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United States v. Walton

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

January 2, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ASHANTI WALTON, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE STEMMING FROM SEARCH WARRANT (ECF #14)

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On November 15, 2016, a grand jury indicted Defendant Ashanti Walton on a number of firearm and drug offenses. The charges rest in large part upon evidence that law enforcement officers seized when they searched a residence located in Inkster, Michigan. Officers conducted that search pursuant to a warrant issued by a state-court judge.

         Walton now moves to suppress the evidence seized during the search on the ground that the affidavit submitted in support of the warrant (1) contained false statements and (2) omitted important facts. (See ECF #14.) Walton contends that suppression is warranted under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), because the officer-affiant made the misstatements and omissions with reckless disregard for the truth and because the affidavit, when modified to remove the mis-stated facts and to include the omitted facts, is insufficient to establish probable cause to search the residence. (See id.)

         The Court declines to suppress the evidence. As explained below, even if the affidavit were modified pursuant to Franks, the affidavit would still establish that on the same day that the officer-affiant sought the warrant, a person exited the residence, engaged in a drug transaction in the driveway, and re-entered the residence. Under controlling Sixth Circuit precedent, those facts alone are enough to establish probable cause to search the residence. See United States v. Ellison, 632 F.3d 347 (6th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, Walton's Motion to Suppress is DENIED.

         I

         A

         On October 17, 2016, Detective Carl Mack of the Western Wayne Narcotics Team (the “WWNT”) received a tip from a paid confidential informant that two black males were driving around the City of Inkster in a burgundy Ford Explorer attempting to sell crack cocaine. (See 6/20/2017 Hearing Tr., ECF #21 at Pg. ID 158.) Detective Mack relayed the tip to Detective Brian Zinser. (See id.)

         Later that afternoon, Detective Zinser located the Ford Explorer parked in the driveway of a home located at 26842 Hopkins Street in the City of Inkster (the “Hopkins Residence”). (See 9/12/2017 Hearing Tr., ECF #22 at Pg. ID 283-84, 286-87.) Detective Zinser then began conducting surveillance of the residence. (See id. at Pg. ID 287.) Detective Zinser observed a maroon Ford pick-up truck pull into the driveway of the Hopkins Residence, and he saw a person walk from the residence to the driver's side of the truck. (See Id. at Pg. ID 291-292.) The person spent about thirty seconds at the side of the truck and then returned to the house, and the truck drove away. (See id.) Detective Zinser could not see the interaction between the person from the house and the driver of the truck because Zinser was positioned on the opposite side of the truck. (See Id. at Pg. ID 293-94.) But based upon his experience, he suspected that the two individuals engaged in a drug transaction.

         WWNT Sergeant Paul Calleja, who was also involved in the investigation arising out of the tip, then directed Michigan State Trooper Robe to stop the maroon truck, and Trooper Robe did so. (See Id. at Pg. ID 331.) Officers from the WWNT joined State Trooper Robe during the stop. (See Id. at Pg. ID 331-32.)

         The driver of the truck initially denied any wrongdoing, but then admitted that he had crack cocaine in the truck's center console. (See Id. at Pg. ID 333.) Officers thereafter retrieved a baggie from the console, tested its contents, and verified that the baggie contained cocaine. (See Id. at Pg. ID 334.) The officers then arrested the driver and took him to a police station. (See Id. at Pg. ID 335-36.) During a post-Miranda interview, the driver admitted that he had purchased $100 of crack cocaine at the Hopkins Residence earlier in the day. (See Id. at Pg. ID 305.) The driver added that on four prior occasions, he had purchased crack cocaine at the Hopkins Residence from a man named Russ who lived there. (See Id. at Pg. ID 304.)

