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United States v. Hollins

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

March 16, 2018

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff,
v.
De'LEWIS HOLLINS, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          CHARMIANE G. CLAXTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant De'Lewis Hollins' Motion to Suppress. (Docket Entry “D.E.” #33). The instant motion was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation. (D.E. #47). An evidentiary hearing was held on January 18, 2018. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Motion is hereby DENIED.

         I. Introduction

         On May 25, 2017, Defendant was indicted by a grand jury of this Court with one count of assaulting a person having lawful charge, custody and control of United States Mail (Count One), one count of forcibly assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, or interfering with an officer or employee of the United States (Count Two), and one count of knowingly possessing the electronic benefits transfer card of another with the intent to commit food stamp fraud (Count Three). (D.E. #2).

         On November 27, 2017, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Suppress pursuant to Rules 12(b)(3)(c) and Rule 41(h) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure alleging that Defendant's rights under the Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment were violated. Accordingly, Defendant sought the suppression of all statements attributed to Defendant and all evidence subsequently obtained by those statements. On December 11, 2017, the Government responded that no constitutional violations occurred and, therefore, that suppression of evidence was not appropriate.

         II. Proposed Findings of Fact

         a. Events Transpiring at the Scene of Arrest

         At the evidentiary hearing, ten witnesses testified as to the events surrounding Defendant's arrest and subsequent questioning at the Mount Moriah precinct. United States Postal Inspector Robert Weeks (“Inspector Weeks”) testified that he was a part of a team investigating the robbery of a postal carrier at the Dogwood Trace Apartments at the intersection of Winchester and Knight Road in January 2007. (Tr. at 10:8-11:6, 11:24-12:3, 14:1-5). A suspect was developed through an investigation in which they learned that EBT cards were stolen from a victim and used for purchases at a gas station. (Tr. at 11:9-15). Surveillance video was obtained from the gas station, and the description of the suspect was concluded to be “a black male approximately six foot one [sic], six foot two [sic], wearing a dark beanie that had a Bulls emblem on top of it or the front of the beanie itself, dark clothing.” (Tr. at 11:16-23, 12:15-20, 16:15-17).

         On February 2, 2017, Inspector Weeks was part of the team who was surveilling the area for the suspect and observed a person matching that description. (Tr. at 13:18-25). Inspector Weeks was positioned at the intersection of Winchester and Knight Road adjacent to the apartment complex at a convenience store beginning at approximately 4:45 a.m. that morning. (Tr. at 14:6-10, 19:2-5). The team inside the apartment complex “positively ID'd the suspect wearing the Chicago Bulls beanie” and radioed to Inspector Weeks that he was heading in his direction and to stand by for further information. (Tr. at 14:20-25). Inspector Weeks “got the direction that he was going” outside of the apartment complex facing northbound on Knight Road, saw the suspect cross the street, turned on the blue lights on his vehicle, and approached the suspect in his vehicle before he got to the intersection where he could flee on foot. (Tr. at 15:1-7). Inspector Weeks “cut him off, ” and as he was getting out of his vehicle, announced himself, drew his weapon, pointed it at the suspect, and told him to place his hands into the air. (Tr. at 15:9-13). The suspect complied, and Inspector Weeks directed him to the front of his vehicle, made him place his hands on the front of the vehicle, holstered his weapon, and detained him with handcuffs. (Tr. at 15:12-17). Inspector Weeks' contact with and detention of the suspect occurred between 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. (19:6-13). Inspector Weeks testified that there was no physical struggle with Defendant at any time. (Tr. at 15:18-20).

         Inspector Weeks testified that, after he detained Defendant, the rest of the team “came upon him, ” that United States Postal Inspector Darren Riggs (“Inspector Riggs”) took over and did a “thorough search, ” and that Inspector Weeks was “hands-off” after that. (Tr. at 16:3-9). Inspector Weeks did photograph the suspect “as it was happening.” (Tr. at 16:7-17:2 & Collective Exh. 1). Inspector Weeks testified that Defendant was “argumentative” and “kind of upset” after being detained, and Inspector Weeks told him to “be quiet” and “keep his mouth shut.” (Tr. at 17:15-20). Inspector Weeks reiterated that he did not have to use any physical violence against Defendant, that he did not see anyone else use any physical violence against Defendant, that he did not observe Defendant complain to him or anyone else about pain or discomfort, and that Defendant had “no injuries to his face.” (Tr. at 17:15-18:18, 21:10-12). Inspector Weeks testified that neither he nor anyone he observed began asking investigatory questions of Defendant and that he did not advise Defendant of his Miranda rights. (Tr. at 17:15-18:18, 19:20-20:4). Inspector Weeks testified that a Memphis Police Department ("MPD") transport officer arrived at approximately 10:00 a.m. and that Defendant was ultimately taken from the scene by the MPD officer for questioning. (Tr. at 17:15-18:18, 20:16-21:3). Inspector Weeks testified that he did not go to the MPD precinct to assist in any questioning. (Tr. at 21:13-14).

