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United States v. McGahee

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

September 11, 2019




         I. Introduction

         Before the Court is Defendant Dorsey McGahee's Motion to Suppress. [Doc. 26].[1] On July II, 2019, the undersigned conducted a hearing on the suppression motion. Attorney Keith Davis represented McGahee, who was also present at the hearing. Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Brown represented the Government.

         In his suppression motion and as argued by Attorney Davis at the hearing, McGahee asserted that he was not read his Miranda rights[2] before he was interrogated by police. The Government countered that any pre-Miranda questioning by law enforcement fell within Miranda's "booking exception."[3] McGahee also argued that he invoked his right to have counsel present immediately after his Miranda rights were read to him, but police officers continued to interrogate him without counsel present. The Government responded that McGahee did not unequivocally invoke his right to counsel. And, further, he signed a waiver relinquishing his right to have counsel present during the interrogation.

         For the following reasons, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Defendant's Motion to Suppress [Doc. 26] be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         II. Facts

         The criminal charges against McGahee arose as a result of an armed bank robbery committed at the Trust Federal Credit Union located on Gunbarrel Road in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on October 18, 2016. [Doc. 1]. Wearing "old man" style masks and brandishing handguns, two men robbed the bank and fled from the scene in a silver Jeep Compass. A bank employee called 911 and described the Jeep to an operator who, in turn, dispatched police officers to the bank to investigate. The police issued a "be on the lookout" advisory for the silver Jeep that had been used as a get-away vehicle.

         Shortly after the robbery, an off-duty police officer observed a silver Jeep Compass- occupied by two men-parked outside a nearby medical plaza. Realizing that they had been spotted by the officer, the two men sped away, leading police on a high-speed chase. At some point, the driver of the Jeep lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a telephone pole near an office park. The two men exited the vehicle and attempted to escape on foot. When police officers searched the wrecked Jeep, they recovered a black knit cap, a gun, a pen with the bank's logo, and a keyring containing a key to a Cadillac vehicle. They also found an "old man" style mask nearby. Quincy Richards-one of the men who had fled from the wrecked Jeep-was caught by police after he leaped over a concrete barrier wall and crossed eight lanes of traffic on Interstate 75.

         The other man, later identified as Dorsey McGahee, led the police on a more extended chase. After exiting the Jeep Compass, McGahee ran to the parking lot of a neighboring office building. There he encountered a woman sitting inside her Lexus SUV. McGahee forced entry into the car, punched the female driver, and ordered her out of the car. After carjacking the vehicle, McGahee drove away continuing his efforts to escape. Unbeknownst to McGahee, the driver of the Lexus left her cell phone in the vehicle when she was carjacked. Police later "pinged" that cell phone and determined that the phone-and, more importantly, the Lexus in which it was still located-was at an abandoned house. When law enforcement arrived at the vacant residence, they found the Lexus, but McGahee was not there. They did, however, uncover a second "old man" style mask in the vehicle.[4]

         Returning to the wrecked Jeep Compass, police officers ran the registration and found that the vehicle belonged to Thrifty Car Rental. Officers then visited the local Thrifty Car Rental and learned that management had recently fired several temporary employees for driving rental vehicles "off the books" and without permission. When police reviewed a list of the temporary employees of Thrifty who had been recently terminated, McGahee was on the list. The officers researched McGahee's background and discovered that McGahee owned a Cadillac. With the Cadillac key recovered from the wrecked Jeep-as well as McGahee's name on the list of Thrifty Car Rental employees who had been terminated-the authorities identified McGahee as a suspect.

         Task Force Officer Jeremy Winbush entered McGahee's name into the Tennessee Offender Management Information System ("TOMIS"), a database utilized by the Tennessee Department of Correction. Through that database, Officer Winbush discovered that McGahee's girlfriend, Nakeda Eady, visited him seven times in 2015 while he was imprisoned in state custody. Also, through their investigation into McGahee's background, law enforcement discovered that McGahee was on parole and was required to register as a sex offender. When police were unable to locate McGahee, they contacted his parole officer. The parole officer then called McGahee and directed him to report to the parole office. McGahee complied with this request.

         When McGahee arrived at the parole office, Winbush met him and placed McGahee in handcuffs. McGahee asked if he was being placed under arrest. Winbush replied that he was not under arrest but indicated that he was being detained for an interview. Winbush asked McGahee whether he had any drugs, guns, weapons, or other contraband on his person. McGahee responded that he did not. Another police officer then drove McGahee to the local FBI office. Upon arrival at the FBI office, Winbush placed McGahee in an interview room where he remained in handcuffs. Officer Winbush sat across the table from McGahee with a pen and notepad in hand.

         Without reading McGahee his Miranda rights, [5] Winbush obtained the following information during the interview:

• Winbush asked McGahee where he was staying. McGahee responded that he lived with his girlfriend in Apartment 302 at Stone Ridge Apartments but sometimes stayed at his mother's house.
• Winbush asked if McGahee's girlfriend is related to the "Eadys." McGahee replied that his girlfriend was Nakeda Eady.
• Referencing Eady, Winbush asked if she was employed. McGahee responded that she was recently laid off from-or had quit her job at- Memorial Hospital.
• Winbush asked for Eady's phone number. McGahee provided Eady's phone number.
• Winbush asked whether Eady was at home. McGahee indicated that she probably was at home, but he was not certain.
• Winbush asked McGahee whether Eady drove a vehicle, and also asked what make and color of the car she drove. McGahee responded that she drove a blue BMW.

         Winbush documented McGahee's answers, left the FBI office, and drove to the Stone Ridge Apartments to interview Nakeda Eady. Winbush testified at the hearing that he knew Eady from a previous, unrelated case that he had investigated. Upon questioning, Eady provided McGahee's telephone number to Winbush. She also gave consent for Winbush to search her phone. As Winbush looked at the contents of Eady's phone, he viewed her contacts, call logs, and text messages. He noted that she had a number saved in her contacts as "Nuke." Eady confirmed that "Nuke" was McGahee's nickname and that the corresponding phone number was his. In looking at the phone, Winbush was able to verify several calls McGahee made to Eady at around the time of the bank robbery and the carjacking. Winbush then questioned Eady about these calls from McGahee. She responded that, in one of the calls made during that time, McGahee was upset and indicated that he was looking for "Quincy." Eady also advised Winbush that McGahee had previously driven a rental vehicle while employed at Thrifty Car Rental.

         While Winbush was questioning Eady at her apartment, two agents entered the interview room at the FBI office where McGahee was waiting. They identified themselves as Special Agent Galloway with the FBI and Special Agent Puckett with the Chattanooga Police Department's Major Crimes Unit. The agents' interview-before giving McGahee his Miranda rights-is summarized as follows:

• Galloway told McGahee that he and Puckett had just left McGahee's parents' house.
• Galloway asked McGahee if he had any idea why McGahee was at the FBI office. McGahee replied, "no."
• Galloway said that they were investigating a bank robbery and carjacking. McGahee interrupted and asked what it had to do with him. Galloway said that it had a lot to do with him because there was "a lot of stuff" that led them to McGahee.
• Puckett interrupted Galloway and said that there were a few "formalities" to deal with before discussing the evidence.
• Galloway told McGahee that the "formalities" were to advise him of his rights. Galloway then presented an advice-of-rights form to McGahee. Galloway asked McGahee if he could read and write. McGahee said that he could.
• Galloway read the form aloud to McGahee, which states the following:

         Before we ask you any questions, you must understand your rights. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If ...

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