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United States v. Coleman

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 17, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge David Noce [56], pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), recommending the denial of Defendant Denzel Devon Coleman's Motions to Suppress [36]. Defendant filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation [57]. The Court ordered Defendant to file more specific objections, which were filed by Defendant on April 27, 2018 [59].

         The Court conducts a de novo review of those portions of a report or specified proposed findings to which timely objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); see also United States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir. 2003). General objections are not sufficient to challenge a magistrate judge's findings and are subject to clear error review. See Ramirez v. U.S., 898 F.Supp.2d 659, 663 (S.D.N.Y. 2012); Greene v. Quest Diagnostics Clinical Lab., Inc., 455 F.Supp.2d 483, 488 (D.S.C. 2006); Thompson v. Nix, 897 F.2d 356, 357-58 (8th Cir. 1990). Although the Eight Circuit has indicated approval of such an exception, it has repeatedly emphasized the necessity of de novo review. Hudson v. Gammon, 46 F.3d 785, 786 (8th Cir. 1995).

         The Court reviewed the motions, and the testimony, evidence, and arguments from the evidentiary hearing. Based on this de novo review, the Court concludes the Magistrate Judge made proper findings and correctly analyzed the issues. The facts of this case, relevant to the motion to suppress, are as follows.

         On December 15, 2016, JD[1] called 911 to report he had been robbed at the Knights Inn, 2790 Target Drive in St. Louis County. Around 3:00 a.m., St. Louis County Police Detective Michael Daugherty and Police Officer Trainee Benn arrived at the scene and spoke with JD. Officers Saul and Traum had already arrived at the scene and spoken with JD. The officers reported to Detective Daugherty what they learned and then went to Room 229 of the motel. Detective Daugherty and Officer Benn remained with JD, who told them he had gone to Room 229 to meet with a young female with reddish color hair in response to a ad for a special massage. After he was admitted into the room, JD said the female admitted a large black male who told JD he could leave after he provided “his donation to the cause, ” which was $140.00. When the black male stated this, he reached toward his waistband. JD stated he paid the money.

         When Officers Saul and Traum arrived on the floor with Room 229, they saw a female run from Room 229 towards Room 226. After Detective Daugherty and Officer Benn arrived on the floor, Officer Benn and another officer went to the front desk of the motel and asked who rented both rooms. They were orally told a woman named AR rented both rooms. They conveyed this information to Detective Daugherty.

         Officers Traum and Saul noticed the door to Room 229 was ajar and they announced they were police looking into a report of a robbery. They entered the room to ensure there were no robbery victims or perpetrators in the room. The officers encountered TS, who said he went to the room in response to a Backpage ad. As the other officers joined the room, TS stated there had been a female present in the room. The officers went to Room 226 to speak with the occupants.

         When Detective Daugherty and Officer Benn knocked on the door of Room 226, a male voice responded that he was not going to come to the door. After requesting to speak with the occupant several times, Officer Bent asked if AR was present. The male voice responded she was in the room, but was asleep and there were children in the room. Because of the reported robbery, possibly involving a weapon, the joint occupancy of Rooms 226 and 229, and the children present in Room 226, the officers believed an emergency situation existed in Room 226 and used the room key to enter the room. Five adults were found in the room and two children. The adults were removed from the room and detained; they were told to sit on the hallway floor. Defendant was handcuffed.

         Detective Daugherty and Officer Benn asked JD if he would participate in a physical lineup of the available suspects from Room 226, to which JD agreed. Detective Daugherty and JD went outside and sat in the front two seats of a police vehicle. The vehicle faced the hotel with the lights shining brightly. Each detained adult was brought through the area, one at a time. JD identified Defendant, the only black male, as the robbery perpetrator and KL, one of the females, as the person he met in Room 229. The officers then called in the Special Investigative Unit since the case involved potential prostitution and they secured Rooms 226 and 229. All of the adults, including Defendant, were transported to the St. Louis County Police Station.

         At the station, Detective Matthew Black of the Special Investigation Unit asked AZ for consent to search Room 229 of the motel. She did not appear to be under the influence of any alcohol or drugs, she appeared to understand what was being asked, and she was not coerced or threatened. AZ signed a preprinted Consent to Search form for Room 229, as did Detective Black. Similarly, Detective Black asked AR to sign a Consent to Search form for Room 226. She also did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, she appeared to understand the question, and was not coerced or threatened. She and Detective Black signed the form.

         Defendant was interviewed at the police station by Detective Michael Slaughter of the Special Investigation Unit. The interview was audio and video recorded. Defendant was given a sheet of paper listing his constitutional rights to remain silent and to counsel. He read these aloud to Detective Slaughter and after each statement, Detective Slaughter asked him if he understood to which he replied he did and initialed indicating he understood the right. Defendant also signed a consent to search form for the contents of his ZTE cell phone. He did not consent to a search of two other cell phones. After Defendant made several statements to Detective Slaughter, the interview ended at 1:10 p.m.

         In his objections to the Report and Recommendation, Defendant asserts the Magistrate Judge properly concludes Defendant was placed under arrest at the motel, but incorrectly concludes he was lawfully detained and the future police activities were lawful. Defendant argues all evidence and statements must be excluded, because the search of the motel room and subsequent events were unconstitutional.

         Defendant's arrest was based on probable cause and was lawful. “The usual rule is that a police officer may arrest without warrant one believed by the officer upon reasonable cause to have been guilty of a felony.” United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 417 (1976). Probable cause exists when police have “trustworthy information that would lead a prudent person to believe that the suspect had committed or was committing a crime.” United States v. Luke, 686 F.3d 600, 605 (8th Cir. 2012). Officers may detain someone for further investigation when there is reasonable suspicion the defendant was involved in criminal activity. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968).

         Here, it was reasonable for police officers to detain Defendant for further investigation. Police officers were investigating a potential armed robbery in Room 229. In the course of this investigation, they observed a woman run from Room 229 to Room 226. The motel front desk attendant informed the police officers the same individual was renting both rooms. Defendant was found in Room 226. These facts, in conjunction ...

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