         Inspector Riggs testified that he was also part of the team investigating the robberies at the Dogwood Trace Apartments in January 2017. (Tr. at 24:1-8). He testified that the physical description of the suspect was developed because the victim's EBT card was used at Knight Arnold grocery on January 31, 2017 where video surveillance recorded his image. (Tr. at 25:12-17). Inspector Riggs was aware of the suspect's description when he went to conduct surveillance at the apartment complex on February 2, 2017 and observed a man matching the description on that date. (Tr. at 27:25-28:6). Inspector Riggs was parked in the Dogwood Trace Apartments and saw Defendant walking through a breezeway, crossing over the road, and walking towards the gated exit of the complex. (Tr. at 28:8-16). He got into his vehicle, and radio communications were made advising of the suspect's movements. (Tr. at 8-18). Defendant exited the pedestrian gate, crossed Knight Road, and was then stopped by Inspector Weeks when he “pull[ed] up and block[ed] that sidewalk and that southbound exit off of Knight.” (Tr. at 28:17-21, 31:25-32:21). Inspector Riggs then went to the location where Inspector Weeks had detained Defendant, parked several yards from him, and observed as Inspector Weeks was handcuffing him. (Tr. at 29:3-8, 31:20-24, 32:22-33:14).

         Inspector Riggs testified that the photographs taken by Inspector Weeks truly and accurately represented Defendant's appearance on February 2, 2017. (Tr. at 29:12-20 & Exh. 29). Inspector Riggs testified that he did not observe any injuries to Defendant on the photographs. (Tr. at 29:21-23). Inspector Riggs testified that he did not conduct any physical violence against Defendant nor did he witness anyone do so. (Tr. at 29:24-30:4). Inspector Riggs testified that he did not observe Defendant complain to anyone about physical pain or discomfort as a result of his detention and arrest. (Tr. at 30:5-9). Inspector Riggs testified that he did not perform any investigative questioning of Defendant, that he did not see anyone else perform investigative questioning of Defendant, and that he did not hear Defendant ask for an attorney, ask for any type of investigation to cease before he obtained an attorney, or receive his Miranda rights. (Tr. at 30:10-19, 33:15-17, 34:20-24). Inspector Riggs testified that MPD arrived within approximately ten to fifteen minutes of Defendant's arrest to transport him from the scene. (Tr. at 31:2-9, 35:8-22). Inspector Riggs was not involved in any questioning of Defendant at the MPD precinct. (Tr. at 31:10-13, 36:12-13).

         MPD Officer Justin Crutcher testified that he was on duty on February 2, 2017 and was called to the Dogwood Trace Apartments to assist in transporting a suspect back to the MPD precinct. (Tr. at 39:8-40:7, 41:1-10). When Officer Crutcher arrived, Defendant was already in custody and handcuffed. (Tr. at 41:11-13, 44:20-25). Thus, Officer Crutcher and his partner, Officer Jacoba Boyd, transported the individual to the precinct. (Tr. At 41:16-25, 50:8-9). Officer Boyd took the suspect in his vehicle, and Officer Crutcher travelled separately in his own. (Tr. at 42:1-11, 42:19-21, 47:5-). Officer Crutcher testified that he did not conduct any physical violence against Defendant, did not observe any physical injuries on Defendant, did not hear Defendant complaint of physical pain or discomfort, and did not witness anyone else conduct any physical violence against Defendant. (Tr. at 42:22-43:15). Officer Crutcher testified that there was no physical violence or struggle to get Defendant into the MPD vehicle for transport and that he did so “willingly.” (Tr. at 43:16-22). Officer Crutcher testified that he did not begin an investigative interview with Defendant and that he did not witness anyone inform Defendant of his Miranda rights. (Tr. at 43:23-44:4, 46:11-13). Officer Crutcher testified that he was “pretty sure” he had a body camera on that date, that it should be on when he is interacting with citizens, that body camera footage is later retrievable, but that he did not have a dash camera in his car. (Tr. at 47:19-49:7). Officer Crutcher testified that he thought Officer Boyd also had a body camera but not a dash camera. (Tr. at 48:9-21). Officer Crutcher was aware that Defendant was questioned later on that day at the MPD precinct but was not himself involved in the interview. (Tr. at 44:5-9).

