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United States v. Meadows

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

October 18, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TAYLOR MEADOWS, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         All pretrial motions in this case have been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) for disposition or report and recommendation regarding disposition by the District Court as may be appropriate. This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Taylor Meadows' Motion to Suppress and Memorandum in Support [Doc. 26], filed on August 23, 2019. The Government filed a response in opposition to the motion [Doc. 27] on September 9, 2019.

         An evidentiary hearing was held on Defendant's Motion to Suppress on September 12, 2019. [Doc. 29]. Assistant United States Attorney Brent Jones appeared on behalf of the Government. Attorney Mark Brown represented Defendant Meadows, who was also present. After hearing the arguments of counsel, the Court took the motion under advisement.

         Accordingly, after reviewing the parties' briefs and arguments, the evidence and exhibits presented at the hearing, and the relevant legal authorities, the Court recommends that Defendant's Motion to Suppress [Doc. 26] be denied.

         I. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

         Defendant Meadows is charged [Doc. 3] with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute forty (40) grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl and heroin (Count 1), as well as knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count 2). These charges arise out of the execution of a search warrant on April 5, 2019 at the residence that Defendant Meadows shared with Codefendant Daniels.

         Defendant seeks [Doc. 26] to suppress and exclude all firearms seized during the execution of the search warrant at her residence at 7721 Gilmore Lane, Corryton, Tennessee (“7721 Gilmore Lane”), claiming that the seizure of such weapons was based on a search warrant lacking particularity, which was overbroad. Defendant asserts that the affidavit of Knox County Sheriff's Office Detective Tyler Ballard did not provide probable cause to search for firearms, as it included only broad statements that drug dealers typically possess firearms, and did not include any information from a confidential informant tying guns to the residence or Codefendant Daniels.

         The Government responds [Doc. 27] that the firearms were lawfully recovered from Defendant's residence, as there was probable cause to search due to the observation of multiple controlled buys of heroin and the specific inclusion of firearms in the search warrant. Additionally, the Government maintains that it was proper for Detective Ballard to state that, based upon his training and experience, it is common for drug traffickers to possess firearms. Lastly, the Government claims that even if the firearms were not described with particularity in the search warrant, they could be seized as being reasonably related to the possession of controlled substances or deemed admissible through the plain view doctrine.

         II. SUMMARY OF TESTIMONY

         At the September 12 hearing, the Government presented the testimony of Knox County Sheriff's Office Detective Tyler Ballard. Defendant presented no witnesses. The Government also introduced as Exhibit 1 the search warrant and supporting affidavit at issue. The Court summarizes the witness's testimony and introduced exhibit as follows.

         The Government first presented the testimony of Detective Ballard, who has been a detective in the narcotics unit of the Knox County Sheriff's Office for approximately two years. Detective Ballard testified that he was the lead detective in the investigation of Defendant and Codefendant Daniels. Detective Ballard stated that he received information from a confidential informant (“CI”) that Codefendant Daniels was her source of supply for heroin, and he then utilized the CI to perform two controlled buys from Codefendant Daniels. In the first controlled buy, Codefendant Daniels was witnessed leaving his residence at 7721 Gilmore Lane and arriving at a commercial parking lot, where he then delivered the heroin to the CI. Following the first controlled buy, Detective Ballard testified that law enforcement organized a second controlled buy, where Codefendant Daniels instructed the CI to pick up heroin from under the cushion of a chair on the front porch at 7721 Gilmore Lane. In both instances, the CI was searched prior to the controlled buy and subsequently obtained heroin from Codefendant Daniels.

         Based upon this information, Detective Ballard testified that he obtained a search warrant for the residence at 7721 Gilmore Lane from Chief Magistrate Christopher Rowe of the General Sessions Court for Knox County. Detective Ballard stated that he had reviewed his submitted affidavit and the search warrant prior to the hearing. Detective Ballard testified that he did not see Codefendant Daniels possessing a firearm during either of the controlled buys. However, Detective Ballard stated that he requested to search for firearms in the search warrant because, based upon his training and experience as a narcotics investigator, it is common for drug dealers to carry firearms.

         Detective Ballard stated that he was present for the search of Defendant's residence on April 5, 2019, and law enforcement found 56 grams of heroin, which contained fentanyl; 99 prescription drugs, including a mixture of oxymorphone and oxycodone or hydrocodone; a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia; four guns, two of which were stolen; and approximately $14, 000 in cash. Detective Ballard testified that Defendant and Codefendant Daniels were present and located in the bedroom at the time of the search. Additionally, Detective Ballard testified that some of the hydrocodone pills were found in the bedroom, and three firearms were found in the drawer of a nightstand on Codefendant Daniels side of the bed, while one was found in the drawer of a nightstand on Defendant's side of the bed. Detective Ballard stated that both firearms and drugs could potentially have been found in the drawer of the nightstand. Further, Detective Ballard testified that at the time of the search, he was aware that Codefendant Daniels was a multi-convicted felon in Knox County for the distribution of a Schedule I controlled substance, as well as that Defendant was under indictment for aggravated assault.

         On cross-examination, Detective Ballard stated that the drawers of the nightstand were initially closed before being searched. Next, Detective Ballard testified that the hydrocodone pills were found in the nightstand on Codefendant Daniels' side of the bed, while marijuana was found in the nightstand on Defendant's side, but that no heroin was found in the bedroom. Detective Ballard stated that it was possible that Codefendant Daniels had a firearm during the first controlled buy, but he did not see, and the CI did not mention, a firearm. Detective Ballard further testified that he had no direct knowledge that there were firearms within 7721 Gilmore Lane, and the CI had never been inside the residence.

         Detective Ballard stated that an attorney assisted him in preparing the affidavit for the search warrant based upon his provided information, but he reviewed the affidavit and that it was 100% correct. Detective Ballard testified that the information in the affidavit stemmed from his reports of the investigation. ...


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