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United States v. Gunter

August 14, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CORNELL P. GUNTER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Cornell P. Gunter ("Defendant") filed a motion to suppress evidence collected during the search of his residence on September 28, 2005 (Court File No. 15) which was referred to United States Magistrate Judge William B. Mitchell Carter to conduct an evidentiary hearing if necessary and make a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). On April 18, 2006, the magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation ("R&R") recommending Defendant's motion be denied (Court File No. 25).

Defendant filed an objection to the report and recommendation and requested a de novo hearing (Court File No. 26). Defendant contends there was an insufficient nexus between the alleged criminal activity and his residence to establish probable cause (Id.). He also argues the good faith exception cannot be applied here because no reasonably objective police officer could have relied on a warrant issued on the basis of this affidavit (Id.). After carefully considering both the filings of Defendant and the Government (Court File Nos. 15, 16, 22, 25, 26), the Court finds the magistrate judge's legal analysis to be correct under the relevant law.

I. Standard of Review

This Court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the report and recommendation to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

II. Relevant Facts

On September 28, 2005, a warrant was issued by the Criminal Court, 10th Judicial District in McMinn County, Tennessee for the search of Defendant's residence at 1484 County Road 250 in Niota, Tennessee (Court File No. 15, ¶1). That same day, agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI") and the Tenth Judicial Drug Task Force ("DTF") executed this search warrant and searched Defendant's residence (Court File No. 22, p.2). The officers seized cocaine, large amounts of cash, and a gun from the house (Id.). In addition, drug paraphernalia was discovered in the Defendant's Cadillac parked outside the residence (Id. at 4).

The search warrant was issued pursuant to an application and affidavit of TBI Special Agent Bryan Freeman (Court File No. 15, ¶ 1). The following facts were given in the affidavit and considered by the Criminal Court, 10th Judicial District, as justification for the search warrant:

Special Agent Freeman has been an employee of the TBI for approximately nine years (Court File No. 16-2, ¶ 1). Prior to his employment at TBI, he was an agent with DTF for two years (Id.). As a result of his extensive training and experience, Freeman is familiar with common operating patterns utilized by persons involved with illegal drug trafficking (Id.). One such operating pattern Special Agent Freeman is aware of is individuals often use their residences and the area and property surrounding their residences to conceal evidence of their illicit crimes (Id. at ¶ ¶ 1A-1C, 1L-1H).

In fall, 2003 Special Agent Freeman and other law enforcement officers began investigating a conspiracy of cocaine trafficking in McMinn County, Tennessee (Id. at ¶ 2). In September, 2005, Freeman spoke with a confidential source ("CS") who informed him he could potentially purchase cocaine from Defendant (Id. at ¶ 4). On September 22, 2005, Special Agent Freeman and other DTF agents met with the CS and observed him phone Defendant and make arrangements to purchase cocaine (Id. at ¶ 5). They provided the CS with a transmitting device and money to purchase the cocaine and proceeded to follow him to Harper Johnson Road in Athens, Tennessee, where they listened and observed Defendant sell approximately two ounces of cocaine to the CS (Id. at ¶ 6).

On September 27, 2005, Special Agent Freeman and other DTF agents once again monitored the CS's phone call to Defendant, gave the CS a transmitting device and money with which to purchase the drugs, and followed him to the meeting place (Id. at ¶ 9). Concurrently, two other agents were monitoring Defendant's house and saw a dark-colored Cadillac driven by a black male, later identified as Defendant, enter the driveway (Id. at ¶ 10). The Cadillac remained at the residence for two to three minutes before leaving (Id.). The agents followed the Cadillac to Harper Johnson Road, Athens, Tennessee where Defendant met the CS (Id. at ¶ 12). Once more, the nearby agents observed and listened to the this meeting during which Defendant sold approximately two ounces of cocaine to the CS (Id.).

III. Analysis

Defendant asserts all evidence seized as a result of the search warrant was obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and ...


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