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United States v. Hughes

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

January 29, 2018




         Defendant is facing narcotics distribution and firearms possession charges, based in whole or in part on evidence obtained during his arrest by Atlanta Police Department (“APD”) officers on March 17, 2016. The case is before the Court on Defendant's Motions to Suppress that evidence [16][39], which argues that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest and search him, as well as his Motion to Suppress Statements [28], which argues that his post-arrest statements to the officers were made involuntarily. Defendant has also submitted a Motion to Dismiss the Indictment [17], which argues that this federal prosecution (which follows a state prosecution for the same conduct) violates his right against double jeopardy. After convening an evidentiary hearing and considering the parties' legal briefs, Court RECOMMENDS that Defendant's motions all be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Evidentiary Hearing

         The Court convened an evidentiary hearing on October 12, 2017, at which the Government called APD Officer C. McGhee III [29]. A transcript of that hearing [“Tr.”] is in the record at docket number 32. The following facts are derived from that transcript.

         Officer McGhee was patrolling in his squad car at approximately 6:25 pm on March 17, 2006, in the area of Garnett and Forsyth streets in Atlanta, GA. Tr. at 8. He was with his partner, Officer Morrison. Id. While driving, Officer McGhee observed a man and a woman “walking southbound on Forsyth Street participating in what I believed to be was a hand-to-hand transaction of illegal narcotics.” Tr. at 8-9. Specifically, Officer McGhee saw the man reach his hand out to the woman and the woman place her hand on top of the man's hand, in what appeared to be consistent with a method used to “pass something off discretely.” Tr. at 9, 18. Officer McGhee concluded that the specific nature of this gesture suggested an illicit transaction, based on his training and five years of experience handling street-level drug violations. Id. at 8. Officer McGhee, who was driving, did not specifically see the object(s) being passed, but Officer Morrison reported that he saw the man carrying marijuana. Id. at 9, 19. (Morrison did not testify at the hearing).

         At that point, Officer McGhee stopped the car, and the officers (who were in full uniform) exited onto the sidewalk. Id. at 9-10. The woman immediately stopped when she saw the officers, but the man (later identified as the Defendant) continued walking away. Id. When asked to stop, he did not. Id. After several commands to stop, the Defendant eventually stopped, and Officer Morrison walked him back to where Officer McGhee and the woman were standing. Id. at 10. According to Officer McGhee, “Mr. Hughes seemed very fidgety, he seemed very nervous, he never made direct eye contact, he seemed to be looking around as if he was looking for a way out, as if he might have been a flight risk.” Id. at 10.

         Thus, the officers pulled out handcuffs to attempt to restrain the Defendant. Id. Before they could restrain the Defendant, however, he pushed and attempted to punch Officer Morrison, and the Defendant took off running. Id. at 10-11. Officer McGhee chased the Defendant on foot, and Officer Morrison chased in the car. Id. Officer McGhee saw the Defendant discard various items as he ran, including what Officer McGhee believed were drugs and a gun. Id. at 12. Upon seeing that the Defendant had been carrying a gun, Officer McGhee discharged his taser, which stopped the Defendant. Id. at 12. After a small struggle, Officer McGhee was able to detain and handcuff the Defendant. Id.

         Medical personnel arrived and removed the taser prongs from the Defendant, but he otherwise refused treatment. Id. at 12-13. The officers searched Defendant incident to arrest and recovered ammunition, and substances that they believed were methamphetamine, prescription pills, cash and heroin. Id. at 13. After Defendant was detained, Officer McGhee retraced his steps and found marijuana that the Defendant had apparently discarded while running along with the discarded firearm. Id. at 13-14.

         After he was detained, the Defendant exclaimed “I know I fucked up. I know I'm going to jail.” Id. at 14. This statement was not made in response to any questions. Id. The Defendant did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol or mental illness. Id. The officers had made no promises to him, had not threatened him, and other than having administered a taser during the chase, had not drawn any weapons. Id.

         B. Procedural History

         After his arrest by APD, Defendant was indicted by a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia for possession of heroin, possession of a controlled substance (Schedule II), willful obstruction of a law enforcement officer, possession of a firearm during a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. See Fulton County Indictment [17-1]. Thereafter, on April 14, 2016, Defendant entered a nolo contendre Alford-style plea to the firearms possession charge and a traditional guilty plea to the remaining charges. See Fulton County Conviction [17-2]. He was sentenced to various custodial sentences on the counts, all of which were either suspended or commuted to time served. Id. More than eight months later, on December 21, 2016, a federal grand jury issued this indictment, which charges Defendant with possession with intent to distribute various controlled substances, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. See Indictment [1].


         A. Defendant's ...

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