United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REBECCA GRADY JENNINGS, DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant, Donta Watts,
Jr.'s, Motion to Suppress Searches (“Motion to
Suppress”). [DE 60]. Plaintiff, the United States of
America, filed a timely response to the Motion to Suppress
(the “Response”). [DE 63]. A suppression hearing
was held on October 3, 2018. [DE 82]. On December 18, 2018,
United States Magistrate Judge Colin H. Lindsay issued a
Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation (the
“R&R”), recommending that the Motion to
Suppress be denied. [DE 93]. Mr. Watts filed timely
Objections. [DE 96]. This matter is now ripe for
reasons set forth below, the Court OVERRULES Defendant's
Objections [DE 96], ACCEPTS Magistrate Judge Lindsay's
R&R without modification [DE 93], and DENIES
Defendant's Motion to Suppress [DE 60].
Watts objects to both the R&R's factual findings and
conclusions of law. Mr. Watts objects to the R&R's
factual findings by claiming that it exaggerates his criminal
history and includes “conclusory testimony that a
female passerby raised a concern that evidence might be
removed or destroyed.” [DE 96, at 387]. Mr. Watts
objects to the conclusions of law, asserting four errors in
the R&R. First, Mr. Watts objects to the use of his
criminal history as support for reasonable suspicion. [DE 96,
at 387]. Second, Mr. Watts objects to the reasonableness of
his Terry stop. [DE 96, at 387-88]. Third, Mr. Watts objects
to Magistrate Judge Lindsay's conclusion that Mr. Watts
ignored the warrant exception for prevention of the imminent
destruction of evidence. [DE 96, at 388-89]. Finally, Mr.
Watts objects to the Magistrate's conclusion that finding
narcotics in two different vehicles that were stopped after
departing the Target Apartment creates a nexus to justify a
warrant to search the Apartment. [DE 96, at 389].
Standard of Review
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 59, a district court may refer a motion to suppress
to a magistrate judge for the preparation of a report and
recommendation. “The magistrate judge must promptly
conduct the required proceedings [and] enter on the record a
recommendation for disposing of the matter, including any
proposed finding of fact.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(1).
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); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). The Court 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, and may adopt the findings and rulings of
the magistrate judge to which no specific objection is filed.
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150, 155 (1985).
Objections to the Findings of Fact Contained in the R&R.
Watts's first two objections concern the R&R's
factual findings. [DE 96, at 367-87]. First, Mr. Watts
asserts that his criminal history was exaggerated at the
hearing “in an attempt to bolster the [search warrant]
affidavit, ” and that exaggeration continued into the
R&R. [DE 96, at 386]. Mr. Watts claims that the R&R
states that he had “‘convictions for trafficking
in cocaine and marijuana;' Whereas, the testimony was
that Mr. Watts had ‘a trafficking in cocaine'
conviction.” [DE 96, at 386; DE 85, at 233]. During the
hearing, Detective Beckham testified that the CourtNet
database was used to ascertain Mr. Watts's criminal
history. [DE 85, at 230]. Mr. Watts's CourtNet,
information, entered as Government Exhibit 3 at the
Suppression Hearing, clearly denotes that Mr. Watts had
multiple convictions for trafficking in cocaine and
marijuana. He was convicted of trafficking in marijuana in
2009 and trafficking in cocaine in 2010. Therefore,
Magistrate Judge Lindsay's Findings of Fact included an
accurate criminal history.
Mr. Watts objects to “the finding of fact that a female
driver raised a concern regarding the potential destruction
of evidence.” [DE 96, at 386]. Mr. Watts objects
because there is no contemporaneous record to support the
testimony given about this statement. [DE 96, at 386].
Defendant Charles Williams was pulled over for a traffic stop
after he left the Malibu Court Apartment. [DE 85, at 204,
206-207, 212, 261]. Williams was found in possession of
marijuana and heroin. Id. During the stop, a female
passerby was heard saying something like “they have got
Charles.” [DE 93, at 372; DN 85, at 204, 262]. The two
officers conducting the stop, Detective Farmer and Sergeant
Luckett, both testified that they heard this or a similar
statement, and that it “made them concerned that
someone was being alerted that Williams had been
arrested.” [DE 93, at 372; DE 85, at 204-05; 262].
Magistrate Judge, as the fact-finder who sees and hears
witnesses, is uniquely situated to assess the credibility of
the witnesses. Thus, this Court must ‘accord great
deference to such credibility determinations.'”
United States v. Conway, No. 17-43-DLB-CJS, 2018 WL
3435353, at *5 (E.D. Ky. July 17, 2018); United States v.
Crawford, No. 17-34-DLB-CJS, 2018 WL 3388135, at * 10
(E.D. Ky. July 12, 2018). Magistrate Judge Lindsay was able
to assess the credibility of Detective Farmer and Sergeant
Luckett's testimony and his decision to accept the
officer's statements should be give deference.
the Court overrules Mr. Watts's objections to the
findings of fact contained in the R&R. The R&R's
factual findings are thus incorporated by reference and
relied on as true for purposes of discussing Mr. Watts's
objections to Magistrate Judge Lindsay's legal analysis.
Objection to Use of Criminal History as Support for
Watts objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that
his past criminal convictions for drug trafficking were a
contributing factor that supported a reasonable suspicion to
stop him. [DE 96, at 387]. Mr. Watts states that the
remaining facts were insufficient to support reasonable
suspicion because his past criminal conviction cannot support
reasonable suspicion. Id. Reasonable suspicion does
not rise to the level of probable cause and falls short of
the preponderance of the evidence standard. United States
v. Arvizu,534 U.S. 266, 274 (2002) (citing United
States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989)). In justifying
reasonable suspicion, an officer must rely on more than a
hunch and “must be able to point to specific and
articulable facts, which taken together with rational
inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the
intrusion.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22
(1968). “An investigative stop must be justified by
some objective manifestation that the person stopped is, or
is about to be, engaged in criminal activity.”
United States v. Cortez,449 U.S. 411, 417 (1981).
When determining whether ...