United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Catherine M. Salinas, United States Magistrate Judge.
April 11, 2017, a grand jury sitting in the Northern District
of Georgia returned a one-count indictment against Defendant
Sedarious Lawrence for being a felon in possession of a
firearm, in violation of Title 18, United States Code,
Sections 922(g)(1) and 924(e). [Doc. 1]. Presently before the
Court are two motions to suppress: a Motion to Suppress
Evidence [Doc. 17] and a Motion to Suppress Statements [Doc.
THE PENDING MOTIONS
Motion to Suppress Evidence
Motion to Suppress Evidence, Defendant asserts that on
February 16, 2017, he was driving a rented black Range Rover
when he was stopped for a traffic and equipment violation.
[Doc. 17 at 1]. He asserts that he was removed from the car,
detained, and placed in handcuffs. [Id.]. The
officers then searched the Range Rover and found on the floor
of the back seat the firearm that serves as the basis for the
one-count indictment in this case. [Id. at 1-2].
Through his Motion to Suppress Evidence, Defendant seeks to
suppress all fruits obtained from that search and seizure,
including the firearm, any other physical evidence taken as a
result of that search and seizure, and any statements he may
have made after he was stopped. [Id. at 2].
Motion to Suppress Statements
Motion to Suppress Statements is brought pursuant to
Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 376-77 (1964). [Doc.
16 at 1]. Defendant argues that the Government must show that
any custodial statements were made voluntarily and not in
violation of Miranda. On July 17, 2017, the
Government clarified that although Defendant apparently made
a number of statements, the only statements it intends to use
at trial are those made during the traffic stop on the side
of the road. [Doc. 42 at 2-3].
FACTS PRESENTED AT THE EVIDENTIARY HEARING
an evidentiary hearing on the two motions to suppress over
the course of two days, July 17, 2017 [Doc. 42] and August 7,
2017 [Doc. 54].
Government's first witness was Caleb Munson, an officer
with the City of Atlanta Police Department
(“APD”). [Doc. 42 at 6-36]. Officer Munson
testified that on the evening of February 16, 2017, he was
working in a marked patrol car with another APD officer,
Jacob Fletcher, in the Fulton Industrial area of Atlanta.
[Id. at 7-10]. Officer Munson testified that he had
received a “BOLO”- be on the lookout-message for
a black Range Rover, which he located around 9 p.m. at the
Airway Motel, an establishment known for drug-related
activity and prostitution. [Id. at 8]. Upon noticing
the Range Rover parked at the Airway Motel, Officer Munson
crossed the street and parked. [Id. at 9]. He then
observed the Range Rover leave the motel parking lot and pull
onto Fulton Industrial Boulevard at a high rate of speed and
without any lights on. [Id. at 10-11]. Officer
Munson followed the Range Rover, and when he caught up to it,
the Range Rover's lights came on, at which point Officer
Munson activated his lights and sirens. [Id. at 11].
The Range Rover did not immediately pull over, and Officer
Munson then shined the spotlight that was mounted on his
patrol car into the back of the Range Rover. [Id. at
12, 31-32]. While the spotlight was activated, Officer Munson
saw “a large object” being thrown to the back of
the vehicle. [Id. at 11-12]. At that point, the
Range Rover stopped. [Id. at 12].
Munson testified that he exited his patrol vehicle and then
approached the driver's side of the Range Rover while
Officer Fletcher went to the passenger side. [Doc. 42 at 12].
Defendant was the driver, and he rolled down his window and
provided Officer Munson with his driver's license.
[Id. at 12-13]. Officer Munson testified that he
smelled marijuana coming from the Range Rover. [Id.
at 12]. Offer Munson asked Defendant to get out of the car,
which Defendant did, and then Officer Munson detained
Defendant and placed him in handcuffs “because of the
odor of marijuana in the vehicle to conduct a search on the
vehicle.” [Id. at 12-13]. Once Defendant was
in handcuffs, Officer Munson passed him off to Officer
Fletcher and then conducted a search of the Range Rover.
[Id. at 13]. Officer Munson testified that he saw,
in plain view, a short-barreled rifle in the back floorboard,
located “halfway sticking out from a half-torn shoe box
and black bag.” [Id. at 15]. The gun was
loaded, with a round in the chamber. [Id.]. During
the traffic stop, another officer ran a check on Defendant
and determined that Defendant was a felon; the officers then
arrested Defendant for being a felon in possession of a
firearm. [Id. at 19]. Officer Munson was shown a
photograph of the gun, which he positively identified. [Doc.
41-1 at 1 (Gov't Ex. 1)].
Government's next witness was APD Officer Jacob Fletcher.
[Doc. 42 at 38-70]. Officer Fletcher testified that on the
evening in question, he was riding with Officer Munson when
he became aware of the black Range Rover parked at the Airway
Motel. [Id. at 39-40, 53]. He testified that when
the Range Rover pulled out of the parking lot, it did so at a
“high rate of speed” and did not have its
headlights on, even though it was dark outside. [Id.
at 40-41, 53]. It took the officers “a minute” to
catch up with the Range Rover, but once they did, they turned
on the blue lights and could see “furtive
movements” from the driver. [Id. at 41]. The
officers then called for backup, which Officer Fletcher said
was not unusual, given that his unit (the Apex unit) works in
a team setting and that the Fulton Industrial area is a
“very violent and high crime area.” [Id.
at 41-42]. After the officers turned on the blue lights, the
Range Rover did not immediately stop: “It took him not
a long time to pull over, but he didn't pull directly
over once the blue lights were initiated, but he didn't
take off either. It was just like a slow pace like he's
pulling over, but it did take him a minute to come to a
complete stop.” [Id. at 42].
the Range Rover pulled over and came to a stop. [Doc. 42 at
42-43]. Officer Fletcher first encountered Defendant as
Officer Munson was bringing him to the rear of the Range
Rover. [Id. at 43, 59]. At that point, Officer
Fletcher took Defendant to the rear passenger side of the
patrol car and started talking to Defendant. [Id.].
Officer Fletcher testified that he smelled marijuana while he
was talking to Defendant. [Id.]. Officer Fletcher
testified that at that time, he read Defendant his
Miranda warnings from a card that he carries with
him, and a copy of that card was admitted into evidence.
[Id. at 44; Doc. 41-1 at 11-12 (Gov't Ex. 5)].
After Defendant was read his rights, Officer Munson pulled a
large weapon out of the back of the Range Rover. When
Defendant saw it, he stated “oh that's my
sister's gun.” [Doc. 42 at 46]. According to
Officer Fletcher, Defendant got “a little anxious or
whatever and kept kind of overtalking about it.”
[Id.]. Then Defendant stated “that's my
sister's gun, I was calling her right now, I was about to
take her the gun back.” [Id.]. According to
Officer Fletcher, Defendant stated that “he did observe
the gun in the back seat, and he moved it because he
didn't want to be anywhere near it. So he was calling his
sister to take the gun back to her because he said he
wasn't supposed to be around a weapon.”
[Id. at 47]. Officer Fletcher testified that
Defendant stated that he had just dropped his sister off in
the area around Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and that he had
been trying to get her on the phone to arrange for him to
return the gun to her. [Id. at 48, 64-65].
close of the Government's evidence, the Government moved
into evidence, over Defendant's objection, the
disposition of a traffic charge from Fulton County Superior
Court showing that Defendant pleaded no contest to the charge