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United States v. Chaplin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

April 7, 2017



          Greg N. Stivers, United States District Court, Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Objections (DN 33) to the Magistrate Judge's Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (DN 30). For the following reasons, Magistrate Judge Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) is ADOPTED and Defendant's Objections are OVERRULED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 18, 2015, a 911 caller, who was identified as the brother of Defendant Doug Chaplin (“Chaplin”), reported that Chaplin was discharging one or more firearms near the brother's cabin. (R. & R. 2, DN 30). Because Chaplin is a convicted felon, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm. (R. & R. 2). The 911 dispatcher relayed the contents of the call to the reporting units. (R. & R. 2). As the Magistrate Judge noted, the information relayed included: (i) a person by Defendant's name was shooting guns at or behind a residence; (ii) Chaplin is a convicted felon who is very dangerous and has used methamphetamine in the past; (iii) he may have been shooting automatic weapons; (iv) information about the scene of the shooting; (v) an apparent statement by Chaplin that he would not go back to jail; (vi) a report of hearing ten to twelve shots per minutes, and that weapons are of four different calibers, including potentially a shotgun; and (vii) two males were leaving the cabin in a maroon Toyota 4Runner at a high rate of speed and the direction they were traveling. (R. & R. 2-3 (citing Hr'g Ex. 1A)).

         Detective Rusty Anderson (“Detective Anderson”) of the Barren County Sheriff's Office was the first reporting officer to encounter the burgundy Toyota 4Runner operated by Chaplin traveling in the opposite direction. (R. & R. 3). Detective Anderson radioed his observations to the other units and turned around to pursue the vehicle. (R. & R. 3). The other responding units, which included Deputy Chris Wyatt (“Deputy Wyatt”), Deputy Mike Houchens (“Deputy Houchens”), Detective Eric Guffey (“Detective Guffey”), and Trooper B.J. Eaton pulled over to await Chaplin, and after he passed, the units pursued him with their lights and sirens activated. (R. & R. 3). Chaplin then turned off Burkesville Road onto Kino Road at what the Magistrate Judge characterized as a slow-speed chase at a speed of ten to fifteen miles per hour. (R. & R. 3). Approximately one mile later, Chaplin stopped at his mother's residence. (R. & R. 3). Both Defendant and his passenger denied any awareness of the police pursuit because Chaplin had the car stereo playing at a high volume. (R. & R. 4).

         When the vehicle came to a stop, the officers exited their vehicles and took defensive positions with weapons drawn. (R. & R. 4). After Chaplin was ordered to exit the vehicle, he left the vehicle several minutes later with his hands in the air. (R. & R. 4). The officers ordered him to walk back towards the officers, and then Chaplin was handcuffed. (R. & R. 4). No weapons or contraband were found on Defendant when he was searched. (R. & R. 4).

         According to Deputy Wyatt's testimony, he asked Chaplin about the location of the firearms after Defendant was handcuffed. (R. & R. 4). While Chaplin initially denied possessing any weapons, he eventually admitted that there were weapons in the back of the Toyota 4Runner. (R. & R. 4). During the evidentiary hearing, Trooper Eaton also recalled hearing Chaplin tell another officer that the firearms were in the back of the vehicle. (R. & R. 4). No one disputes that the exchange about the location of the firearms occurred before Chaplin received a Miranda warning. (R. & R. 4).

         Deputy Wyatt had to obtain assistance from Chaplin to open the rear hatch of the vehicle. (R. & R. 4). Deputy Wyatt testified that the firearms were in plain view, but he could not otherwise see the firearms until the hatch was opened. (R. & R. 4). Chaplin has disputed Deputy Wyatt's recollection of that event and testified that he only told the officers that the lock did not work. (R. & R. 4-5).

         Detective Anderson, Deputy Houchens, and Deputy Guffey were responsible for removing the passenger from the vehicle. (R. & R. 5). During the hearing, Deputy Guffey testified that he observed a digital scale on top of the center console and an empty handgun holster between the front and rear seats in plain view. (R. & R. 5). After the search of the vehicle, the officers found additional physical evidence to support the crimes charged. (R. & R. 5).


         In United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598 (6th Cir. 2001), the Sixth Circuit articulated the proper standard of review for objections to a ruling or recommendation by a Magistrate Judge, stating:

[Section] 636(b) creates two different standards of review for district courts when a magistrate court's finding is challenged in district court. A district court shall apply a “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard of review for the “nondispositive” preliminary measures of § 636(b)(1)(A). Conversely, “dispositive motions” excepted from § 636(b)(1)(A), such as motions for summary judgment or for the suppression of evidence, are governed by the de novo standard.

Id. at 603 (emphasis added) (internal citation omitted) (citation omitted). “When a magistrate's findings and recommendations rest upon the evaluation of the credibility of a witness, the district court is not required to rehear the testimony in order to conduct a de novo determination of the issues.” United States v. Bermudez, No. 99-6097, 2000 WL 1871676, at *3 (6th Cir. Dec. 11, 2000) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980)). “Credibility determinations of the magistrate judge who personally listened to the testimony . . . should be accepted unless in [its] de novo review of the record [the district court] finds a reason to question the magistrate judge's assessment.” United States v. Johnson, No. 10-20176, 2011 WL 3844194, at *2 (W.D. Tenn. Aug. 30, 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citations omitted).

         III. ...

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