICE holder and the hidden compartment violation.
{¶ 10} Detective Hoskinson then contacted Detective Mike Patrick with the Zanesville Police Department who is also a Detective with the Zanesville/Muskingum County Drug Unit to follow up with the hotel because he thought that there might be drugs in the hotel room.
Detective Todd Kanavel of the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office who is also an agent with CODE, testified that he followed up with the hotel at the direction of Detective Patrick. He testified that the hotel manager told him that appellant had checked into room 324 on July 8, 2017 but had transferred to room 210 on July 11, 2017 to save money. Detective Kanavel and Detective Patrick then went to room 210 at approximately 3:30 p.m. on July 11, 2017 and knocked on the door. They could hear at least one male voice inside the room talking. Detective Kanavel identified himself and Detective Patrick to appellant and asked to talk to him. Appellant, according to Detective Patrick, invited them into the room. When the Detectives entered the room, they saw Hector Gomez also was in the room laying on the bed. Both Gomez and appellant provided California IDs. Appellant already knew about Buenrostro's arrest and asked if this had anything to with their friend Jose, who had been arrested with the marijuana. The Detectives indicted that it did and appellant said that the marijuana in the car was all that they had, Detective Kanavel testified that both men, when asked indicated that they did not have any drugs or guns in the room and when he asked them individually if they could check through the room for guns and drugs they consented. Approximately $15, 000 in U.S. currency was located in a black bag that appellant later identified as his. Appellant stated that the money was used to pay MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters. The two men told Detective Kanavel that they had flown from California into Akron on July 10, 2017 looking for MMA fighters. The Detective, however, knew that this was a lie because they had checked into the hotel on July 8th. Appellant also claimed that, in Akron, a woman named Amber met them and rented a car for them.
{¶ 11} Detective Kanavel testified that the amount of money found concerned him, so he contacted Detective Romano of the Newark Police Department who was with CODE. He then told the two men that Detective Romano wanted to talk to them and they said that it would not be a problem. Neither man objected to the Detectives remaining in the room while waiting the 30 to 45 minutes that it would take for Detective Romano to arrive from Newark. When Detective Romano arrived, he spoke with appellant and Gomez individually. The two gave conflicting stories about how and when they traveled to Ohio. Both men were then arrested for further investigation into the marijuana that was located in the car. When they were asked if they wanted the Detectives to clear out all of their stuff and put it into bags so that they could get their $250.00 hotel deposit back and have the stuff transported to Licking County along with them, where further investigation was to be conducted, the two men agreed and the Detectives started gathering their belongings. As they were gathering up the belongings, Detective Romano found an unzipped black duffle bag full of methamphetamine under one of the beds that appellant had been sitting on. The methamphetamine was in 13 gallon-size zip lock bags. When asked, he testified that the men never revoked his permission to be in the room or their consent for him to search for anything. Romano testified that in a cabinet behind a microwave, he found a styrofoam coffee cup containing what looked like methamphetamine.
{¶ 12} The trial court, as memorialized in a Journal Entry filed on November 16, 2017, denied the Motion to Suppress, holding, in part, that the occupants of the hotel room gave consent to search the room and that no coercive tactics were used and “no claims of false authority made.”
{¶ 13} Thereafter, on November 28, 2017, appellant entered a plea of no contest to possession of drugs and trafficking in drugs and the specifications and the trial court found appellant guilty. The charge of fabrication of a vehicle with a hidden compartment was tried to the bench. No testimony was taken, but rather the parties stipulated to the facts. The parties stipulated that Detective Hoskinson stopped Jose Barragan Buenrostro on July 11, 2017 for a traffic violation and found an altered tire in the cargo section of the vehicle driven by him. They stipulated that the spare tire located in the vehicle did not match the lug pattern on the vehicle and that there was “a purposeful cut the outside of the discovered tire giving access to its interior. Inside the cut tire was methamphetamine residue”. Transcript from November 28, 2017 at 48. The parties also stipulated that the Detectives discovered a plastic baggie containing marijuana in the center console of the vehicle and that a baggie was found stowed in the trunk compartment where the spare tire normally would have been. There was a stipulation that “Detectives Hoskinson, Romano, Kanavel, and Patrick would testify that this baggie would match the type characteristics of the baggies of methamphetamine later discovered in Zanesville and for which the defendants have already pled no contest.” Transcript from November 28, 2017 at 49. The parties also stipulated that the phone found on Barragan contained videos containing recorded conversations between Barragan and appellant and Gomez about methamphetamine. The trial court found appellant guilty of the fabrication of a vehicle with a hidden compartment charge.
{ΒΆ 14} Appellant on January 29, 2018, filed a Motion to Waive Mandatory Fine due to indigency. Pursuant to an Entry filed on January 31, 2018, the trial court ordered that for purposes of sentencing, Counts One and Two would merge and appellant would be sentenced under Count Two, and sentenced appellant to a mandatory term of eleven years and imposed mandatory fine of $10, 000.00 and to a stated prison term of four years on Count Three. The trial court ordered that the prison sentences be served ...

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