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United States v. Ball

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

June 21, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RAJEAN BALL, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN T. FOWLKES, JR. United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Rajean Ball's ("Defendant") Motion to Suppress filed on February 10, 2017. (ECF No. 17). The United States of America (the "Government") filed its Response on February 22, 2017, and Defendant filed a Reply on March 10, 2013. (ECF Nos. 21 & 28). On February 27, 2017, this Court referred the instant motion to a Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). (ECF No. 24). The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation on Defendant's Motion to Suppress on May 5, 2017. (ECF No. 33). Defendant filed Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on May 19, 2017. (ECF No. 34). The Government filed a Response in Opposition to Defendant's Objections on June 1, 2017. (ECF No. 37). After a de novo review, the Court finds that the Report and Recommendation should be Adopted.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court may refer a motion to suppress in a criminal matter to a magistrate judge for the purpose of conducting an evidentiary hearing and to submit proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of the motion. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The Court must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specific proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). However, the Court is not required to conduct a de novo evidentiary hearing as part of its de novo review. United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674 (1980). After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the proposed findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         ANALYSIS

         Defendant has presented three objections to the Report and Recommendation: 1) A factual objection that the Magistrate Judge did not address number of Confidential Sources; 2) A legal objection to the Magistrate Judge's finding of probable cause; and 3) a legal objection to the application of the Good-faith exception.

         1. Factual Objection- number of Confidential Sources.

         The Defendant objects to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings of Fact insofar as that they do not address the number of alleged confidential sources enumerated in the search warrant affidavit at issue. Specifically, Defendant argues that "[a] finding of fact as to this issue is directly relevant to whether or not the Confidential Source(s) were credible and why so as to support a finding of probable cause, and whether or not Detective Owens' reliance on the warrant was objectively reasonable." (ECF No. 34 at 2). The warrant affidavit, in relevant part, stated:

Your affiant has received information from a reliable confidential source that has been used on several different occasions and is responsible for the seizure of 18.1 grams of crack cocaine, 55.7 grams of marijuana (THC), 1.1 grams of Heroin, and over $2, 500 in currency two felony arrests and two misdemeanor arrests. This reliable confidential source has also given Detectives information that was corroborated through investigations and found to be true and correct. In the past five days Detectives conducted mobile surveillance and observed Rajean Glen Hardy Ball leave [his residence] driving a 2000 Grey GMC Yukon with TN License Plate Number J8245W drive to a nearby location to sale [sic] Heroin to a Confidential Source and then return home to [his residence] after the transaction.

         After a review of the Magistrate Judge's factual findings, Defendant's factual objections, and the Government's Response, the Court finds that Defendant's factual objection should be overruled. Defendant's speculation that there may have been a second confidential informant in this case is of no consequence. As noted below, police officers who draft search warrant affidavits are held to a less demanding standard, and reviewing judicial officers are required to review such affidavits with common sense. The question must be asked: why would Detective Owens go to great length to include credibility and reliability information in the affidavit about one confidential source and in the same paragraph fail to include such information about a second? A common sense reading of the entire affidavit leads to the inescapable conclusion that there was only one confidential source. The detective utilized "a" reliable informant to gain the underlying information that was subsequently corroborated by investigation. Furthermore, during the investigation, the officers "observed" Defendant drive to a nearby location to sell heroin to the confidential source and then return to his residence after the transaction.

         2. Legal Objection - Probable Cause

         Defendant objects to the conclusion that the warrant to search his residence was supported by probable cause because the affidavit failed to establish a sufficient nexus between the place to be searched and the items to be seized. The Government simply responds that the search warrant is supported by probable cause, and a hyper technical review of the affidavit is inappropriate.

         The Fourth Amendment guarantees people the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and to be secure in their homes and personal effects. U.S. Const, amend IV. The Fourth Amendment also requires probable cause in order to issue a warrant. Id. "Probable cause is described as a fair probability-not an absolute certainty-that evidence of the crime will be found at the location." Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). A court reviews the determination of probable cause made by a judge with great deference and will reverse the decision only when arbitrarily made. United States v. Johnson, 351 F.3d 254, 258 (6th Cir. 2003). In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence supporting probable cause, the Court is limited to examining the information contained within the four corners of the affidavit but must examine said information in light of the "totality of the circumstances." United States v. Dyer, 580 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Gates, 462 U.S. at 239).

A policeman's affidavit should not be judged as an entry in an essay contest, . . . but, rather, must be judged by the facts it contains. While a bare statement by an affiant that he believed the informant to be truthful would not, in itself, provide a factual basis for crediting the report of an unnamed informant, we conclude that the affidavit in the present case contains an ample factual basis for crediting the report of an unnamed informant which, when coupled with affiant's own ...

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