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United States v. Spencer

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

May 22, 2019




         Before the Court is Defendant Jaire Spencer's Motion to Suppress and Supporting Memorandum, filed January 16, 2019. (ECF No. 25.) The Court referred the motion to the Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation on January 16, 2019. (ECF No. 26.) The Government filed its Response to Motion to Suppress on January 30, 2019. (ECF No. 27.) Magistrate Judge Pham held an evidentiary hearing on February 13, 2019.

         On April 12, 2019, Magistrate Judge Pham issued a Report and Recommendation (the “Report”), recommending the motion be denied. (ECF No. 35.) Defendant filed his objections to the Report on April 18, 2019. (ECF No. 36.) The Government filed a response to Defendant's objections on April 29, 2019. (ECF No. 39.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and DENIES Defendant's Motion to Suppress.


         On September 27, 2018, the Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Defendant with being an unlawful user of a controlled substance, who knowingly possessed a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3). (ECF No. 2.) Defendant pleaded not guilty. In his Motion to Suppress and Supporting Memorandum, Defendant asks the Court to suppress “any and all physical evidence whether tangible or intangible; any statements or admissions alleged to have been made by the Defendant; any and all observations of law enforcement officers and any other tangible or intangible evidence obtained during or as a direct or indirect result from the search of he and his parents' residence located in Memphis, Tennessee . . . .” (ECF No. 25 at PageID 27.)

         At the evidentiary hearing on this motion, the Government called as witnesses two officers with the Multi-Agency Gang Unit of the Memphis Police Department, Officer James Reed and Detective Cody Mills. Defendant called one witness, his father, J.T. Spencer, and Defendant also testified. As Magistrate Judge Pham noted, “[b]oth sides provided drastically different accounts of the events at issue in the instant motion.” (ECF No. 35 at PageID 213.)

         According to the officers' testimony, they, along with other members of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit, went to Defendant's home on February 1, 2018. (ECF 34 at PageID 56-57, 102-03.) They had been instructed to arrest Defendant because he had threatened to shoot a police officer. (Id.) Officer Reed, Detective Mills, and one other officer approached the residence and knocked on the door. (Id. at PageID 58, 103-04.) None of the officers had their weapons drawn. (Id. at PageID 74-75, 80, 84.) Prior to the officers approaching the residence, approximately seven to ten additional officers set up a perimeter around the residence. (Id. at PageID 58, 73, 84.)

         Defendant's father, J.T. Spencer, answered the door. (Id. at PageID 58, 76, 117.) The officers asked if Defendant was at the residence, and Mr. Spencer advised he was and asked what was going on. (Id. at PageID 58-59, 76, 85, 118.) The officers told Mr. Spencer that Defendant was part of an ongoing investigation, and asked Mr. Spencer for permission to enter the residence. (Id. at 59, 85, 103.) Mr. Spencer told the officers they could come in and pointed them down the hallway towards Defendant's bedroom. (Id. at PageID 59, 85, 103, 119.) The officers entered the bedroom and found Defendant in his underwear. (Id. at PageID 60-61, 105-06, 120.) Defendant was handcuffed, and Detective Mills escorted Defendant from the residence and placed him in the back of a squad car. (Id. at Page ID 61-62, 93, 106, 121.) During this time, Officer Reed remained inside the residence, standing in the doorway of Defendant's bedroom to secure the bedroom and make sure no one entered or exited. (Id. at 63-64, 68-69.)

         After being placed in the back of the squad car, Defendant asked Detective Mills if he could get him some clothing because Defendant was cold being outside in only his underwear in February. (Id. at PageID 106.) Detective Mills then went back inside the residence to get some clothes for Defendant. (Id. at PageID 107.) Detective Mills retrieved pieces of clothing that were lying on the bed and floor of Defendant's bedroom. (Id. at 64, 107.) At that time, Officer Reed pointed out to Detective Mills marijuana residue that he had noticed on top of the dresser in Defendant's bedroom. (Id. at 63, 107.) When Detective Mills turned to look at the dresser to see the marijuana, he noticed there was a gun sitting inside the second drawer, which was slightly ajar. (Id. at PageID 64, 108.) The gun was of concern to the officers because Defendant had made a threat to shoot an officer. (Id. at PageID 70.) Detective Mills brought the gun to Officer Reed's attention. (Id. at 70, 94-95.) Detective Mills then went to the living room to ask Mr. Spencer for consent to search the bedroom while Officer Reed remained in the hallway near Defendant's bedroom door. (Id. at 95-96.) After receiving consent to search from Mr. Spencer and Defendant, the officers seized the firearm. (Id. at 111-12, 131-33.)

         According to the testimony of Mr. Spencer and Defendant, on the morning in question, Mr. Spencer was about to leave his residence when he noticed seven or eight unmarked police cars approaching the house. (Id. at PageID 135.) Mr. Spencer went back inside to tell his wife and Defendant that the police were at the house. (Id.) As Mr. Spencer was walking back down the hallway toward the front door, the police came through the door without permission and asked if Defendant was there. (Id. at PageID 137-38.) The officers continued into the residence and found Defendant in the hallway attempting to put on his pants. (Id. at PageID 138-39.) The officers removed Defendant from the residence, and Mr. Spencer and his wife were asked to sit on the couch in the living room. (Id. at PageID 139-40.) While seated in the living room, Mr. Spencer could hear officers opening his son's dresser drawers and searching the bedroom. (Id. at PageID 99.) Mr. Spencer signed a consent to search form, but this was only after the officers had searched Defendant's bedroom and found the firearm. (Id. at PageID 150.)

         Magistrate Judge Pham found “the testimony of the officers to be credible and the testimony of the defendant and J.T. Spencer to be not credible.” (ECF No. 35 at PageID 216.) Ultimately, Magistrate Judge Pham concluded that

(1) the officers sought and obtained permission from J.T. Spencer to enter his residence to look for defendant; (2) the drawer where the firearm was found was already partially open when the officers initially entered the defendant's bedroom; and (3) the officers did not open any of the drawers or conduct a search of the bedroom prior to seeing the firearm.

(ECF No. 35 at PageID 216-17.)

         STANDARD ...

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