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United States v. Lamb

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 6, 2016



          John Corbett O'Meara United States District Judge.

         Before the court is Defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The court heard oral argument on December 1, 2016, and took the matter under advisement. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is denied.


         Defendant John Cortez Lamb is charged with two counts of felon in possession of a firearm and one count of illegally possessing ammunition. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). These charges arose from a Detroit Police investigation of a murder and attempted murder in October 2015. During the course of the investigation, Detroit police officers linked Rufus Thomas to both shootings. He was associated with both vehicles that were identified as used by the shooters. On October 29, 2015, Thomas was arrested in a stolen Chevy Trail Blazer that was the same as the vehicle seen following the murder victim shortly before the shooting.

         A search of Thomas's phone from his arrest showed that on October 4, 2015, Thomas sent a text to Defendant's Lamb's phone, which stated: “Need to use that M4 [firearm] bro, Ima just pull up on them. Shit to structured to talk to them in front of the place.” An “M4" is an assault rifle capable of shooting .223 caliber ammunition, one of the types that was recovered at the scene of the murder. (.357 caliber and .40 caliber shell casings were also recovered at the scenes of the shootings.)

         On October 17, 2015, and December 19, 2015, Thomas posted images on his Facebook page that showed him in possession of an AK-47, which is capable of firing .223 caliber ammunition and a semi-automatic handgun that appears to be capable of firing .357 sig ammunition. On January 3, 2016, Thomas posted a photo on Instagram showing a similar semi-automatic handgun.

         On January 3, 2016, Defendant John Lamb, Rufus Thomas, and Joseph Lamb were detained together near 12201 Morang, Detroit, after one of them dropped a .40 caliber Glock handgun. According to Secretary of State records, John Lamb changed his address to 5444 Holcomb, Detroit, on January 6, 2016. Other residents registered to that address were Joseph Lamb, Mikieta Lamb, Charlene Lamb, Charles Lamb, and Tina Lamb.

         A search warrant was obtained for the location data on Thomas's cell phone on January 25, 2016. On January 29, 2016, state police received location data showing that Thomas's cell phone on Holcomb, in the vicinity of 5444 Holcomb.

         Based upon the belief that Defendant Lamb aided Thomas by providing firearms for the murder, Detroit Police sought a search warrant for 5444 Holcomb on February 2, 2016. The affiant noted the connections between Defendant Lamb and Thomas and stated that, based upon his training and experience, “firearms, unlike narcotics or cash, are kept for a longer period of time . . . [and] are often kept hidden for ease of access in places frequented or friendly to the illegal possessor.” The warrant was executed at 5444 Holcomb on February 3, 2016, and resulted in the recovery of firearms, firearm accessories, a bullet resistant vest, and electronic devices, including a ZTE cell phone. A search of the ZTE cell phone revealed images taken on October 10, 2015, of Defendant Lamb in possession of the firearms found at 5444 Holcomb on February 3, 2016.

         Following up on this information, federal agents obtained and executed a search warrant at 3919 17th Street, Detroit. The officers also had a warrant to arrest Defendant Lamb. During the search, officers recovered a Ruger P95 handgun with a defaced serial number and controlled substances.

         Defendant contends that there was insufficient probable cause for both search warrants and that the information in the warrant affidavits was stale. Defendant seeks to suppress the evidence seized at both 5444 Holcomb and 3919 17th Street.


         The issuance of a search warrant requires probable cause. U.S. Const. Amend. IV. Probable cause exists when there is “‘a fair probability, ' given the totality of the circumstances, that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” United States v. Davidson, 936 F.2d 856, 859 (6th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). “The standard of review for the sufficiency of an affidavit is whether the magistrate had a substantial basis for finding that the affidavit established probable cause to believe that the evidence would be found at the place cited.” United States v. Greene, 250 F.3d 471, 478 (6th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). The magistrate's determination of probable cause is afforded great deference, and that determination should only be set aside if the magistrate arbitrarily exercised his discretion. Id.

         “As a preliminary matter, stale information cannot be used in a probable cause determination.” United States v. Frechette, 583 F.3d 374, 377 (6th Cir. 2009). “The staleness inquiry depends on the ...

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