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United States v. Gonzalez

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

December 27, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ISMAEL GONZALEZ, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS [R. 255]

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Ismael Gonzalez's Motion to Suppress Illegal Seized Evidence ("Motion to Suppress"). [R. 255] This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Lanny King for a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Fed. Crim. P. 59(b)(1). [R 256, R 261] For the reasons stated herein, the Court adopts Judge King's R & R [R. 281] and denies the defendant's Motion to Suppress.

         In this motion, Defendant Gonzalez asks the Court to suppress evidence seized from the United States' search of a semi-truck that uncovered large quantities of cocaine and heroin, arguing that the search exceeded the permissible scope of the search warrant. [R. 255] hi its Response, the United States argues that the defendant lacks standing to challenge the seizure of drugs recovered from this semi-truck. [R. 259] Following a Telephonic Status Conference, the Court requested the parties to file supplemental briefing on the issue of Defendant Gonzalez's standing to challenge the search conducted by law enforcement. [R. 263] Defendant Gonzalez filed a Brief in Support of Standing to Challenge Search. [R. 265] Defendant Catalan filed a motion to join Defendant Gonzalez's Motion to Suppress [R. 266]. The United States then filed a Response in opposition to both Defendant Gonzalez's Motion to Suppress and Defendant Catalan's Motion for Joinder. [R. 268]

         In Defendant Gonzalez's supplemental brief, defendant references a 40-minute conversation he had with an unidentified male ("UM") in which he allegedly claimed ownership of the semi-truck in question. [R. 265] The United States responded in opposition. [R. 268] Judge King then issued a report recommending denial of Gonzalez's Motion to Suppress on the grounds that Defendant Gonzalez lacked standing. [R. 271] Defendant Gonzalez filed a timely objection challenging Judge King's Findings of Fact regarding the ownership of the vehicle. [R. 275] However, according to Judge King's revised R & R [R. 281], the prior report "inadvertently and erroneously also recommended denial of Catalan's motion to join Gonzalez' motion." [R. 281] (citing R. 271, at p. 4 referring to Catalan's motion at [R. 266]). According to Judge King, because this "error . . . resulted in confusion" Judge King withdrew the prior R & R [R. 271] and issued two separate reports [R. 281, 282] recommending that this Court deny both Defendant Gonzalez's Motion to Suppress [R. 255] and Defendant Catalan's Motion for Joinder [R. 266]. Judge King further indicated that the revised Gonzalez R & R [R. 281] incorporated "additional factual information learned in the further briefing on [Defendant] Catalan's motion (Docket # 276, 278), which clarifies and simplifies the analysis." [R. 281, at p. 2]

         In the revised R & R, Judge King again recommended that the Court deny Defendant Gonzalez's Motion to Suppress [R. 255] because he lacks standing to object to the search in question. [R. 281] Judge King's R & R instructed the parties to file any specific written objections within fourteen days of the opinion or else waive the right to further review. Id. The time for objections to the magistrate judge's R & R has now run, and no objections have been filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Because no party has objected to the R & R, the Court may adopt it without review. See Thomas v. Am, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985) ("It does not appear that Congress intended to require district court review of a magistrate [judge's] factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard, when neither party objects to those findings.").

         Nevertheless, the Court has conducted its own review of the record and finds no error in Magistrate Judge King's R & R at [R. 281]. Defendant Gonzalez's Objection to the withdrawn R & R (now moot) disputed the finding that Co-Defendant Argueta, rather than Defendant Gonzalez, owned the semi-truck that was searched. See [R. 265, R. 275] Defendant Gonzalez alleges a possessory interest and/or ownership in the semi-truck, based on a conversation with an UM where Gonzalez claimed the truck belonged to him. Id. As Judge King points out, however, the United States submitted a sworn statement from Special Agent Jennifer Traud of the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") that referenced "[p]ublic and law enforcement databases which show[ed] that [Co-Defendant] Oscar Argueta was the owner and registrant of the semi[-truck] (VIN 1FUPDSZBXXDB02522) searched on July 2, 2018, from at least 2013 through 2017." [R. 281, at p. 5] (citing to [R. 268, at p. 4]). These databases listed the addresses of Co-Defendant Argueta's residence and business, Argo Transport, in Houston, Texas. [R. 268, at p. 4] Further, when law enforcement entered the property and approached the semi-truck, Co-Defendant Argueta was alone in the truck with the engine still running, having just arrived on the property. [R. 276, at p.2] As Judge King makes clear, "Gonzalez has not alleged or submitted any proof that, at the time of the search, he, in fact, owned the truck, drove the truck, was a passenger in the truck, or was in possession or control of the truck. He, therefore, has no standing to object to the search of some[one] else's (Argueta's) truck." [R. 281, at p. 5] Since the defendant carries the burden of proof on the issue of standing, the Court agrees with Judge King's analysis: the defendant has not made the appropriate showing that he has standing to challenge the search. United States v. Mathis, 738 F.3d 719, 729 (6th Cir. 2013).

         For the reasons stated herein, and with the Court being otherwise sufficiently advised, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED as follows

         1. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation [R. 281] is ADOPTED as the Opinion of this Court.

         2. The Court DENIES Defendant Gonzalez's Motion to Suppress Illegal Evidence [R. 255], ...


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