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United States v. Brown

May 7, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LUCAS LORENZO BROWN



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

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Lucas Lorenzo Brown ("Defendant") filed a motion to suppress (Court File No. 13), which was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee to conduct an evidentiary hearing if necessary and make a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing on April 3, 2007 and filed a report and recommendation ("R&R") recommending Defendant's motion be denied on April 13, 2007 (Court File No. 19).

Defendant filed objections to the R&R within the ten-day period, arguing the magistrate judge erred making certain factual findings based upon the evidence presented at the hearing and as a result, the Court should sustain Defendant's objection, overrule the magistrate judge's decisions, and suppress the items discovered in the July 7, 2006 traffic stop, arrest of Defendant, and search of Defendant's car (Court File No. 20). Essentially, Defendant contends the magistrate judge's ruling rested on an erroneous credibility determination. After carefully reviewing the record and considering both the filings of Defendant and the Government (Court File Nos. 20 & 21), the Court finds the magistrate judge's credibility determinations to be supported by the weight of the evidence and her legal analysis to be correct under the relevant law. Therefore, the Court will ACCEPT and ADOPT the magistrate judge's R&R and will DENY Defendant's motion to suppress (Court File No. 13).

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R&R 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). When reviewing a magistrate judge's credibility determinations on a motion to suppress, the district court may accept or reject the magistrate judge's determinations recognizing a magistrate judge is in a better position to assess the credibility of witnesses she sees and hears. United States v. Ailemen, 986 F. Supp. 1228, 1231 (N.D. Cal. 1997)(citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673-76 (1980)). Credibility determinations of the magistrate judge who personally listened to the testimony of a witness should be accepted by a district judge unless in his de novo review of the record he finds a reason to question the magistrate judge's assessment. Blizzard v. Quillen, 579 F. Supp. 1446, 1449 (D. Del. 1984); see also United States v. Wallace, No. 1:04-CR-96, 2005 WL 2922226, *9 (E.D. Tenn. Nov. 3, 2005).

II. FACTS

Defendant objects to several of the magistrate judge's factual findings; however, after reviewing the record de novo the Court finds the magistrate judge's factual findings are consistent with the record. Consequently, the Court will ACCEPT and ADOPT by reference the magistrate judge's statement of the relevant facts in her R&R (Court File No.19, pp. 1-3).

III. ANALYSIS

At the evidentiary hearing, the Government offered the testimony of Officer Michael S. Keef ("Officer Keef") of the Chattanooga Police Department and the Defendant presented no witnesses.

Defendant objects to certain of the magistrate judge's factual findings including: (1) Defendant argues his music was not loud enough to be heard from 50 feet or more and the sound Officer Keef heard likely came from a nearby club; (2) Defendant argues he may have been traveling in the center turn lane in order to give a wide buffer to the two patrol cars stopped on the side of the road; (3) Defendant objects to Officer Keef's testimony that Defendant was exceeding the speed limit based upon the lack of support for the officer's testimony; and (4) Defendant objects to Officer Keef's testimony that Defendant attempted to flee (Court File No. 20). Defendant's brief can also be construed to object to the magistrate judge's determination that Officer Keef had probable cause to arrest Defendant.*fn1

A. Objections to Factual Findings

The magistrate judge found Officer Keef testified consistently and credibly throughout the evidentiary hearing. Defendant argues the magistrate judge's credibility determination is erroneous. The magistrate judge also found Defendant offered no evidence to rebut Officer Keef's testimony. The Court notes the magistrate judge personally observed Officer Keef's live testimony and, therefore, appropriately defers to her credibility determination absent a reason to question such determination. After carefully reviewing the record, the Court has found no reason to question the magistrate judge's assessment of the evidence; therefore, the Court accepts the magistrate judge's credibility findings regarding Officer Keef.

In his first three objections Defendant improperly attempts to refute the evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing. First, Defendant objects to the magistrate judge's finding that Officer Keef could hear loud music coming from Defendant's vehicle from a distance of 500 feet and the officer's testimony that the music was not from coming from the nearby club or the cars leaving the club. In his brief, Defendant simply attempts to refute this evidence by contending his music was not loud enough to be heard from 50 feet or more and the sound likely came from the nearby club (Court File No. 20). Second, Defendant objects to the magistrate judge's finding that he entered a turn lane too soon and failed to operate his vehicle on the right side of the road. Defendant does not dispute that he traveled in the turn lane, but contends in his brief that he may have been traveling in that lane in order to give a wide buffer to the two patrol cars stopped on the side of the road. Defendant's brief contains purely legal argument and is not evidence; therefore, it is not sufficient to refute the evidence presented at the hearing. Consequently, Defendant's first two objections are without merit.

Third, Defendant objects to Officer Keef's testimony that he was exceeding the speed limit since there is no supporting evidence determining Defendant's exact speed. Officer Keef was testifying based upon his personal knowledge concerning Defendant's estimated speed and the magistrate judge found his testimony was credible. Defendant presented no evidence ...


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