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United States v. Harris

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division

December 16, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM C. HARRIS, Defendant

Page 1333

For WILLIAM C HARRIS, Defendant: KERMIT S DOROUGH, JR, LEAD ATTORNEY, ALBANY, GA.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff: LEAH E MCEWEN, LEAD ATTORNEY, ALBANY, GA.

Page 1334

ORDER

W. LOUIS SANDS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Presently before the Court is Defendant William C. Harris' Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 23.) For the following reasons, Harris' Motion to Suppress is GRANTED-in-PART and DENIED-in-PART.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 11, 2014, Defendant was indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). (Doc. 1.) On July 15, 2014, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Suppress and argued the warrantless search of his residence on April 9, 2012 lacked reasonable suspicion and as a result, the evidence seized should be suppressed. (Doc. 23.) Defendant further contends custodial statements obtained that same day violated the Fifth Amendment by undermining procedural safeguards established in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), and should be suppressed. ( Id.) On October 22, 2014, the Court held a hearing to address the arguments and factual matters underlying this Motion. ( See Doc. 31.)

FACTUAL FINDINGS

During the Court's October 22, 2014 hearing on Defendant's Motion to Suppress, the Government presented four exhibits[1] and two witnesses. Defendant presented two exhibits and no witnesses. After reviewing the proffered exhibits, witnesses' testimony, and Parties' arguments, the Court makes the following findings of fact by a preponderance of the evidence.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation (" GBI" ) Agent Stripling Luke, a testifying witness for the Government, and other agents of GBI were contacted by an employee of the United States Postal Service (USPS) regarding delivery of a hydroponic light, often used for the growth of marijuana, on or prior to April 9, 2012. Agent Luke discovered the delivery address for the

Page 1335

hydroponic light was Defendant's residence. Further investigation revealed that Defendant was previously an inmate at Crisp County, Georgia jail and had past drug violation charges. After reviewing Defendant's criminal history and discussing his criminal background with the District Attorney's Office in Cordele, Georgia, Agent Luke learned the terms of Defendant's probation. According to Defendant's probation conditions, his " person, residence, or motor vehicle" could be searched at the request of his probation supervisor or by a law enforcement officer " for detection of alcohol or controlled substance" without a warrant. ( See Doc. 23-1.) Defendant's probation officer, Jemel Washington, confirmed the terms of Defendant's probation, and agreed to observe the delivery of the hydroponic light and another package containing a liquid substance with Agent Luke. On April 9, 2012, after observing Defendant's receipt of delivery, both Officer Washington and Agent Luke approached Defendant in his driveway.

Agent Luke and Officer Washington engaged in a conversation with Defendant about the hydroponic light delivered that day. Agent Luke asked Defendant what the hydroponic light was intended for. Defendant replied that the light would be used for his stepmother's greenhouse. In response, Agent Luke asked if he could view the greenhouse. Defendant consented. Agent Luke was joined by several law enforcement officers. As the search commenced, when asked whether there was anything on the property law enforcement should know about, Defendant acknowledged possession of one marijuana plant. Defendant insisted there were no firearms on the property except for those in his father's gun safe. Agent Luke testified that sometime after Defendant's representation that no firearms were on the premises except for those in his father's gun safe, a revolver handgun was found in a desk drawer where Defendant resided. (Doc. 31-1 at 1-2.) As the search proceeded, Defendant continued speaking with several ...


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