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United States v. Carrender

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

August 12, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT JAMES CARRENDER, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          CLARIA HORN BOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Objection to Recommended Disposition [R. 54]. Judge Ingram's Recommended Disposition [R. 53] recommended that the Court deny the Defendant's Motion to Suppress. The Motion to Suppress seeks to exclude evidence resulting from a search of the Defendant's automobile conducted after his arrest. The matter is now ripe for the Court's review. This Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Because the Court perceives no fault with the Magistrate Judge's analysis, and because the Defendant's objection fails to rebut (and in many instances fails to address) the reasoning of the Magistrate Judge, the Recommended Disposition will be accepted as the opinion of the Court.

         After conducting an evidentiary hearing on May 16, 2019, Magistrate Judge Ingram filed a Recommended Disposition, which properly found that there was no basis for exclusion of the evidence in question. The Defendant made a series of objections claiming that Judge Ingram erred in so finding. The main thrust of these arguments is that law enforcement officers did not have probable cause permitting them to search the Defendant's vehicle until after they arrested him (if ever), and that since the arrest was the purpose of the stop, searching the vehicle after the Defendant's arrest was unlawful. The Defendant's specific objections are addressed in turn below.[1]

         I. Objections

         A. Incorporation by Reference

         To start, the Defendant purports to “adop[t], reiterate[e], and incorporate[e] by reference his Motion to Suppress and Post Evidentiary Hearing Brief in Support thereof, along with the Exhibit and Witness List from the evidentiary hearing and two of his exhibits presented at that hearing. [R. 54 at p. 2] This general reference to prior briefs and evidence put on at the evidentiary hearing fails to show the Court what portions of the Magistrate Judge's Recommended Disposition it must specially consider, “thereby making the initial reference to the magistrate useless.” Cline v. Myers, 495 Fed.Appx. 578, 580 (6th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Sixth Circuit has explained that “the district court need not provide de novo review where the objections are ‘[f]rivolous, conclusive or general.' The parties have ‘the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.'” Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986) (internal citations omitted). A general objection to a magistrate judge's recommended disposition is treated as a failure to object, Cline, 495 Fed.Appx. at 580 (citation omitted), and the Court need not review a magistrate judge's findings when no objection is made. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150-52 (1985). The Court declines to comb through the Defendant's previous briefs or the evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing in search of arguments to rebut the Recommended Disposition.

         B. Objections Concerning Testimony Relating to Reasonable Suspicion of Drug Trafficking

         Defendant objects that the Recommended Disposition did not adequately consider several pieces of “key testimony” showing “that no reasonable suspicion existed, developed or was discovered prior to the completion of the underlying purpose or tasks tied to the traffic stop and the immediate arrest, seizure, handcuffing and detention of [Defendant].” [R. 54 at p. 2 (emphasis original)] Specifically, the Defendant first objects that 1) “the confidential informant did not observe [Defendant] sell eleven ounces of methamphetamine inside a room at the Parkland Motel, ” 2) the confidential informant did not “name the motel as being the Parkland Motel, ” and 3) “the testimony at the Evidentiary Hearing did not state that the confidential informant saw [Defendant] selling drugs in the motel room.” [R. 54 at p. 3]

