U.S. v. VASQUEZ
635 F.3d 889 (2011)
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Alexander VASQUEZ, Jr., Defendant-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued November 5, 2010.
Decided March 14, 2011.
Stephen Chahn Lee (argued), Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Beau B. Brindley, Blair Westover (argued), Attorneys, Shapiro & Brindley, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellant.
Before EVANS, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
EVANS, Circuit Judge.
A jury convicted Alexander Vasquez of conspiring to possess more than 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was subsequently sentenced to serve a term of 240 months. On appeal, Vasquez asks us to reverse his conviction and remand the case for a new trial on several grounds: that the judge (1) should have excluded evidence of his prior drug conviction; (2) should have granted his motion to suppress evidence found in a warrantless search of an automobile; (3) deprived him of a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine a government witness; and (4) should not have admitted recordings of telephone conversations between a defense witness and a co-defendant. We begin with the facts.
Vasquez and two co-defendants, Joel Perez and Carlos Cruz, were arrested in Arlington Heights, Illinois, following a
failed cocaine transaction. The day's events started in the parking lot of a Shell gas station, moved to a nearby parking lot at a Denny's Restaurant, and finally to the shared parking lot of a Walmart and McDonald's. The deal that flopped began several days earlier when Perez contacted Cruz about obtaining a kilogram of cocaine. Cruz then called Alejandro Diaz, whom he knew to be involved in cocaine deals. Cruz, however, didn't know that Diaz was cooperating with law enforcement agents. Cruz, Perez, and Diaz arranged for a deal to go down in Arlington Heights on August 5, 2008.
On the day that it all came tumbling down, Cruz and Perez, with Cruz driving, went to the Shell station for the deal. There, they met Diaz who instructed them to follow him to another location to get the cocaine. Instead, Perez walked to the Denny's parking lot next door where Vasquez was waiting for him in a black Bonneville. Perez slid into the passenger seat of the car and called Cruz on a cell phone telling him that he was not willing to follow Diaz; he wanted to complete the deal at the current location. Cruz then went to the Denny's lot where he was introduced to Vasquez. Shortly thereafter, Diaz called Cruz to find out why they were not following him. Cruz told Diaz that Perez wanted to complete the deal in the parking lot. Perez told Cruz to tell Diaz that "we got the money here." Vasquez repeated the statement, "tell him we got the money here." Cruz hung up with the understanding that Diaz was returning to complete the deal.
Several minutes later, and after Diaz contacted his handler, DEA Agent James Chupik, law enforcement agents surrounded the parking lot and approached the Bonneville to arrest Cruz, Perez, and Vasquez. In addition to several unmarked cars, six officers approached the Bonneville on foot. As the officers approached, Cruz, who was outside of the car, raised his hands in surrender. Vasquez's reaction was not nearly as submissive. He put the Bonneville in reverse, striking two Arlington Heights police cars. He then shifted gears and headed for the exit. Agent Chupik moved in front of the Bonneville, pointed his gun at Vasquez, and commanded him to stop. But Vasquez showed no signs of stopping so Agent Chupik jumped out of the way as the Bonneville sped out of the parking lot heading west onto the eastbound lanes of Algonquin Road.
A few minutes later, police located the Bonneville abandoned in a nearby Walmart parking lot. A bystander told the police he saw two men run from the vehicle toward a McDonald's. An Arlington Heights detective pursued Vasquez and Perez as they ran through the kitchen of the McDonald's and then out the back door.
At that point, Vasquez and Perez split up, each running in a different direction. But the chase was short lived—they were quickly apprehended by Arlington Heights police. The police found a cell phone on Vasquez, and two cell phones on the ground near Perez. Phone records showed that there were calls between Vasquez and both of Perez's phones the day before and the day of the arrest.