United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
S. MATTICE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
August 26, 2019, United States Magistrate Judge Christopher
Steger filed his Report and Recommendation (Doc. 64) pursuant
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), in which he recommends the Motion
to Suppress (Doc. 44) filed by Defendant Eugene Bennerson be
denied. Defendant timely objected to the Report and
Recommendation and the Government responded. The Court has
reviewed the record and submissions of the parties and
accepts and adopts the findings of fact and conclusions of
law set forth in the Report and Recommendation, with one
exception. The Court does not agree that the record
establishes how much time elapsed between when the informants
observed evidence of drug trafficking and when the search
warrant was issued. However, based on the surrounding
circumstances, the Court finds probable cause for the search
existed even without this finding, as the relevant time
period was less than 24 hours. Accordingly, the Court will
accept and adopt in part the Report and Recommendation (Doc.
64) and deny Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 44).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court reviews de novo those portions of the Report
and Recommendation to which an objection is made and may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C.
facts set forth in the Report and Recommendation are not in
dispute. On February 13, 2019, special agents with
the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation executed a search
warrant at Room 245 at the Red Roof Inn Plus and Suites,
located at 208 Market Place Blvd., Knoxville, Tennessee (the
“Red Roof Inn”). (Doc. 64 at 1). Officers
discovered, inter alia, digital scales,
approximately 9 ¼ ounces of methamphetamine, and a Red
Roof Inn receipt in the name of Eugene Bennerson.
(Id.). On April 23, 2019, Defendant was indicted for
several federal drug and firearm crimes, including conspiracy
to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of
methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance
of a drug trafficking crime. (Doc. 1).
2, 2019, Defendant moved to suppress all evidence seized as a
result of the search of Room 245. (Doc. 44). Defendant argues
the affidavit in support of the warrant did not provide
probable cause for the search because it relies on hearsay
information without either establishing the reliability of
the informants or corroborating their information.
(Id. at 7-10). Defendant also argues the affidavit
fails to establish his continued occupancy of the motel room
and consequently the information in the affidavit was stale.
(Id. at 6-7). The motion was referred to Magistrate
Judge Steger, see Doc. 46, who recommends it be denied. (Doc.
64). On September 3, 2019, Defendant filed timely objections
to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 67). The United
States responded on September 9, 2019. (Doc. 68).
Fourth Amendment provides no warrant shall issue but upon
probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation ....”
U.S. Const. amend IV. “The test for probable
cause is simply whether there is a fair probability that
contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a
particular place.” United States v. Murphy,
241 F.3d 447, 457 (6th Cir. 2001) (internal citation
omitted). The issuing magistrate is tasked with making a
“practical, common-sense decision, ” based on the
affidavit, including the veracity, reliability, and basis of
the knowledge of any persons supplying hearsay information.
Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). On
review, the Court affords great deference to the
magistrate's determination of probable cause. United
States v. Allen, 211 F.3d 970 (6th Cir. 2000).
the affidavit reflects that special agents with the Federal
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) were
investigating a drug trafficking organization in the
Knoxville, Tennessee area. (Doc. 45-3 at 3). The ATF had
developed information that Grenardic Williams distributed
methamphetamine in Knoxville, specifically near Cedar Bluff
Road. (Id.). According to the affidavit, ATF agents
had used a Confidential Source (CS) to purchase
methamphetamine from members of the organization.
February 13, 2019, the ATF used a CS to arrange a controlled
buy of 4 ounces of methamphetamine. (Id.). According
to the CS, Grenardic Williams told the CS that his brother
and a woman would arrive in Athens, Tennessee “later in
the afternoon on February 13, 2019, to complete the
transaction” and that they would be in a black two-door
sedan with front-end damage. (Id.). The described
vehicle arrived at the expected location, with a white female
driver and a black male passenger. (Id.). Agents
detained the occupants of the vehicle, identified as Malorie
Houser and Gretavius Williams. (Id.).
After the Miranda Rights had been read, HOUSER and GRETAVIUS
WILLIAMS admitted that approximately four (4) ounces of
Methamphetamine was located in their vehicle in the center
cupholder…. HOUSER and GRETAVIUS WILLIAMS added that
they brought the Methamphetamine from Room #245 of the Red
Roof motel located near Cedar Bluff Road in Knoxville,
Tennessee. Houser and GRETAVIUS WILLIAMS also stated that
they had observed multiple ounces more of Methamphetamine
located in Room #245. HOUSER and GRETAVIUS WILLIAMS described
the multiple ounces of Methamphetamine to be inside a jar in
Room #245. HOUSER and GRETAVIOUS WILLIAMS also stated that
the way the multiple ounces of Methamphetamine was packaged
in Room #245 was the same way the four (4) ounces of
Methamphetamine was packaged that was found in their ...