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United States v. Lee

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

June 14, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TOMMIE LEE, JR., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT TOMMIE LEE, JR.'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS (DKT. 99)

          MARK A. GOLDSMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Tommie Lee, Jr. is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). See First Superseding Indictment (Dkt. 79). He has filed a motion to suppress (Dkt. 99) seeking to exclude statements made to authorities on April 8, 2018 and all physical evidence obtained as the result of a search of his vehicle on that same day. The Government filed a response to the motion (Dkt. 103). The parties submitted a set of stipulated facts (Dkt. 123) and oral argument was heard on April 26, 2019 (Dkt. 124). Lee filed a supplemental brief (Dkt. 126), the Government responded (Dkt. 127), and Lee filed a reply brief (Dkt. 129). For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Lee's motion to suppress.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from the parties' stipulated facts (Dkt. 123), the Government's application for a search warrant attached to the Government's response brief (Dkt. 103-1), and the evidentiary hearing held on April 26, 2019 (Dkt. 124).

         This case arises out of the investigation of an illegal drug trafficking organization allegedly run by Defendant Nicolas Medina-Liborio. Brandon Carrier Aff. (“Carrier Aff.”) in Support of Search Warrant, Ex. 1 to Gov't Resp., ¶ 4 (Dkt. 103-1). Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) officers received information that Medina-Liborio was selling kilogram quantities of heroin and methamphetamine. Id. The DEA began investigating Medina-Liborio in November 2017. See Stipulation of Facts (“SoF”) at 1 (Dkt. 123). The DEA obtained a search warrant that provided live GPS data from Medina-Liborio's phone and a pen register to capture all phone numbers used in connection with Medina-Liborio's phone. Id. at 2. In February 2018, the DEA arranged to have a confidential source purchase heroin from Medina-Liborio at his Wesson Street house. Id. Shortly thereafter, the confidential source arranged to purchase methamphetamine at the same location. Id. Both times, the confidential source successfully purchased the controlled substances.

         In April 2018, the DEA obtained a Title III order to intercept communications to and from Medina-Liborio's phone. Id. at 3. The DEA intercepted a telephone call between Medina-Liborio and an unidentified drug source in Mexico indicating that Medina-Liborio was expecting to receive a package. Id. at 3. Agents were able to identify the package in transit and, with the aid of United States Postal Service Inspectors, discovered that it contained approximately one kilogram of methamphetamine. Id. at 4.

         On April 8, 2018, the DEA intercepted a call between Medina-Liborio and an alleged customer stating that he “needed 4.” Id. Based on their experience with the investigation, DEA agents interpreted the communication as a request for four kilograms of a controlled substance. Id. Soon after the phone call, Medina-Liborio and two other individuals were observed entering a black Saturn parked at the Wesson Street house. Id. Agents monitored the live tracking information and tracked Medina-Liborio's phone travelling from Detroit to a location somewhere near Dayton, Ohio. Id. at 5. At 7:55 p.m. on April 8, Medina-Liborio returned to the Wesson Street address in the Saturn and carried two luggage bags into his Wesson Street home. Id. Agents immediately sought a search warrant. Id. At 8:13 p.m., Medina-Liborio and two other individuals left the Wesson Street address in the Saturn. Id. The DEA detained Medina-Liborio and the other individuals away from the residence. Id.

         Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub issued the search warrant at 8:19 p.m. Search Warrant at PageID.501. The warrant authorized the following search of the Wesson Street location:

The search . . . shall include all rooms, attics, crawl spaces, safes, briefcases, storage areas, containers, garages, sheds, carports, storage facilities and containers such as safes, vaults, file cabinets, drawers, luggage, briefcases, valises, boxes, jewelry boxes, cans, bags, purses, trash cans and vehicles located on or near the premises, that are owned or under the control of the occupants of such premises.

Id. at PageID.497 (emphasis added).

         At the same time the warrant was issued, Defendant Lee arrived in his car at the Wesson Street house and parked in the driveway. SoF at 5. He exited the car and knocked on the front door. Id. When there was no answer, Lee returned to his car. Id. A few minutes later, a young man appeared on the front porch. Gov't Resp. at 4. Lee again left his vehicle and spoke with the young man for ten to fifteen minutes on the porch. SoF at 5. DEA Agent Jeffrey Moore, who was surveilling the Wesson Street house, testified that Lee appeared to use a telephone a few times while he was on the porch. 3/28/2019 Hr'g Tr. at 11.

         DEA agents, supported by Michigan State Police, arrived at the Wesson Street house to execute the search warrant at 9:00 p.m. SoF at 5. A Michigan State Police vehicle blocked the driveway preventing Lee's vehicle from being moved. Id. at 6. Lee was handcuffed and patted down for weapons; none were found. Id. Agent Moore entered the home with the search warrant execution team. Id. He observed firearms, $14, 000 in cash, the two luggage bags, and over twenty-five kilograms of suspected controlled substances. Id.

         Because agents suspected that Lee was involved in the criminal activity, Moore left the residence (while the search continued) to speak with him. Id. at 6-7. Moore did not advise Lee of his rights under Miranda before he began asking questions. Id. at 7. Moore testified that Lee was standing handcuffed behind his back at the base of the porch stairs when he approached him. 3/28/2019 Hr'g Tr. at 12. Moore asked Lee for his name and asked what he was doing at the location. Id. at 12-13. Lee identified himself and said that he was looking for a mechanic for his car. Id. Moore did not observe anything at the Wesson Street address that appeared to be related to car repair. SoF at 7. While at the Wesson Street address, Lee did not inspect his car, open the hood, or do anything that appeared to be related to an automobile repair. Id. at 8.

         The investigating officers had little, if any, information related to Lee at the time of the search. Agents saw Lee approach the Wesson Street residence, but he did not enter the house. Id. at 7. He was not observed exchanging any items with the young man on the porch. Id. And there had been no phone calls or text messages ...


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