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United States v. Sheckles

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

January 25, 2019



          Rebecca Grady Jennings, District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant, Dwayne Sheckles's, two Motions to Suppress. [DE 33, DE 68]. Defendant filed his first Motion to Suppress on January 16, 2018. [DE 33]. Subsequently, after motions for discovery and continuance were filed, an evidentiary hearing was held on April 27, 2018. [DE 55]. A second hearing on the suppression matter was held on May 21, 2018. [DE 58]. Sheckles filed a second Motion to Suppress on August 31, 2018. [DE 68]. Plaintiff, the United States of America, filed timely responses to the Motions to Suppress, [DE 34, 72, 73], and a Reply was filed by Sheckles on September 28, 2018. [DE 76]. On November 11, 2018, United States Magistrate Judge Colin H. Lindsay issued a Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (“R&R”) on the remaining issues, recommending that the Motions to Suppress be denied. [DE 78]. Objections were timely filed by Defendant. [DE 79]. These matters are now ripe for adjudication.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court OVERRULES Defendant's Objections [DE 79], ACCEPTS Magistrate Judge Lindsay's R&R without modification [DE 78] and DENIES Defendant's Motions to Suppress [DE 33, 68].


         Sheckles makes no objections to the R&R's factual findings. [DE 78]. As such, those factual findings are incorporated by reference and relied on as true for purposes of discussing Sheckles's objections to the Magistrate Judge Lindsay's legal analysis.

         A. Standard Of Review.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 59(b)(1), a district court may refer a motion to suppress to a Magistrate Judge to conduct an evidentiary hearing, if necessary, and submit proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of the motion. This Court must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specific proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the proposed findings or recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. Id. The Court, however, need not review, under a de novo or any other standard, those aspects of the report and recommendation to which no specific objection is made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Rather, the Court may adopt the findings and rulings of the Magistrate Judge to which no specific objection is filed. Id. at 151.

         B. Objections To Probable Cause For The Cell Phone Location Tracker.

         Sheckles first objects to “toll analysis” being accepted as contributing to the establishment of probable cause for the cell-phone location tracker instead of being dismissed as wholly conclusory. [DE 79, at 419; DE. 78, at 406]. Sheckles argues that “[t]he magistrate's determination that probable cause existed relied upon the assertion that ‘Rivas-Lopez had contacted a drug recipient in Louisville by calling the target phone.' The issuing judge was not provided with any basis to determine the factual nature of that assertion. . .” [DE 79, at 419]. This is the entirety of Sheckles's objection on this issue. Moreover, this is identical to the argument made by the Defendant in his Motion to Suppress. [DE 33, at 121; 33-2 at 133].

         An “objection . . . that merely reiterates arguments previously presented, does not adequately identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge.” Altyg v. Berryhill, No. 16-11736, 2017 WL 4296604, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 28, 2017). Therefore, Sheckles's repetition of the arguments already made in his Motion to Suppress is insufficient to qualify as an objection. As such, the Court need not conduct a de novo review of the Magistrate Judge's report with regard to Sheckles's first objection. Ells v. Colvin, No. 3:16-CV-00604-TBR, 2018 WL 1513674, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 27, 2018).

         However, even if the Court were to consider the merits of this objection and conduct a de novo review, the R&R is well-reasoned on this issue. When a defendant challenges the constitutionality of a warrant-supported search, the court must “simply . . . ensure that the magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed.” United States v. Laughton, 409 F.3d 744, 747 (6th Cir. 2005). “[G]reat deference” should be accorded to the magistrate's original determination. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 914 (1984). A warrant's supporting affidavit establishes probable cause if it contains, on its face, “facts that indicate a fair probability that evidence of a crime will be located on the premises of the proposed search.” United States v. Frazier, 423 F.3d 526, 531 (6th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations omitted). Those facts must be particularized enough to inform the reviewing magistrate's probable cause determination; “boilerplate recitations designed to meet all law enforcement needs” are inadequate. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 239 (1983); United States v. Weaver, 99 F.3d 1372, 1378 (6th Cir. 1998). Likewise, mere “suspicions, beliefs or conclusions” are insufficient. Id.

         Here, the detective's affidavit relayed detailed, clear, and precise information from the undercover agent, specifically that Mr. Rivas-Lopez had contacted a drug recipient in Louisville by calling the target phone. It was reasonable to suspect, because the target phone was prepaid, owned by an anonymous person, and was used to contact a drug recipient, that tracking the phone would lead to a drug trafficker and possibly a stash location. After considering the arguments of the parties, the Magistrate Judge properly concluded that probable cause existed and that Defendant's motion to suppress should be denied.

         C. Objections To Probable Cause For Search of Sheckles's Residence.

         Sheckles purports to object to probable cause for the search of his residence on three grounds. First, Sheckles objects to the conclusion that the target pinging outside the apartment to be searched and the fact that Sheckles was seen leaving one of the apartments with many bags was sufficient to establish probable cause to search. [DE 79, at 419; DE 78, at 409]. As to support for this argument Sheckles merely states that “[s]urely this cannot suffice to establish a likelihood of criminal activity.” ...

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