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United States v. Foster

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

November 22, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RAY FOSTER

          Susan K. Lee, Judge

          ORDER

          TRAVIS R. MCDONOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Ray Foster has moved to suppress certain statements made to law enforcement. (Doc. 139.) In supplemental briefing, Defendant also argued that the Court should suppress certain evidence obtained from his residence, pickup truck, and camper. (Doc. 332.) Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee held a hearing on the motion and filed a report and recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that the Court deny Defendant's motion to suppress. (Doc. 341.) Defendant timely objected to the R&R.[1] (Doc. 350.) The Court has conducted a de novo review of the record as it relates to Defendant's objections, and for the reasons stated hereafter, will: (1) OVERRULE Defendant's objections to the R&R; (2) ACCEPT and ADOPT the R&R; and (3) DENY Defendant's motion to suppress (Doc. 139).

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R&R to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). De novo review does not, however, require the district court to rehear witnesses whose testimony has been evaluated by the magistrate judge. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980). The magistrate judge, as the factfinder, has the opportunity to observe and hear the witnesses and assess their demeanor, putting her in the best position to determine credibility. Moss v. Hofbauer, 286 F.3d 851, 868 (6th Cir. 2002); United States v. Hill, 195 F.3d 258, 264-65 (6th Cir. 1999). A magistrate judge's assessment of witnesses' testimony is therefore entitled to deference. United States v. Irorere, 69 F. App'x 231, 236 (6th Cir. 2003); see also United States v. Navarro-Camacho, 186 F.3d 701, 705 (6th Cir. 1999).

         II. BACKGROUND

         On August 25, 2015, a grand jury returned a thirty-two-count indictment that charged fourteen individuals. (Doc. 1.) The Indictment specifically charged Defendant with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. (Id.) On February 18, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to suppress certain statements he made to law enforcement. (Doc. 139.) Defendant argues that incriminating statements he made to law enforcement were obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. (Id. at 2.) Defendant also argues the statements should be suppressed because law enforcement failed to warn him of his Miranda rights, and because his statements were not made voluntarily. (Id.)

         On September 13, 2016, Magistrate Judge Lee held an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress. (See Doc. 326.) At the evidentiary hearing, Magistrate Judge Lee heard testimony from: (1) Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Bryan Freeman; (2) Tenth Judicial District Drug Task Force Agent Clay Moore; and (3) Defendant. (Id.) At the evidentiary hearing, Defendant orally modified his motion to suppress, additionally seeking suppression of evidence found during a warrantless search of his residence because his consent to search was not knowing and voluntary and, even if it was, the search of the camper and truck parked at his residence exceeded the scope of his consent. (Doc. 341, at 1-2.) The parties also submitted post-hearing supplemental briefing regarding Defendant's motion. (Docs. 330, 332.)

         On September 28, 2016, Magistrate Judge Lee entered her R&R, recommending that the Court deny Defendant's motion to suppress. (Doc. 341.) On October 11, 2016, Defendant filed objections to the R&R. (Doc. 350.) Defendant did not object to the basic facts outlined in Magistrate Judge Lee's R&R, but did object to the findings and legal conclusions related to those facts. (See id.) After reviewing the record before the Court and finding the facts to be consistent with Magistrate Judge Lee's R&R, the Court ADOPTS BY REFERENCE the facts as set out in the R&R.[2] (Doc. 341, at 2-12.) See, e.g., United States v. Winters, 782 F.3d 289, 295 n.1 (6th Cir. 2013). Defendant's objections to Magistrate Judge Lee's R&R are now ripe for review.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant asserts three objections to Magistrate Judge Lee's R&R. Specifically, Defendant objects to Magistrate Judge's Lee's findings that: (1) Defendant knowingly and voluntarily gave consent to search his residence; (2) law enforcement did not exceed the permissible scope of Defendant's consent to search; and (3) Defendant's statements to law enforcement were voluntarily given. (Doc. 350, at 4-10.)

         A. Defendant's Consent to Search His Residence

         Defendant objects to Magistrate Judge Lee's finding that he knowingly and voluntarily consented to law enforcement's search of his residence on July 31, 2014. (Id. at 4-5.) Defendant specifically argues that his consent to search was not voluntary because his parole officer appeared at his residence with other law enforcement agents and because he feared that his parole would be revoked if he refused to allow them to search his residence. (Id. at 5.) Defendant further argues that he “only consented to the search because he had previously consented to government searches as a condition of parole.” (Id.)

         As Magistrate Judge Lee noted in her R&R, on July 31, 2014, Defendant signed advice-of-rights and waiver-and-consent forms. (Doc. 341, at 19.) The waiver form, which ...


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