         Later that day, Detective Mack asked Judge Mark Somers of the 19th District Court for the State of Michigan to issue a search warrant for the Hopkins Residence. In support of the warrant request, Detective Mack submitted an affidavit (the “Mack Affidavit”) in which he stated, among other things, that:

6) On 10/17/2016, [the Confidential Informant] contacted your Affiant advising that on today's date a burgundy Ford Explorer bearing MI Reg: 3LSZ82 driving around the City of Inkster occupied by two black males in their 30's.
a. Further, [the Confidential Informant] stated that the occupants offered a quantity of crack cocaine to the [Confidential Informant] and showed him/her a bag which contained what the [Confidential Informant] believed to be crack cocaine.
b. Further your Affiant completed a license plate query on MI Reg:3LSZ82. The query identified the vehicle as being a 2006 Ford Explorer registered to Louise Russell at [the Hopkins Residence].
7) On 10/17/2016, at approximately 1630 hours, Detectives with Western Wayne Narcotics established surveillance at [the Hopkins Residence]. Upon establishing surveillance Det. Zinser observed the aforementioned Ford Explorer and a teal Dodge Charger bearing MI Reg: LULU4 parked in the driveway of the residence.
a. Further, Det. Zinser completed a license plate query on MI Reg: LULU4 which is registered to Ashanti Kamu Walton (DOB: [Date of Birth Redacted]).
b. Further at approxminatley [sic] 1830 hours Det Zinser observed a maroon Ford Pick Up Truck Bearing MI Reg: DEE3203 arrive at the residence and an unknown individual exit the residence and approach the drivers door of the aforementioned vehicle. A short time after approaching the vehicle, the individual walked away from the vehicle and entered the residence. The vehicle then left the area.
i. Based on your Affiants [sic] training and experience, this type of short term contact is consistant [sic] with the sale of narcotics.
8) On 10/17/2016, at approximately 1815 hours MSP K-9 Officer Robe initated [sic] a traffic stop on the aforementioned pick up truck for several traffic violations. D/Sgt. Calleja arrive on scene shortly after to assist. The driver was identified as [the Driver] and was the lone occupant.
a. During the course of the investigation, D/Sgt. Calleja asked [the Driver] were [sic] the crack he had was located inside the vehicle. [The Driver] stated that the crack was located in the center console of his vehicle and request to grab it for officers. [The Driver] was allowed to retrieve the crack which was located in a white baggie within the center console.
b. [The Driver] was transported to the Canton Police Department pending further investigation and interview.
c. Further, your Affiant completed a field test of the suspected crack cocaine. The field test showed a positive indication for the presence of cocaine.
9) On 10/17/2016, during a post Miranda interview of [the Driver] conducted by Det. Zinser, [the Driver] stated that on today's date he purchased $100.00 of crack cocaine from an unknown individual from [the Hopkins Residence].
a. Further, [the Driver] stated that he has purchased crack cocaine from an unknown black male whom he only knows as “Russ” and is approximately 35 years old. [The Driver] stated that “Russ” resides at [the Hopkins Residence] and has purchased crack cocaine from him at the residence the past four times.
b. Further, [the Driver] stated that the black male has also been seen utilizing the aforementioned Ford Explorer bearing MI Reg: 3LSZ82.
c. Further, Det. Zinser utilized a MIDRS photograph of Ashanti Walton and provided it to [the Driver]. [The Driver] identified Walton as the individual whom he purchased the crack cocaine from.
10) Your Affiant believes, based on above listed facts, that there will be illegal narcotics, paraphernalia, packaging supplies, money, documents, and receipts located at [the Hopkins Residence], and that this search warrant is essential for the completion of this investigation.

(Mack Aff., ECF #14-1 at Pg. ID 68-69.)

         Judge Somers issued a search warrant for the Hopkins Residence the same night Detective Mack presented it to him (see Search Warrant, ECF #14-1 at Pg. ID 75-76), and officers from the WWNT immediately executed it. During the search, the officers found drugs, drug paraphernalia, multiple firearms and other weapons, and body armor. (See Criminal Compl., ECF #1.)

         B

         On November 15, 2016, a grand jury indicted Walton on three offenses: possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); felon in possession of firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g); and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C § 924(c). (See ECF #8.)

         On February 6, 2017, Walton filed a motion for a Franks hearing and to suppress the evidence seized from the Hopkins Residence (the “Motion to Suppress”). (See ECF #14.) The Court granted Walton's request for a Franks hearing. (See ECF #18.) The Court held an evidentiary hearing on June 20, 2017, and continued the hearing on September 12, ...


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