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United States v. Gonzalez

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

November 19, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF
v.
ISMAEL GONZALEZ, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of Defendant Ismael Gonzalez to suppress, to which the United States responded in opposition. (Docket # 255, 259). The Court referred the matter to the undersigned magistrate judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. (Docket # 261).

         On October 1, 2018, the undersigned conducted a telephonic status conference at which Gonzalez and the United States discussed the fact that the motion (Docket # 255) argues that the search exceeded the scope of the warrant and that the response argues that Gonzalez lacks Fourth-Amendment standing to object to the search (Docket # 259). The parties agreed that, if Gonzalez lacks standing, an evidentiary hearing on Gonzalez' motion is unnecessary. The parties further agreed that the best way to proceed would be to allow Gonzalez to file a supplemental brief in support of standing and allow the United States to respond.[1] Gonzalez and the United States filed their supplemental briefs. (Dockets # 265, 268).

         Because Gonzalez lacks standing to object to the search, the RECOMMENDATION will be that the Court DENY Gonzalez' motion to suppress (Docket # 255).

         Procedural history

         Authorities obtained a warrant to search an auto repair shop located at 6309 Strawberry Lane in Louisville, Kentucky, which was the target of a drug-trafficking investigation. (Docket # 278, p. 1). The warrant authorized search of the shop's building and grounds. (Docket # 255, p. 1). Authorities executed the warrant on July 2, 2016, and the search resulted in discovery of incriminating cocaine and heroin in a truck parked on the shop's grounds. (Docket # 259, p. 1). The undersigned submitted a prior report recommending denial of Gonzalez' motion to suppress. (Docket # 271).

         Defendant Carlos Catalan filed a motion to join Gonzalez' motion to suppress (Docket # 266), and the United States responded in opposition (Docket # 268). The undersigned construed Catalan's motion as an independent motion to suppress (not dependent on whether Gonzalez is entitled to suppression)[2] and ordered further briefing. (Docket # 274). Catalan and the United States filed supplemental briefs. (Dockets # 276, 278).

         The prior report recommending denial of Gonzalez' motion to suppress inadvertently and erroneously also recommended denial of Catalan's motion to join Gonzalez' motion. (See report at Docket # 271, p. 4 referring to Catalan's motion at Docket # 266). The undersigned intended to analyze Gonzalez' motion and Catalan's motion separately. Because the error has resulted in confusion, the undersigned shall (on today's date): 1) withdraw the prior report recommending denial of Gonzalez' motion (Docket # 271); 2) submit the present report recommending denial of Gonzalez' motion; and 3) submit a report recommending denial of Catalan's motion. The present report differs from the prior report in that it incorporates additional factual information learned in the further briefing on Catalan's motion (Docket # 276, 278), which clarifies and simplifies the analysis.

         The facts surrounding the search

         The recitation of the facts surrounding the July 2, 2016 search at 6309 Strawberry Lane given by Gonzalez and the United States are consistent. However, the United States adds relevant facts. The United States submitted a sworn statement from Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Jennifer Traud to the effect that Defendant Oscar Argueta owned the truck that contained the incriminating drugs. (Docket # 268, p. 4). Additionally, the United States submitted a disc marked “aerial surveillance July 2, 2016, ” which supports its recitation of the facts. (Docket # 277). According to the United States, the aerial surveillance footage was provided to the Defendants in discovery. (Docket # 276, p. 2).

         The United States argues that Gonzalez lacks standing to object to the search. (Dockets # 259, 268). Because Gonzalez carries the burden of proof on the issue of standing, United States v. Mathis, 738 F.3d 719, 729 (6th Cir. 2013), and because the United States has submitted evidence in support of its recitation of the facts going beyond mere argument, this report will rely on additional, relevant facts given by the United States.

         Catalan leased and operated an auto repair shop on the 6309 Strawberry Lane property. (Docket # 278, 266, 268). Catalan was expecting a tractor-trailer truck that needed to have its brakes repaired. (Docket # 278). At the time of the search, Argueta had just arrived with and parked his truck on the shop's grounds.

         According to the United States, the disk marked “aerial surveillance July 2, 2016” (Docket # 277) shows that law enforcement officers entered the property through an open gate and “approached Argueta's truck [only] seconds after [Argueta had] arrived” on the property. (Docket # 276, p. 2). “Argueta was alone in his truck, with the engine still running and did not exit the truck before law enforcement arrived.” (Id.). “Argueta consented to the search of his truck.” (Id.). “Argueta told the agents where the drugs were hidden in the driver's truck compartment.” (Id.).[3] The surveillance video shows “an open gate to the lane alongside the auto shop, which remained open at the time law enforcement approached.” (Id.).

         Legal standards governing standing ...


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