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United States v. Hood

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

August 11, 2017




         On July 12, 2017, United States Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger filed his Report and Recommendations, (Doc. 30), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Therein, Magistrate Judge Steger recommended that Defendant's Motion to Suppress, (Doc. 19), be granted in part and denied in part. (Doc. 30 at 9). On July 26, 2017, Defendant filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendations. (Doc. 31).

         The Court has now reviewed the entire record relevant to the instant objections, and for the reasons described below, the Court will ACCEPT and ADOPT Magistrate Judge Steger's Report and Recommendations and will GRANT in part and DENY in part Defendant's Motion to Suppress.

         I. BACKGROUND The Parties have not objected to the Magistrate Judge's recitation of the facts, and the Court concludes that it is accurate.[1] The pertinent facts as summarized by Magistrate Judge Steger are as follows:

During the execution of the search warrant at Defendant's residence on August 24, 2016, law enforcement found firearms, crack, powder cocaine, pills, cash and drug paraphernalia. Defendant was arrested and taken to the Hamilton County, Tennessee jail where, on September 13, 2016, he made two phone calls from the jail facility using the jail phone system. Both calls were recorded and Defendant made inculpatory statements during these calls. Defendant contends that the recordings of these phone calls should be suppressed.
Defendant does not contend that the recording of his phone calls from the jail was, by itself, a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. During the evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress, Special Agent Adam Baldwin of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified concerning Defendant's jailhouse phone calls. More specifically, Special Agent Baldwin stated that, in 2016, he was assisting local law enforcement with the investigation of Defendant. According to Special Agent Baldwin, when a call is placed from or received by a Hamilton County jail inmate, a pre-recorded warning is played at the beginning of the call advising the participants that the call may be recorded. He verified that this warning was given in advance of both phone calls made by Defendant on September 13, 2016. Consequently, when Defendant engaged in those telephone conversations, he had full knowledge that his conversations were subject to being recorded.
Defendant's sole argument for suppressing the recorded jailhouse calls is the same argument he makes to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his residence. In both instances, Defendant contends the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant lacked probable cause and should never have been issued. Consequently, he argues, all evidence found at the residence pursuant to the August 24 search, as well as the September 13 recorded phone calls, should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. Defendant's arguments, therefore, are entirely reliant on the validity of the search warrant, a discussion of which follows.
Investigator Charles Ballard with the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) prepared and signed the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant at issue in this case. This affidavit provided as follows: Ballard is assigned to the narcotics division of CPD and has “specialized training in and experience with the world of controlled substances” [Aff. ¶ 1]. On July 28, 2016, Ballard received information from a confidential informant (CI) that “Carl Hood is selling crack cocaine from 2615 Lockwood Street” [Id. ¶ 2]. According to the CI, within the last 72 hours, the CI was on the premises of 2615 Lockwood Street and saw crack cocaine in the possession and control of one Carl Hood, a black male approximately 5'6” tall, medium build with a short to bald haircut [Id. ¶ 3]. The CI informed Ballard that there was short term traffic at this address consistent with drug sales, and Ballard confirmed this averment with his own observations [Id. ¶ 4-5]. The affidavit further states:
The said informant has made one controlled buy from the above said address for your affiant, with this buy occurring within the last 72 hours. The following controls were in place: Under the direction and control of your affiant, the said informant was physically checked or searched by your affiant for any type of contraband, your affiant found none on the informant who was visually monitored entering the premises. The informant conducted the hand to hand drug transaction, specifically money for crack cocaine. Your affiant then observed the informant leave the said premises. Your affiant, close in time thereafter personally retrieved from the informant crack cocaine purchased by the informant and suspected to be crack cocaine. Your affiant personally inspected the crack cocaine and found it to match in color, texture, shape, and odor the controlled substance known as crack cocaine. Your affiant followed appropriate procedures or safeguards which ensured that the currency supplied to the informant prior to the purchase was spent as directed, and your affiant again physically checked or searched the informant and found no other contraband on the informant. This purchase was made by the informant, the informant made no stops or had no contact with any individuals before handing crack cocaine to your affiant.

[Id. ¶ 6]. Ballard stated he had known the CI for thirteen years and that, on at least three occasions in the past, the CI had provided to him information leading to the arrests and convictions of individuals in violation of narcotics laws including crack cocaine [Id. ¶ 7-8].

         (Doc. 30 at 2-4).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Probable Cause

         Defendant objects to Magistrate Judge Steger's finding that the search warrant at issue was supported by probable cause. (Doc. 31 at 1). As a preliminary matter, Defendant's entire Objection merely reiterates the arguments raised in his original Motion to Suppress. (Compare Doc. 31 with Doc. 19). It is well-established that ...

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