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United States v. Brian Davis

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

October 7, 2019




         This matter is before the Court upon Magistrate Judge Candace J. Smith's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. # 95), wherein she recommends that Defendant Quintin Tyler Brian Davis's Motion to Suppress (Doc. # 67), be denied. Defendant having filed Objections to the R&R (Doc. # 99), and the Government having responded to the Defendant's Objections (Doc. # 101), the R&R is now ripe for the Court's for review. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Objections are sustained in part and overruled in part, the R&R is adopted in part and rejected in part, and the Motion to Suppress is denied in part and granted in part.


         On August 28, 2018, Cincinnati Police Officer Kowalski observed what he believed to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction involving a 2003 Cadillac CTS belonging to the Defendant. (Doc. # 95 at 3). Officer Kowalski testified that he saw a man “[run] up to the passenger side window [of the Cadillac] and reach[] into the passenger side window and then [stand] back up” before the Cadillac left the scene. (Doc. # 87 at 5:14-17). Based on his years of experience as a police officer, Officer Kowalski believed he had witnessed a hand-to-hand drug transaction. Id. at 6:3-10. Around the same time, Cincinnati Police Officer Schaible received a phone call from a reliable confidential informant who told him that the Defendant “had just conducted a drug transaction in the same location that Officer Kowalski was at.” Id. at 18:2-3. The informant's description of the alleged drug transaction matched Officer Kowalski's observations. (Doc. # 95 at 3-4).

         The following morning, Cincinnati police officers executed a traffic stop while Defendant was driving the 2003 Cadillac CTS. (Doc. # 95 at 4). Officers initiated the traffic stop because the windows of Defendant's vehicle were illegally tinted. (Doc. # 87 at 51: 9-10). After Defendant noticed two police cruisers following him, he quickly turned into a convenience store parking lot. Id. at 4. Officers Broering and Knapp pulled into the parking lot directly behind Defendant, exited their vehicles, and approached the Cadillac. (Doc. # 87 at 53:6-54:5). Officer Broering testified that he could not see into the car because of the heavily tinted windows, but that he “could see the silhouette of Defendant” and saw that Defendant was turned and looking down towards the center console area of the car. (Doc. # 95 at 5). Based on his years of experience as an officer, Officer Broering thought Defendant's position was “a typical thing that someone would do when they're trying to hide contraband.” (Doc. # 87 at 44:20-23). Officer Schaible was also at the scene, and he testified that “he observed [Defendant's] silhouette through the front windshield of his vehicle and that [Defendant] was making furtive movements towards the center console.” (Doc. # 95 at 4-5).

         At some point as he was approaching Defendant's car, Officer Broering had an unobstructed view into the vehicle. (Doc. # 87 at 58:11-13). He saw that “the cup holder in the center console [of the car] had been filed with orange juice” and orange juice was spilled on the seats. (Doc. # 95 at 5). Officer Broering also saw a “small plastic bag inside the cup holder that contained orange juice, and another small plastic bag on the driver's side floor.” Id. Additionally, Officer Clarkson saw a white powder substance on Defendant's hands. Government Exhibit 10. Defendant was ordered out of his car, arrested, and placed in a police cruiser. (Doc. # 95 at 5).

         Following his arrest, the Defendant was taken to the Gang Unit of the Cincinnati Police Department on Warsaw Avenue. Id. at 6. Defendant was placed and handcuffed at a table in the booking area.[1] Id. At some point shortly after arriving at the police station, officers read Defendant his Miranda rights. Id. Defendant then told the officers that he was not interested in talking at approximately 10:30 a.m.[2] (Doc. # 87 at 81:19-23). Officer Stratmann left for approximately thirty minutes and continued to work on search warrants. (Doc. # 87 at 78:17-25). When Officer Stratmann returned, he saw the Defendant with his head on the table. Id. 79:1-4. Officer Stratmann was alarmed because falling asleep is “one of the symptoms of an overdose or an exposure” and he was concerned that Defendant may have been exposed to the drugs that were found in his car. Id. 79:7-8. Officer Stratmann got the Defendant up and began questioning him about whether he had ingested drugs and whether he felt ill. Id. at 79:11-12, 80:3-5. Once Officer Stratmann established that Defendant was safe, he left and continued working on the search warrants. Id. at 80:11-14.

