Traffic stop, frisk could lead to lengthy prison sentence

A New London man with a lengthy criminal history is expected to plead guilty to illegal firearm charges in U.S. District Court now that a judge has ruled that Norwich police were justified in frisking him during a December 2012 traffic stop.

Nestor Pagan, also known as Naeem Medina, 30, is expected to plead guilty before Judge Alfred V. Covello on Oct. 23. He may be sentenced as an armed career criminal and faces 15 years to life in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Covello recently denied a motion by federal defender Gary D. Weinberger to suppress from evidence a Ruger .380 caliber pistol, its serial number obliterated, that Norwich Police Officer Mark Dean found in Pagan’s right jacket pocket while frisking him during the traffic stop.

Pagan, who is in custody at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., was a back seat passenger in a car that Norwich Police Officer Sean Sullivan pulled over on Dec. 2, 2012, for failing to use headlights. Later that month, a federal grand jury indicted Pagan on one count of possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon and one count of possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number,

Weinberger claimed in his motion to suppress evidence that the stop was unconstitutional because Dean did not have reasonable suspicion to frisk Pagan. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah P. Karwan argued that it was a justified search, based in part on the responding officers’ knowledge of Pagan and the other passengers’ criminal histories, the fact that the car’s driver did not pull over right away when signaled by police and the nervous behavior of a front seat passenger.

Judge Covello denied the motion to suppress following a July 30 hearing, writing that given the totality of the circumstances, Dean had reasonable suspicion to conduct a frisk.

“Specifically, these facts would lead a reasonably prudent person to suspect that the defendant was armed and dangerous,” Covello wrote.


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