United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. McDONOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
March 25, 2019, Defendant Robert Penn filed a motion to
suppress all evidence seized by officers during their search
of a motel room where he was present and the statement Penn
made to law enforcement subsequent to his arrest (Doc. 55).
The Government responded in opposition (Doc. 65), and United
States Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger held a hearing
on the motion on May 8, 2019. (Doc. 71.) On July 11, 2019,
Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger filed a Report and
Recommendation (Doc. 72) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). In his Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge
Steger recommended that Penn's motion to suppress (Doc.
55) be denied. (Doc. 72.) Penn timely objected. (Doc. 76.)
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
ACCEPT and ADOPT IN PART
the report and recommendation (Doc. 72) and will
DENY Penn's motion to suppress (Doc.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court must conduct a de novo review of those
portions of the report and recommendation to which objections
are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). De novo
review does not, however, require the district court to
rehear witnesses whose testimony has been evaluated by the
magistrate judge. See United States v. Raddatz, 447
U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980). The magistrate judge, as the
factfinder, has the opportunity to observe and to hear the
witnesses and to assess their demeanor, putting him in the
best position to determine credibility. Moss v.
Hofbauer, 286 F.3d 851, 868 (6th Cir. 2002); United
States v. Hill, 195 F.3d 258, 264-65 (6th Cir. 1999). A
magistrate judge's assessment of witnesses' testimony
is, therefore, entitled to deference. United States v.
Irorere, 69 Fed.Appx. 231, 236 (6th Cir. 2003);
United States v. Navarro-Camacho, 186 F.3d 701, 705
(6th Cir. 1999).
the Court is required to engage in a de novo review
of specific objections, if the objections merely restate the
arguments asserted in a defendant's earlier motion, which
were addressed by the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation, the Court may deem those objections waived.
See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937 (E.D.
Mich. 2004). “An ‘objection' that does
nothing more than state a disagreement with a
magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes
what has been presented before, is not an
‘objection' as that term is used in this
25, 2017, a grand jury indicted Penn on the charge of
possessing a firearm while a felon, in violation of Title 18,
United States Code, Section 922(g). (Doc. 1.) On February 12,
2018, Penn filed a motion to suppress through his first
court-appointed attorney. (Doc. 22.) During the hearing on
that motion to suppress, Penn and his counsel saw body-camera
video they had not previously seen, leading Penn to move to
strike his motion to suppress. (Doc. 32.) Magistrate Judge
Steger granted Penn's motion to strike, and the Court
accepted his guilty plea on May 30, 2018. (Doc. 38.)
Penn expressed frustration with his attorney when she met
with him regarding presentencing issues, and she eventually
requested a hearing regarding attorney representation on his
behalf a few days before the scheduled sentencing hearing.
(Docs. 41-43.) Magistrate Judge Steger relieved Penn's
first attorney from further representation and appointed his
current attorney on September 24, 2018. (Doc. 45.) The Court
then granted Penn's motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
March 25, 2019, Penn filed a second motion to suppress all
evidence seized by officers during their search of Motel 6,
Room 141, and the statement Penn made to law enforcement
subsequent to his arrest. (Doc. 55.) Penn argued that: (1)
“[t]here is sufficient evidence to show that [he] had a
reasonable expectation of privacy in the motel room”;
(2) “[t]here is no evidence which establishes that the
officers' entry into the motel room was for the purpose
of securing their safety”; (3) “[t]he consent to
search the motel room which law enforcement eventually
obtained from Trevor Casteel was a product of their unlawful
entry into the motel room”; (4) “[t]he officers
[sic] entry into the motel room was not reasonable despite
the fact that Defendant PENN was on probation at the
time”; (5) “[t]he application of the exclusionary
rule is appropriate in this case”; and (6) “[a]ll
of the evidence obtained as the result of the officers'
warrantless entry into the motel room must be
excluded”-including the pistol and his subsequent
statement to law enforcement. (Doc. 56, at 7-20.)
8, 2019, Magistrate Judge Steger held an evidentiary hearing
on Penn's second motion to suppress. (Doc. 71.) At the
evidentiary hearing, Magistrate Judge Steger explained that
he would consider the evidence from the hearing on Penn's
first motion to suppress, which included testimony from
Officer Lauren Whittenburg of the East Ridge Police
Department, ATF Agent Scott Musgrave, and Probation Officer
Andrew Gavin. (Doc. 30.) Exhibits included a Tennessee
Department of Corrections Probation Order, video footage from
a body camera, and video footage from a post-arrest interview
with Penn. (Id.) At the second hearing, Magistrate
Judge Steger heard additional testimony from Officer Lauren
did not object to the facts outlined in Magistrate Judge
Steger's report and recommendation, but he did object to
the findings and legal conclusions related to those facts.
(See generally Doc. 76.) After reviewing the record
and finding the facts to be consistent with Magistrate Judge
Steger's report and recommendation, the Court
ADOPTS BY REFERENCE the facts as set out in
the report and recommendation. (Doc. 72, at 2-4); see,
e.g., United States v. Winters, 782 F.3d 289,
295 n.1 (6th Cir. 2013). The Court will refer to the facts
only as necessary to analyze the issues raised on objection.
Penn's objections to Magistrate Judge Steger's report
and recommendation are now ripe for review.
argues that the magistrate judge erred in finding that the
search of the hotel room was constitutionally permissible.
(Doc. 76, at 7.) Specifically, Penn contends that Magistrate
Judge Steger erred in determining that: (1) Penn did not meet
his burden of establishing “that he was an overnight
guest of the motel which would lead to his having a
legitimate expectation of privacy in the hotel room”;
(2) the officers' warrantless entry into the motel room
was necessary to ensure officer safety; and (3) the officers
had consent to search the room. (Id.) The Court will