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United States v. Wright

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

February 7, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTRON WRIGHT QUINCY WRIGHT

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ERIAN K. EPPS UNIED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The indictment charges Defendants Antron Wright and Quincy Wright with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. (Doc. no. 1.) The indictment further charges Antron Wright with one count of possession of firearms by a convicted felon. (Id.) Defendants move to suppress evidence obtained from Facebook and a mobile home at 2074 Old Milledgeville Road in Thomson, Georgia. (Doc. nos. 55, 56.) Upon consideration of the briefs and hearing testimony on December 14, 2017, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS Defendants' Motions to Suppress be DENIED.

         I. FACTS

         On November 18, 2016, an anonymous tipster dropped off a packet at the Thomson, Georgia office of Corporal Brian Adams, a game warden with twenty years of experience with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”). (Doc. no. 76, Transcript at pp. 7, 10-12.) Cpl. Adams was not at the office when the tipster delivered the packet and does not know the tipster's identity. (Id. at 35-36.) The packet contained printouts of screenshots of four posts made to Facebook during 2016 on the page of “Tron Belton, ” containing pictures from four dead whitetail buck deer along with tag lines wherein Mr. Belton claims to have killed each deer. (Id. at 11-12; doc. no. 64-1.) The anonymous tipster included handwritten dates on the printed screenshots indicating the postings occurred on October 25, 2016, October 31, 2016, November 1, 2016, and November 6, 2016. (Tr. 11-12.) The tag lines suggest the posts are close in time to the events, and indeed two posts refer to killing a buck “dis morning” and “at 5:30 today.” (Id.)

         The posts, pictures, and handwritten dates suggest Tron Belton shot and killed four bucks during the 2016 season even though the legal limit was two bucks. (Id. at 14-15.) Based on his experience as a hunter and game warden, Cpl. Adams concluded at least one of the bucks was shot with a firearm because of the damage to the carcass and location of the shot. (Id. at 17-18.) When Cpl. Adams logged onto Facebook and found Tron Belton's page, he found one of the four photos although he did not specify which photo during his testimony. (Id. at 13, 15-16.)

         Investigator Jared Land with the McDuffie County Sheriff's Office identified Tron Belton from the Facebook postings as Antron Wright, a convicted felon prohibited from possessing a firearm. (Id. at 16-17.) Cpl. Adams pulled Antron Wright's criminal history and confirmed he was a convicted felon. (Id. at 19.) Cpl. Adams also found Antron Wright in the Georgia DNR database and determined he possessed a valid hunting license for 2016 but had checked in three does and one buck in the Game Check system rather than the four bucks depicted in the Facebook postings. (Id. at 18.)

         Cpl. Adams contacted Happy Valley Processing, a deer processor close to Antron Wright's residence. (Id. at 19.) Georgia DNR regulations require deer processors such as Happy Valley to maintain records concerning every deer they process. (Id.) Cpl. Adams discovered in Happy Valley's records that Antron Wright checked in several deer during the 2016 season, including one under a DNR confirmation number not assigned to him. (Id.)

         On November 30, 2016, Cpl. Adams appeared before McDuffie County Magistrate Judge Bryan Swan seeking a search warrant for the Facebook page of Tron Belton. (Doc. no. 64-2.) Cpl. Adams concluded in his supporting affidavit there was probable cause to believe Antron Wright a/k/a Tron Belton committed violations of the following three statutes: (1) O.C.G.A. § 27-3-15, taking over the season limit of antlered deer; (2) O.C.G.A. § 27-3-29, recording and reporting requirements for game animals and birds; and (3) O.C.G.A. § 16-11-131, possession of a firearm by convicted felon. (Id.) Cpl. Adams averred the following facts in support of this conclusion:

On November 18, 2016 affiant received five screenshots[1] from Tron Belton's Facebook page showing five antlered bucks that he had killed this season. Affiant searched Belton's Facebook page and could only find one of the pictures sent to him. It is believed that Belton has deleted some the [sic] pictures and messages about the deer he killed. Tron Belton's real name is Antron Wright. This was confirmed by Investigator Land of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Office. A criminal history shows that Antron Wright is a convicted felon and cannot possess a firearm. In the pictures he posted on Facebook it appears that the deer have been shot with a firearm.
This request is being made to determine if there are other photographs or videos documenting the poaching activities that Tron Belton may be involved in.
Affiant believes that obtaining the private messages and wall posts as well as other information from Belton's public Facebook page is imperative to the investigation to assist law enforcement in locating any evidence, GPS locations, timestamps, etc. that would confirm or deny Belton's poaching activities . . . .

(Id. at 2.)

         Cpl. Adams also gave sworn, unrecorded testimony to Judge Swan in support of the warrant. (Tr. 21-22, 68.) At the suppression hearing, Cpl. Adams summarized his verbal testimony to Judge Swan as follows:

I explained to him how we had received the pictures, how I had looked them up, could only see one of them. I explained to him how -- once we got the information of who he was, how we saw where he'd only used Game Check on one buck where we had pictures of four. I explained to him how, when we went to -- I went to the processor, we actually found a confirmation number that didn't even belong to him showing he was using somebody else's . . . . I told him - that's how we made it to, you know, being Antron Wright, that it was through Jared Land and Larry Adaway . . . who, of course, the judge is very familiar with . . . . I had also run his criminal history and that, you know, I had proved he was a convicted -- I showed him the criminal history.

(Id. at 33-34.)

         Judge Swan issued the warrant on November 30, 2016, and Facebook produced 1400 pages of records from Tron Belton's Facebook page on December 12, 2016. (Id. at 22-24; doc. no. 64-2, p. 5; doc. no. 64-3; .) After reviewing the production, Cpl. Adams returned to Judge Swan on January 24, 2017, seeking a search warrant for the “[r]esidence, all out buildings, vehicles and property at 2074 Old Milledgeville Rd Thomson Ga 30824.” The warrant sought to obtain “[d]eer racks, illegal wildlife and parts thereof to include processed and unprocessed deer meat, firearms, ammunition, electronic devices used in the posting of pictures on social media of illegally taken wild life, and electronic devices used in the marketing and selling of deer meat.” (Doc. no. 64-4; Tr. 24, 27-28.)

         Although Antron Wright's driver's license listed his father's address as his residence, Cpl. Adams sought the search warrant for 2074 Old Milledgeville Road based on the personal knowledge of McDuffie County Investigators Land and Adaway that this was the actual residence of Antron Wright. (Tr. 28, 83-89.) In support of his search warrant request, Cpl. Adams averred the following by affidavit:

An anonymous complainant delivered pictures printed from Facebook of Antron Wright with numerous bucks that Wright killed this year. When I search [sic] Wright on Facebook I could not see all of his pictures because we were not listed as “friends.” On November 25, 2016 I ran a criminal history check and determined that Wright is a convicted felon and not allowed to hunt with a firearm. On November 30, 2016 I received a search warrant from McDuffie County Magistrate Court for Wrights [sic] Facebook account. After reviewing Wrights [sic] Facebook posts I was able to prove that he had already killed 5 bucks during the 2016-2017 season. The bucks killed were as listed:
October 25 - 4 point buck
October 29 - 8 point buck
October 31 - Spike buck
November 1 - 6 point buck
November 6 - 8 point buck
Wright also posted pictures of a target he used and state, ” [sic] u know dat bitch rite when u can put it in da circle from 120 yards” [sic]. He also stated, ” [sic] bout to see wat dis savage talking bout dis am. #308 looking for whitetails.” [sic] Wright never posted pictures of the firearms he used to hunt with but he references ...

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