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United States v. Shuler

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

December 6, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
GINO SHULER, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY C. BATTEN, SR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case comes before the Court on Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker's Final Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) [615] which recommends denying Defendant Gino Shuler's motion [292] to suppress evidence. Shuler has filed objections to the R&R [625].

         On March 11, 2015, Shuler was indicted with one count of conspiracy, five counts of stealing money of the United States, and five counts of aggravated identity theft. Shuler seeks to suppress evidence collected and seized by the police when he was arrested after a traffic stop for following too closely. The facts of the case are not disputed and the Court adopts the facts as set forth in the R&R. Shuler objects to two of the conclusions reached by the magistrate judge.

         I. Legal Standard on Review of a Magistrate Judge's R&R

         A district judge has a duty to conduct a “careful and complete” review of a magistrate judge's R&R. Williams v. Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982) (per curiam) (quoting Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 408 (5th Cir. Unit B 1982)). This review may take different forms, however, depending on whether there are objections to the R&R. A district judge must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the [R&R] to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ., 896 F.2d 507, 512 (11th Cir. 1990) (A judge must “give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made by a party.”). Those portions of the R&R to which no objection is made need only be reviewed for clear error. Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 F. App'x 781, 784 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (quoting Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005)).[1]

         “Parties filing objections must specifically identify those findings objected to. Frivolous, conclusive or general objections need not be considered by the district court.” Nettles, 677 F.2d at 410 n.8. “This rule facilitates the opportunity for district judges to spend more time on matters actually contested and produces a result compatible with the purposes of the Magistrates Act.” Id. at 410.

         The district judge also has discretion to decline to consider arguments that were not raised before the magistrate judge. Williams v. McNeil, 557 F.3d 1287, 1292 (11th Cir. 2009). Indeed, a contrary rule “would effectively nullify the magistrate judge's consideration of the matter and would not help to relieve the workload of the district court.” Id. (quoting United States v. Howell, 231 F.3d 615, 622 (9th Cir. 2000)).

         After conducting a complete and careful review of the R&R, the district judge “may accept, reject, or modify” the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Williams, 681 F.2d at 732. The district judge “may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         II. Shuler's Objections to the R&R

         Shuler objects to two of the conclusions reached by the magistrate judge in the R&R. Specifically, Shuler objects to the conclusion that his conduct or his brother's conduct during the traffic stop gave rise to a suspicion of illegal activity. He also objects to the conclusion that Sergeant Brett Newman's investigation beyond the scope of the traffic violation did not unreasonably prolong the duration of the stop. As such, the Court will consider these questions de novo.[2]

         A. Shuler's and Maurice's Conduct Gave Rise to a Reasonable Suspicion of Illegal Activity

         The Court agrees with the magistrate judge that the conduct of Shuler and his brother, Maurice, gave rise to a suspicion of illegal activity.

         Under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 (1968), an officer's actions during a traffic stop must be “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.” “Furthermore, the duration of the traffic stop must be limited to the time necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.” United States v. Purcell, 236 F.3d 1274, 1277 (11th Cir. 2001) (emphasis omitted). “The traffic stop may not last ‘any longer than necessary to process the traffic violation' unless there is articulable suspicion of other illegal activity.” Id. (quoting United States v. Holloman, 113 F.3d 192, 196 (11th Cir. 1997)).

         Shuler is incorrect in arguing that the magistrate judge “[r]ejected” the argument that some of Shuler's behavior could have been the result of normal nervousness or his normal behavior. [625] at 2. The magistrate judge stated, and the Court agrees, that “while individually each of these facts can be explained by innocent behavior and would not be enough to satisfy the reasonable suspicion standard, collectively under Eleventh Circuit law, they justify Sergeant Newman's investigation.” [615] at 21. In fact, on review, a court “may not consider each fact only in isolation, and reasonable suspicion may exist even if each fact ‘alone is ...


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