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State v. Mendoza

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

August 22, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Juan A. Mendoza, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas No. 17CR-2897

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Sheryl L. Prichard, for appellee.

          Yeura R. Venters, Public Defender, and George M. Schumann, for appellant.

         Argued:

          Sheryl L. Prichard.

          George M. Schumann.

          DECISION

          DORRIAN, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Juan A. Mendoza, appeals from a judgment of conviction and sentence entered by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to jury verdicts of guilty on drug possession, drug trafficking, and weapons charges. Because we conclude the trial court did not err by denying Mendoza's motion to suppress, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} Mendoza was indicted on one count of aggravated trafficking in methamphetamine, one count of aggravated possession of methamphetamine, one count of trafficking in heroin, one count of possession of heroin, one count of aggravated trafficking in fentanyl, one count of aggravated possession of fentanyl, and two counts of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle. Each of the drug charges also carried a firearm specification. The charges against Mendoza arose from a police search of a vehicle Mendoza was traveling in and a search of his residence. Mendoza moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the vehicle stop and the search of his residence, arguing police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle and that the search warrant was obtained based on evidence seized during the improper vehicle stop.

         {¶ 3} Detective Anthony Garrison of the Columbus Division of Police testified at the suppression hearing regarding the circumstances leading to the vehicle stop and search warrant. Detective Garrison stated that in November 2016 Columbus police apprehended Juan Carrillo, a fugitive from justice in Texas, where he previously had been arrested with 30 pounds of methamphetamine. After the November 2016 arrest, Carrillo agreed to an interview with Columbus police. Carrillo admitted to trafficking in heroin and methamphetamine and that he had approximately 2 pounds of methamphetamine, .50 a kilogram of heroin, and a shotgun at his residence. Detective Garrison further testified that Carrillo indicated he "was in fear of his family, so he was [in Ohio] trafficking in methamphetamine and heroin to pay off the $300, 000 debt to the cartel." (June 11, 2018 Tr. at 14-15.) Carrillo consented to a search of his residence where police recovered 2.6 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.3 pounds (equivalent to 0.59 kilograms) of heroin, and a loaded shotgun. Carrillo also told police he had a partner in his drug trafficking activities. Carrillo indicated the partner was a Mexican who went by the nickname "Pinky." Carrillo stated Pinky lived on Hilltonia Avenue and that he stored heroin and methamphetamine at that address. Carrillo further stated Pinky drove a dark blue Chevrolet Malibu and traveled with two 9mm pistols, which he stored in the glove box of the car while in the vehicle.

         {¶ 4} Police detectives took Carrillo to the address, where he pointed out Pinky's house. There was no dark blue Chevrolet Malibu present at the time, but police set up surveillance on the address. When the vehicle did not appear, police terminated surveillance for the day. The following morning, police resumed surveillance and found the dark blue Chevrolet Malibu in the driveway of the house. A registration search indicated the vehicle was registered to a business. At some point, a Caucasian woman and two Latino men exited the house. The woman got into the driver's seat of the Malibu; one of the men got into the front passenger's seat and the other got into the back seat. The surveillance continued as the Malibu left the property. Detective Garrison testified the driver of the Malibu committed two traffic infractions while the vehicle was being followed. Ultimately, the Malibu was stopped by a marked police vehicle. Mendoza was seated in the front passenger seat of the Malibu and two 9mm handguns were recovered from the glove box of the vehicle. Based on the information provided by Carrillo and the firearms recovered during the stop of the vehicle, Detective Garrison obtained a search warrant for the residence on Hilltonia Avenue. Pursuant to the search warrant, police recovered various drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine.

         {¶ 5} The trial court denied Mendoza's motion to suppress, finding there was reasonable suspicion for an investigative stop of the Malibu based on Carrillo's statements to police. The trial court also found the traffic infractions justified a stop of the Malibu. The case proceeded to a jury trial and the jury returned guilty verdicts on all eight charges contained in ...


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