         Officer Boyd testified that he was also involved in the transport of Defendant from the area near the Dogwood Trace Apartments to the Mount Moriah precinct. (Tr. at 50:21-51:8, 51:23-52:1). When he arrived on the scene, Defendant was already arrested and in handcuffs. (Tr. at 53:24-54:5). Officer Boyd neither observed Defendant complaining of any sort of physical violence or pain nor did he observe Defendant being assaulted, injured, or involved in a physical struggle. (Tr. at 52:2-13). Officer Boyd testified that he believes that he was the person who placed Defendant into his vehicle and transported him to the precinct for questioning. (Tr. at 52:14-23, 55:23-56:3). Officer Boyd did not perform any investigatory questioning of Defendant or observe anyone else doing so. (Tr. at 52:24-53:6). Officer Boyd does not recall Defendant asking for an attorney or asking for any investigation to stop or cease. (Tr. at 53:7-10, 57:24-59:7). Officer Boyd did not advise Defendant of his Miranda rights. (Tr. at 56:4-8). Officer Boyd testified that he had a body camera but did not recall if it was on although it is supposed to be under MPD policy. (Tr. at 56:9-19, 64:21-66:12). Officer Boyd testified that he did not recall if he had a dash camera but that, if he did, it also should have been on. (Tr. at 57:2-9). When Officer Boyd arrived at the precinct with Defendant, Officer Boyd performed a pat-down of Defendant and believes that he asked Defendant if he wished to use the restroom and placed him in a holding room. (Tr. at 53:11-18, 58:9-16, 59:8-22, 66:13-20). Officer Boyd does not remember if Defendant had a wallet or any money in his possession. (Tr. at 66:21-24, 67:16-17, 68:13-15).

         B. Events Transpiring at the Mount Moriah Precinct

         United States Postal Inspector Branden Guffey (“Inspector Guffey”) testified that he first came into contact with Defendant upon his arrival at the Mount Moriah precinct. (Tr. at 70:24-71:6). Inspector Guffey testified that he and United States Postal Inspector Gregory Newberry (“Inspector Newberry”) were waiting for Defendant's arrival at the precinct, and he was sitting in the interview room when they walked in. (Tr. at 71:7-13, 82:8-16). The interview room was approximately “ten by ten” with his foot chained to the floor. (Tr. at 86:18-87:2). Inspector Guffey did not speak with any of the “street patrol officers” before interviewing Defendant, and he was not informed before the interview that Defendant had requested an attorney. (Tr. at 9-20). Inspector Guffey did not pat down Defendant or have any physical contact with him. (Tr. at 82:21-24). They began by informing Defendant of his Miranda rights at approximately 11:00 a.m., which he waived. (Tr. at 71:14-22, 73:11-75:1, 75:11-20, 82:17-20, 83:24-84:2 & Exhs. 2 & 3). Inspector Guffey did not inquire about Defendant's mental health, his education, his ability to read and write, whether he took medication or had missed any dosages of it, or whether he was intoxicated because he had no reason to suspect any concerns in these areas. (Tr. at 88:10-89:7, 93:15-94:2). Inspector Guffey testified that Defendant “seemed coherent, able to answer questions, [and] was able to communicate” and “seemed to understand what was going on.” (Tr. at 93:25-94:1, 94:7-9).

         Defendant was then questioned until approximately 3:00 p.m., and Inspector Guffey was present the entire time either in the interview room or in the General Investigations Bureau's (“GIB”) “GIB room” where he could watch the interview remotely. (Tr. at 75:21-23, 76:25-77:13). Inspector Guffey testified that Detective Demarius Jones, Detective Robert Brown, and Sergeant Ammons of the MPD were also present. (Tr. at 77:14-19, 85:23-25). Inspector Guffey and Inspector Newberry went into the room to question Defendant during some periods, and they left for Detective Jones and Detective Brown to question him during other periods, although Inspector Guffey states that he was able to watch the MPD questioning live throughout on a television feed. (Tr. at 85:17-86:17). Defendant initially denied all involvement in the robberies, although he was not combative, loud, yelling, or refusing to answer questions, so Inspector Guffey presented him with pictures from the scene and photographs they believed to be Defendant. (Tr. at 92:12-93:8, 84:10-16).

         Defendant was allowed two breaks from approximately 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from approximately 1:42 p.m. until 2:15 p.m. (Tr. at 75:24-76:8, 84:3-85:16). During these breaks, Defendant was permitted to use the restroom and smoke, although Inspector Guffey testified that he was not the person who took Defendant either to the restroom or on a cigarette break. (Tr. at 76:9-11, 84:18-85:16, 87:25-88:5, 90:1-6). During the first break, Inspector Guffey testified that Defendant waited in the room while they all watched him through the live television feed. (Tr. at 87:6-24, 88:6-9). During the second break, from approximately 1:43 p.m. until 2:12 p.m., Defendant was removed from the interview room for a cigarette break, but neither Inspector Guffey nor Inspector Newberry were the ones who did so. (Tr. at 89:8-15, 89:18-25). Inspector Guffey also did not offer Defendant anything to eat or drink during the interview period, although Defendant was never denied a request for a bathroom break, food or drink, and did not indicate that he was physically ...


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