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United States v. Thornton

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

February 27, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Thornton's Motion to Suppress (DE 247) and Motion to Dismiss (DE 265). For the reasons stated below, this Court ORDERS that both Motions are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This investigation began when Special Agent Jared Sullivan of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) received information of a series of drug overdoses occurring in Jessamine County, Kentucky. (DE 75-4 at 6; DE 75-2 at 3.) Following this information, Sullivan was alerted to a suspected drug overdose that caused a car accident. The victim was resuscitated with Narcan and interviewed by DEA Task Force Officers. He stated that he had purchased heroin from Jeff Ruggerio in Garrard County, Kentucky. (DE 75-2 at 4-5.) Police obtained a search warrant for Ruggerio's residence and seized evidence consistent with drug trafficking. (DE 75-2 at 6.) Ruggerio was arrested and told officers that Jerrod Doolin was his heroin supplier. (DE 75-2 at 6-7.)

         Ruggerio then permitted police to record a conversation in which Doolin agreed to supply Ruggerio with heroin. Police pursued Doolin, pulling over his vehicle. Doolin was detained, mirandized, and police located fifty grams of heroin in his trunk. Doolin agreed to cooperate with the investigation. (DE 75-2 at 7.)

         Officers then interviewed Doolin, who told them his supplier was an individual named “Dro.” Later in the same interview, Doolin informed officers that his supplier's name was actually “Juice, ” but that everything he had said about Dro applied to Juice. (DE 75 at 19.) Doolin advised officers that he had been obtaining heroin from Juice for approximately 6 months and that Juice was from Detroit, Michigan. (DE 75-2 at 7.) Doolin's history with Juice was detailed by their phone communications. With Doolin's cooperation, officers were able to place consensually recorded calls to Juice's number, which belonged to Lamar Thornton. During these phone calls, Thornton made a series of statements to police consistent with drug trafficking. Officers were able to confirm Thornton's identity when Doolin identified him in a photo lineup. (DE 75-2 at 6-7.)

         U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Atkins authorized a GPS location information for Thornton's phone based on information revealed in their investigation, including several statements taken from Doolin's DEA interview. (DE 75-2 at 9.) Agents were able to pinpoint Thornton's home address in Detroit, Michigan and began surveilling his residence. (DE 75-2 at 10.)

         Officers continued to collect evidence against Thornton and applied for a search warrant for his home. (DE 75-2 at 15-16.) In the affidavit used to support the warrant, agents detailed information provided by Doolin, conversations between Thornton and Doolin, information collected from the GPS location tracker, and information gathered throughout surveillance of his activities. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stafford of the Eastern District of Michigan agreed probable cause existed, and a search warrant was issued for his residence. The search warrant was executed, and officers located 200 grams of carfentanyl in his home. Thornton was arrested and brought to Lexington, Kentucky.

         Thornton was indicted in the Eastern District of Kentucky on February 9, 2017, along with Ruggiero and Doolin. (DE 9). A superseding indictment was returned on April 6, 2017, adding Thomas Lehmann as a co-conspirator (DE 29), and a second superseding indictment was returned on September 7, 2017, adding Darmon Shaw as a co-conspirator (DE 65). Thornton is currently charged with one count of conspiring with others to knowingly and intentionally distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin and a detectable amount of carfentanyl in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), all in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (DE 65).

         Thornton presently has two motions before this Court, a Motion to Suppress and a Motion to Dismiss. Thornton's Motion to Suppress asks this Court-for the second time-to suppress evidence obtained during the search of his residence. (DE 247.) He also requests a Franks hearing, arguing that the affirmation which supported the GPS tracking order (the “affirmation”) and the affidavit which supported the search warrant (the “affidavit”) contained material omissions and false statements. (DE 247 at 1.); see Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). Thornton's Motion to Dismiss alleges violations of the Speedy Trial Act and asks this Court to dismiss his case. (DE 265 at 2.)

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Suppress. (DE 247).

         Thornton's present Motion to Suppress (DE 247) contains substantially the same allegations as one of his previous motions to suppress (DE 75). There are two inconsequential differences. In his prior motion, Thornton asserted that there were material omissions in both the affirmation, in support of the GPS tracking order, and affidavit, in support of the search warrant. (DE 75 at 17-22.) In the present Motion (DE 247), Thornton asserts that the affidavit and affirmation additionally contained false statements. (DE 247 at 10-15.) In his prior motion, Thornton also asserted that the good faith exception was inapplicable and argued that the warrant was “so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence unreasonable” because the affidavit did not contain a minimally sufficient nexus between the illegal activity and the place to be searched. (DE 75 at 14-15.) In the present Motion, Thornton makes the same argument, but instead reasons that the affidavit and affirmation contain a “knowing and reckless falsity.” (DE 247 at 17-18.) Because both motions raise the same issues and seek the same relief, this Court is construing the present Motion to Suppress as a Motion to Reconsider.

         Motions to reconsider are generally evaluated under the same standards applicable to civil motions to alter or amend a judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e); United States v. Reynolds, No. 3:08-CR-143, 2018 WL 1950433, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. Feb. 24, 2018). Accordingly, motions to reconsider are granted only if there is “(1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in the controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.” ACLU of Ky. v. McCreary Cty., 607 F.3d 438, 450 (6th Cir. 2009). Motions to reconsider are not “vehicle[s] to reargue a case; [they] may not be used to raise arguments that could have been raised on initial consideration.” See In re G.A.D., Inc., 340 F.3d 331, 334 (6th Cir. 2003); Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 561, 572 (6th Cir. 2013). Further, such motions do not give an unhappy litigant an opportunity to relitigate matters already determined by the Court. Davidson v. Roadway Express, Inc., 562 F.Supp.2d 971, 985 ...

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