United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
L. COLLIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jeremy Michael Gyurnek, had an encounter with a police
officer that was either consensual or an illegal detention.
That encounter led to the police officer's seeing drug
paraphernalia in plain sight in Defendant's vehicle,
which in turn led to Defendant's arrest, and ultimately
to Defendant's being charged in this case.
matter is now before the Court on the report and
recommendation (the “R&R”) of Magistrate
Judge Susan K. Lee, recommending the Court deny
Defendant's motion to suppress all evidence that was
discovered as a result of that encounter. (Doc. 63.)
Defendant objects to the R&R. (Doc. 64.) The United
States (“the Government”) opposes the objection.
Court has reviewed the transcript of the evidentiary hearing
the Magistrate Judge held on July 9, 2019, the exhibits
introduced at the hearing, and the briefs the parties filed
before and after the R&R issued. The Court will
ACCEPT the R&R (Doc. 63).
Defendant's motion to suppress (Doc. 51) will be
R&R begins with a detailed summary of the testimony
provided by the three witnesses at the suppression hearing:
Officer Joshua Hodge of the Cleveland, Tennessee Police
Department; Vikram Vashi, the owner of the Economy Inn at
which the events in question took place; and Defendant. (Doc.
63 [R&R] § I, at 1-6.) The following summary of the
factual background is derived from the R&R and the
evidence presented at the hearing.
April 3, 2018, between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m., Hodge was on
patrol in a marked police car near the Economy Inn. He was
patrolling the area because his supervisors had told him the
hotel management had asked for an increased police presence
based on concerns about drug trafficking. Hodge had also
received information from his supervisors that a male suspect
may have been using Room 111 at the Economy Inn for illegal
driving past the parking lot, Hodge saw a man, the Defendant,
get out of a pickup truck that had a dealer's license tag
on it. Hodge considered this irregular, because it was not a
likely time or place for a test drive. He also knew that
people sometimes use dealer tags to hide their identity.
Hodge testified on direct examination that Defendant was
walking towards a door that was near Room 111, but he
admitted on cross examination that other destinations were
possible, including a staircase or the lobby.
pulled into the parking lot, stopped his patrol car, rolled
down his window, and initiated verbal contact with Defendant.
The facts of the initial part of the encounter are the basis
of Defendant's motion to suppress. The disputed facts
begin with Hodge's first words to Defendant and end when
the footage from Hodge's body camera starts.
testified that Defendant was about fifteen or twenty feet
away, walking toward the hotel. Hodge gave a greeting of some
kind to get Defendant's attention. Hodge did not remember
what greeting he gave, but it was probably along the lines of
“Hey, how's it going?” or “What's
going on?” Defendant turned and began walking toward
the patrol car. While Hodge was parking, rolling his window
down, and getting Defendant's attention, Hodge pushed the
button to activate his body camera and his dash camera.
According to Hodge, the only thing he said to Defendant
before the recording started was that single greeting.
testified that Hodge yelled at Defendant three times before
Defendant turned and started walking toward Hodge. Defendant
testified that as he was walking toward the front office to
rent a room for the week, he heard someone yell “Hey,
man.” He looked back and saw a police officer in a
patrol car, but he kept walking. After a few more paces, he
heard “Hey, come here.” Defendant kept walking.
Then the officer raised his voice and yelled “Hey, man,
I said come here.” Defendant then turned and started
walking back toward the officer because he believed he was
not free to leave.
the time Defendant started approaching Hodge's patrol car
on, the events are captured on video and are not in dispute.
Hodge asked Defendant if he had identification. Defendant
said he did. Hodge asked to see it. Defendant again said yes,
and then said it was in his truck. Defendant turned and
walked toward his truck. Hodge called out for Defendant to
“hold up.” Defendant did not wait, but kept
walking away from Hodge toward his truck. Hodge got out of
his patrol car and followed Defendant to his truck.
truck, Hodge shined a flashlight into the vehicle as
Defendant looked for his identification. Eventually Defendant
got into the driver's seat to search. Defendant moved
items around in his truck as he searched, touching and moving
a fixed-blade knife in the pocket of the driver's side
door more than once. As he did so, Hodge saw several syringes
in the pocket of the door. Hodge grabbed Defendant's arm,
told him to step out of the truck, and told him to put his
arms behind his back. The parties agree that Defendant was
under arrest at this point and that Hodge had probable cause
for the arrest based on seeing the syringes. Defendant
struggled and fled, but was eventually apprehended.
searches revealed drugs in the pickup truck and more drugs, a
loaded firearm, and cash on Defendant's person. Based on
this evidence, Defendant was indicted for possession with
intent to distribute fifty grams or more of a mixture and
substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine
in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B),
possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking
crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i), and
possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1). (See Doc. 1.) Defendant filed a
motion to suppress on June 12, 2019 (Doc. 51), and the
Government responded in opposition on June 27, 2019 (Doc.
56). The Magistrate Judge held a hearing on July 9, 2019.
Magistrate Judge issued an R&R pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) recommending the Court deny the motion to
suppress. (Doc. 63.) The R&R first summarizes the
testimony and applicable law. The R&R then finds that the
issue turns on the witnesses' respective credibility:
based on Hodge's testimony, a reasonable person in
Defendant's position would have believed he was free to
leave, making the encounter consensual; but based on
Defendant's testimony, a reasonable person could have
believed he was not free to leave, indicating a seizure under
the Fourth Amendment. The Magistrate Judge therefore analyzed
the witnesses' credibility and concluded that Hodge was
the more credible witness and his version of events was more
credible than Defendant's. Based on the Magistrate
Judge's acceptance of Hodge's version of events, the
Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny the motion
objects to the recommendation in the R&R. (Doc. 64.) The
Government has responded. (Doc. 65.)