         The Court finds these objections to be without merit. The testimony at the evidentiary hearing was that the confidential informant told law enforcement that he saw a person selling drugs in a motel room which officers identified through other means as Defendant's room at the Parkland Motel. Magistrate Judge Ingram recognized that the confidential informant did not identify Defendant specifically, stating that the confidential informant told law enforcement that he saw “a person” inside a room in the Parkland Motel sell methamphetamine [R. 53 at p. 2 (citing R. 46 at pp. 7-8)]. However, the Magistrate Judge further recognized that additional facts (specifically, motel staff's information that the room described by the confidential informant had been rented by Defendant) led police to identify this person as Defendant. [R. 53 at id. (citing R. 46 at pp. 10-11)] While the Recommended Disposition does not specifically discuss how law enforcement came to identify the motel in question, Wayne County Sheriff's Deputy Joseph Alan Horne testified at the evidentiary hearing that there are only two or three motels in the county where the confidential informant stated the drugs were sold, and that law enforcement determined that the described motel “could possibly be the Parkland Motel.” [R. 46 at p. 8] Deputy Horne testified that the confidential informant, though not sure exactly what room it was, described the motel room as being “on the first floor on the bottom. If you're coming off the main road, turning in facing . . . the motel, it was on the left hand side toward the far end.” [R. 46 at p. 9] Deputy Horne further testified that Parkland Motel staff told an officer “that one of the rooms were rented in that area that was described” and that it was rented by Defendant. Id. at p. 10. Defendant does not explain why it matters that the confidential informant did not specifically identify the Parkland Motel given these circumstances, which were enough to allow the officers to determine which motel room the confidential informant was describing.

         Defendant next objects that, while a critical fact discussed as underlying the reasonable suspicion that Defendant's car contained evidence of drug trafficking was that the truck driven by the person who visited Defendant at his motel room that evening was found to contain methamphetamine, “it is unclear from the Record at hand if the person who was driving the truck actually possessed the suspected methamphetamine prior to arrival and eventual departure from the motel.”[2] Id. at p. 4. However, the mere possibility that this person (David Shane Upchurch) had possessed the drugs before visiting Defendant's motel room certainly does not mean that law enforcement could not reasonably suspect that he had instead obtained them during that visit, particularly given the confidential informant's testimony that a person in Defendant's motel room had sold the same drugs to others. The Defendant does not demonstrate otherwise.

         Defendant states that Kentucky State Police Trooper Harrison Wells' testimony at the evidentiary hearing shows that “it is undocumented in the Uniform Citation that Mr. Upchurch made any reference about a statement implicating [Defendant]'s involvement in any illegality; there is nothing in the Uniform Citation suggesting that Mr. Upchurch stated that he had purchased methamphetamine from [Defendant]; and the Uniform Citation documents that Mr. Upchurch declined an audio-recorded interview.” Id. at p. 5. But none of those arguments negate the fact that methamphetamine was found in Upchurch's truck right after Upchurch was seen visiting the Defendant's motel room. That Upchurch did not confess to drug trafficking does not change that.

         The Defendant next quibbles with the Magistrate Judge's characterization that law enforcement observed “a Crown Royal bag with ‘cash' protruding in the back of Defendant's car.” Id. at p. 6. He seems to be arguing that the evidence showed that the bag held coins and not paper bills. Id. It is unclear exactly what significance the Defendant is trying to draw from this alleged discrepancy. In any event, the Court finds that this is neither a fair characterization of the evidence, nor relevant even if it were.

         Defendant points to Defense Exhibits 1 (an “Evidence/Recovered Property” form from his arrest and search, hereinafter, “report”) and 2 (a photograph of money and drugs) from the evidentiary hearing, along with the United States' exclusive use of the word “cash” during the hearing, and Deputy Horne's testimony regarding the notation on the report regarding the Crown Royal bag. As to the exhibits, the Defendant does not clearly explain (and the Court does not see) how they contradict the officers' testimony that after they stopped Defendant but before they arrested him or searched the car, Wayne County Sheriff's Deputy Bradley Shawn Tucker observed “cash” protruding from the bag. The photograph merely portrays drugs and money neatly laid out after their discovery by police. The report notes a “Black and gold Crown Royal bag cloth bag [containing] approx.. $59.47 in U.S. currency coins” as well as U.S. currency in the form of $1, $5, $10, $20, and $100 bills. Deputy Horne testified as follows under cross-examination regarding the evidence noted on the report:

Q. What is item number 14?
A. A black and gold Crown Royal bag . . . cloth, containing approximately $59.47 in ...

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