Attorneys are expected to argue this week for the suppression of evidence in the case of two Canadian men arrested in February on charges of attempting to smuggle more than $12 million in cocaine and methamphetamines across Mohave County.
The trial of Beyan Beyan, 30, and Samatar Ahmed, 36, is scheduled to begin Nov. 2. The defendants were arrested during a traffic stop by multiple law enforcement agencies on Feb. 20, after a sheriff’s office K-9 unit allegedly detected the presence of drugs in their trailer. During the investigation, officers allegedly found about 370 pounds of cocaine and 220 pounds of methamphetamine in Beyan’s and Ahmed’s possession. Defense attorneys Shawn Hamp and Brad Rideout are now questioning the legitimacy of the traffic stop itself, and requesting that all evidence found during that traffic stop be suppressed in Mohave County Superior Court.
And according to Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jonathan Robinson, that evidence may be compelling. In addition to the alleged contraband, Robinson says the state’s evidence includes text massages allegedly recovered from Beyan’s mobile phone.
“There are text messages on (Beyan’s) phone between him and the codefendant, regarding making an exchange at the border, and being careful because (the Arizona Department of Transportation) did a search on another driver,” Robinson said in his argument against precluding the alleged evidence found on Beyan’s phone.
“Further, there are videos and photos of regular loads in the vehicle that are on the defendant’s phone. The text messages, photos and images all indicated that the defendant was aware that he was transporting items that were illegal.”
According to Hamp, who represents Ahmed in the case, law enforcement officers were not within their rights to search the defendants’ vehicle at the time of the traffic stop, nor did officers have cause to believe a traffic offense had been committed before that stop occurred. Hamp added in his motion that once the traffic stop began, officers of the Mohave Area General Narcotics Enforcement Team cared little for any traffic investigation in the case, and more for the possible recovery of suspected drugs in their vehicle.
“An officer conducting traffic enforcement may stop and detain a person only so long as it is necessary to investigate an actual or suspected traffic violation,” Hamp said. “Because the suspected traffic infraction is the purpose of the traffic stop, it may last no longer than is necessary to effectuate that response.”
Hamp says that under the law, officers may not “unreasonably” prolong a stop, nor to ask if passengers in a vehicle are in possession of contraband. According to Hamp, officers had no reason to suspect criminal activity by Beyan or Ahmed prior to the search of their trailer – which officers performed without the benefit of a warrant.
“Ahmed’s and Beyan’s cooperation cannot be considered consent,” Hamp said in his motion. “Consent must be knowing and voluntary and not the product of police coercion … Consent given after an unlawful detention is tainted, and any evidence obtained pursuant to the consent is inadmissible.”
Hamp further argued that the alleged “alert” given by law enforcement K-9s at the scene did not constitute probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of the defendants’ vehicle.
“The state respectfully requests this court deny the motion (to suppress),” Robinson said. “(Officers) had a reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop, and had a certified K-9 unit do a sniff of the vehicle while a written warning was being processed. The K-9 alerted to the presence of drugs, giving law enforcement probable cause to detain the vehicle further and search the vehicle. The defendant’s motion to suppress should be denied.”
The arguments are scheduled to be weighed by Mohave Superior Court Judge Derek Carlisle at an Oct. 15 evidenciary hearing.
The trial of Beyan and Ahmed is scheduled to begin Nov. 2.