         Officer Stratmann returned intermittently to check on Defendant and “carry[] on conversations with him about the progression [of] the case.” Id. at 82:5-6. He told Defendant that police were drafting search warrants in his case and that his girlfriend had also been stopped by police. Id. at 68:19-69:6. During one of these check-ins, Officer Stratmann asked Defendant questions about the money that was found in the 2003 Cadillac CTS. Officer Stratmann testified that he asked Defendant “‘Is this your money,' kind of just administratively to figure out what the money was from.” Id. at 70:12-14. He explained that “when you have that kind of money, [officers] have to put something on the paper [about] what we're doing with the money.” Id. 72:3-4. He also asked Defendant whether he was working, in order to determine where the money came from. Id. at 69:9- 14. Officer Stratmann did not say whether Defendant responded to the questions about the money; he also did not testify as to what time the interaction occurred.

         Around 1:00 p.m.-approximately two and a half hours after Defendant said that he was not interested in talking-Defendant asked Officer Stratmann whether they could speak in a more private setting. Id. at 81:24-82:2. Officer Stratmann testified that he responded by telling Defendant that he “needed to be honest about what happened at the traffic stop.” Id. at 82:16-17. At that point, Defendant asked for a cigarette and Officer Stratmann left to get cigarettes and a lighter. Id. 82:23-25. When Officer Stratmann returned, Defendant was taken to the Central Vice Unit of the Cincinnati Police Department. (Doc. # 95 at 8). There, officers read Defendant his Miranda rights again, and Defendant signed a waiver. Id. Officer Baker then proceeded to conduct a recorded interview with Defendant. Id.


         On September 13, 2018, Defendant Davis was indicted by a federal grand jury. (Doc. # 7). The Indictment charged Defendant with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, one count of aiding and abetting in possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture of substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, and one count of aiding and abetting in possession with intent to distribute a mixture of substance containing a detectable amount of heroin. Id.

         On March 27, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress any and all evidence obtained as the result of the traffic stop on August 29, 2018 and the subsequent questioning. (Doc. # 67). After the United States filed its Response (Doc. # 80), Judge Smith held an evidentiary hearing. (Doc. # 85). Following the evidentiary hearing, the parties submitted supplemental briefing. (Docs. # 88 and 93). On August 9, 2019, Judge Smith filed an R&R (Doc. # 95), wherein she recommended that Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. # 67) be denied. (Doc. # 95 at 29). On August 23, 2019, Defendant filed Objections to the R&R (Doc. # 99) to which the United States responded on September 9, 2019. (Doc. # 101). The Motion to Suppress (Doc. # 67) and R&R (Doc. # 95) are now ripe for review.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant 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 findings of fact.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(1). If a party files timely objections to the recommendation, the district court must consider those objections de novo and “accept, reject, or modify the recommendation.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). Failure to object to a Magistrate Judge's findings or conclusions results in waiver of those objections. Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(2).

         “The filing of objections to a magistrate's report enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985). Therefore, objections to a magistrate judge's R&R must be “specific.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(2). Vague, general, or conclusory objections are improper, will not be considered by the reviewing court, and are “tantamount to a complete failure to object.” Cole v. Yukins, 7 Fed.Appx. 354, 356 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995) (“[A] general objection to a magistrate's report, which fails to specify the issues of contention, does not satisfy the requirement that an objection be filed. The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.”). Objections that merely state disagreements with the magistrate judge's conclusion or restate arguments previously presented to the magistrate judge are similarly improper. United States v. Bowers, No. 0:06-cv-7-DLB-REW, 2017 WL 6606860, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Dec. 26, 2017); United States v. Vanover, No. 2:10-cr-14-DLB-REW, 2017 WL 1356328, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Apr. 11, 2017).

         Defendant raises three objections to the R&R. (Doc. # 99). First, Defendant objects to Judge Smith's recommended finding that the officers had probable cause for the warrantless arrest of Defendant during the traffic stop on August 29, 2018. Id. at 2. Next, Defendant objects to Judge Smith's determination that Officer Stratmann's conversation with Defendant at the Warsaw Avenue police station was not an interrogation. Id. Finally, Defendant objects to Judge Smith's conclusion that the officers did not improperly influence Defendant to give statements after Defendant invoked his right to silence. Id. The Court will address each of Defendant's objections in turn.[3]

         B. The warrantless arrest of Defendant was supported ...

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