United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
F. SACHS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Alloway, with her companion (Culp), are charged with drug and
firearm violations occurring in their rural Missouri home,
after having been visited by Deputy Cochenour, who
accompanied a social worker to investigate reports concerning
verbal abuse of Culp's two children. The reports also
raised issues concerning drugs and firearms. After briefing
and a hearing, Magistrate Judge Maughmer issued a Report and
Recommendation that motions to suppress be denied. Doc. 70.
have been filed which center on two issues: (1) did Ms.
Alloway grant permission for Cochenour to enter the house
with the social worker, and (2) were firearms observed by him
in plain view “leaning against the wall next to
me” while he was “standing in the doorway where
we entered the house” - as stated in his report? Def.
Exh. 2. Ms. Alloway testified that the firearms were in an
adjoining living room, perhaps screened by a curtain dividing
the entry kitchen from the room with the firearms. The Report
and Recommendation proposes a finding that “Upon
entering the house, Dep. Cochenour observed multiple rifles
(‘long guns') leaned up against a door.” Doc.
70, p. 2. In a footnote the Report further “concludes
that, in general, where there were conflicts, the officers
were more credible witnesses.” Id. This
proposes rejection of the living room locale for the
study of the transcripts, exhibits and briefing, I will adopt
the Report and Recommendation and deny the motions to
factor favoring acceptance of the deputy's version is
that it was written down when memory was fresh, shortly after
the visitation on April 1, 2018. Def. Exh. 2. As a formal
report, later used to obtain a search warrant, the deputy
must have realized he had a professional responsibility to
carefully and accurately record his recollection, with some
risk of professional harm if he made material errors or
fabricated. There were four or five potential witnesses
regarding the location of the firearms who might challenge
errors or fabrication, including the children and the social
worker. While dishonest stories can be concocted
to convict suspects, and correction may be considered
improbable, my supposition is that official reports are most
likely honestly composed and are generally reasonably
accurate. Contrary self-serving testimony is inherently
somewhat less believable. Moreover, the Magistrate Judge had
the best opportunity for evaluating credibility. I
acknowledge that I am somewhat influenced by that
circumstance and somewhat reliant on Judge Maughmer's
views in reaching my own conclusions. As Judge Kopf has
explained, such reliance is appropriate and occurs quite
generally. United States v. McCain, 2017 WL 4990536
Court of Appeals has warned, however, that district judges
must not abdicate responsibility to the extent of adopting
the recommendations of Magistrate Judges unless
“clearly erroneous.” United States v.
Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599 (8th Cir. 2003). But
McCain shows that statutory and judicial references
to de novo review can be semantically misleading and do not
require disregard of views reached by the hearing officer.
The basic intent is that district judges take individual
responsibility for their factual rulings, even while
considering the views and expertise of experienced and
reliable professionals who have heard and observed the
witnesses. Artificial limits on review, as expressed below in
the Lothridge case, are improper. The concurring
opinion of Justice Blackmun in United States v.
Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 684 (1980) dispels any notion
that de novo review should result in total disregard of the
views of Magistrate Judges. In any event, I am satisfied that
McCain reflects the litigation world as practiced.
concluded that Cochenour saw the firearms without intruding
on the living room premises, I need not rule on whether he
had common sense permission to step from the kitchen to the
adjoining living room. United States v. Steinmetz,
900 F.3d 595, 600 (8th Cir. 2018). I do conclude the
record shows the deputy had permission to enter the house
with the social worker.
be worth commenting that the deputies may have subjectively
used the social worker visit to pursue their interest in the
reported firearm and drug violations - to the extent possible
- just as traffic violations are often used by law
enforcement to gain information about possible law
violations. Defendant does not develop any ground for further
review of subjective intentions.
else in the Objections to the Report and Recommendation seems
to require analysis or correction. Any minor factual errors
are immaterial. The Government's decision not to use
certain Alloway statements after the arrest decision and
before Miranda warnings should suffice.
Report and Recommendation (Doc. 70) is adopted and the
motions to suppress (Docs. 38 and 39) are DENIED.
 Defense counsel may not be aware that
in co-defendant's recently filed presentence report (Doc.
67) there are pertinent recitations that I have not relied on
in this ruling.
 The majority opinion in
Raddatz cryptically acknowledged that proposed
findings by magistrates should be given “ ‘such
weight as (their) merit commands and the sound discretion of
the judge warrants,' “ 447 U.S. at 682. The issue
may perhaps be compared with judicial treatment of draft
opinions by law clerks, presumably after conscientious
consideration by the district judge. Such drafts are also
subject to “de novo review” by the responsible
judges. A difference encouraging even closer study of
proposed findings is that legal rulings are subject to de
novo appellate consideration, whereas findings of fact enjoy