United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
H. MAYS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Joshua Townsel's Motion to
Suppress Evidence, filed on July 20, 2016. (Mot. to Suppress
Evidence and Incorporated Mem. in Supp., ECF No. 21
(“Mot. to Suppress”).) The United States (the
“Government”) responded in opposition on August
3, 2016. (U.S. Resp. to Mot. to Suppress Evidence, ECF No. 26
(“Resp. to Mot. to Suppress”).) On September 8,
2016, United States Magistrate Judge Diane K. Vescovo issued
her Report and Recommendation on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress (ECF No. 32 (“Report”)), recommending
that the Motion to Suppress be granted.
September 22, 2016, the Government filed objections to the
Report. (Gov't Objs. to the R. & R. of the
Magistrate, ECF No. 43 (“Gov't Objs.”).)
Townsel filed a response to the Government's objections
on October 20, 2016. (Def.'s Resp. to Gov't Objs. to
R. & R., ECF No. 47 (“Resp. to Gov't
Objs.”).) The Government filed a reply in support of
its objections on November 4, 2016. (Gov't's Reply to
the Def.'s Resp. to the Gov't's Objs. to the R.
& R. of the Magistrate, ECF No. 51 (“Reply ISO
Magistrate Judge's Report is ADOPTED, and the Motion to
Suppress is GRANTED.
January 7, 2016, two Memphis Police Department
(“MPD”) officers, Eric Jones
(“Jones”) and Tony Brown (“Brown”)
conducted a traffic stop of Townsel. (See, e.g., August 29,
2016 Hr'g Tr. 9, 15 (“Hr'g Tr.”).) The
officers based the stop on a purported seatbelt-law
violation. (See, e.g., Id. at 11- 15.) The stop
culminated in Jones's finding a Glock 10mm pistol under
the driver's seat of Townsel's vehicle. (See, e.g.,
Id. at 26-28.)
April 27, 2016, a federal grand jury returned a one-count
indictment against Townsel. (Indictment, ECF No. 1.) Count 1
charged Townsel, a convicted felon, with possessing the Glock
pistol on or about January 7, 2016, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1). (Id.)
20, 2016, Townsel filed the Motion to Suppress. Townsel
argues that the Court should suppress all evidence of the
firearm found during the traffic stop. (See generally Mot. to
Suppress.) On July 20, 2016, the Court referred the Motion to
Suppress to Magistrate Judge Vescovo for a report and
recommendation. (Order of Reference, ECF No. 22.) On August
3, 2016, the Government filed its Response to Motion to
Suppress. (ECF No. 26.)
Magistrate Judge held a hearing on the Motion to Suppress on
August 29, 2016. (See generally August 29, 2016 Hr'g Tr.
(“Hr'g Tr.”).) At the hearing, the Government
presented two witnesses: Jones and Brown. (See, e.g.,
Id. at 8, 77.) Townsel presented one witness:
Michael Pryor (“Pryor”), an investigator for the
Office of the Federal Public Defender. (Id. at 104.)
The Report summarizes the hearing testimony. (Report 4-8
(Jones's testimony); Id. at 8-10 (Brown's
testimony); Id. at 10 (Pryor's
testimony).) The Magistrate Judge recommends that the
Court grant the Motion to Suppress. (Report 24.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
enacted 28 U.S.C. § 636 to relieve the burden on the
federal judiciary by permitting the assignment of
district-court duties to magistrate judges. See United States
v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Gomez v.
United States, 490 U.S. 858, 869-70 (1989)); see also Baker
v. Peterson, 67 F. App'x 308, 310 (6th Cir. 2003)
(quoting Curtis, 237 F.3d at 602). “The district judge
must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's
disposition that has been properly objected to.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
After reviewing the evidence, the court is free to accept,
reject, or modify the magistrate judge's proposed
findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
district court need not review, under a de novo or any other
standard, those aspects of the report and recommendation to
which no objection is made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 150-52 (1985). The district court should adopt the
magistrate judge's findings and rulings to which no
specific objection is filed. Id.
of the Government's objections to the Report address the
Magistrate Judge's credibility determinations. When a
magistrate judge's findings and recommendations rest on
evaluations of witness credibility, the district court need
not rehear the testimony to conduct a de novo determination
of the issues. United States v. Johnson, No.
10-20176, 2011 WL 3844194 at *2 (W.D. Tenn. Aug. 30, 2011)
(quoting United States v. Bermudez, Case No.
99-6097, 2000 WL 1871676, at *3 (6th Cir. Dec. 11, 2000)).
“‘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, while recognizing a magistrate
judge is in the better position to assess the credibility of
witnesses [she] sees and hears.'” Id.
(quoting United States v. Robinson, No. 1:07-CR-01,
2007 WL 2138635, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. July 23, 2007)).
“‘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.'” Id.
(quoting Robinson, 2007 WL 2138635, at *1).
Government objects to several findings of the Report. First,
it “objects to the finding that . . . Jones did not
have probable cause to conduct the traffic stop of
Townsel's car for a seatbelt violation.” (Gov't
Objs. 2.) Second, it “objects to the finding that the
officers did not conduct a lawful inventory of Townsel's
car.” (Id. at 6.) Third, the Government
“objects to the finding that the officers did not have
probable cause to search Townsel's car under the
automobile exception.” (Id. at 8.) The
Government also argues that, “[e]ven if this Court
finds that the automobile exception does not apply, since the
inventory of Townsel's car was lawful, . . . the [MPD]
officers would have inevitably discovered the Glock 10mm
after Townsel's car had been towed and
inventoried.” (Id. at 9 (citing United
States v. Bah, 794 F.3d 617, 624-25 (6th Cir. 2015).)
Reasonable Suspicion for Traffic Stop
Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unreasonable
searches and seizures. A traffic stop is a
“seizure” for Fourth Amendment purposes. See,
e.g., Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10
(1996) (citing cases); United States v. Dean, __ F.
App'x __, 2016 WL 5219879, at *2 (6th Cir. ...