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United States v. Ansah

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

July 13, 2018




         This action comes before the Court on the Final Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand [Doc. 65] recommending that Defendant's Perfected Motion to Suppress Statements [Doc. 24] be granted in part and denied in part and that Defendant's Amended Perfected Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized From Electronic Devices [Doc. 41] be granted. The Order for Service of the R&R [Doc. 66] provided notice that, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the parties were authorized to file objections within fourteen (14) days of the receipt of that Order. See also FED. R. CRIM. P. 59(a). Within the required time period, Defendant filed his objections to the R&R [Doc. 70], and thereafter filed his amended objections [Doc. 71], the latter of which will be considered by the Court as Defendant's objections ("Def.'s Objs."). The Government has filed no objections to the R&R.


         In reviewing a magistrate judge's R&R, the district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). "Parties filing objections to a magistrate's report and recommendation must specifically identify those findings objected to. Frivolous, conclusive, or general objections need not be considered by the district court." United States v. Schultz, 565 F.3d 1353, 1361 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Marsden v. Moore, 847 F.2d 1536, 1548 (11th Cir. 1988)) (internal quotation marks omitted). If there are no specific objections to factual findings made by the magistrate judge, there is no requirement that those findings be reviewed de novo. Garvey v. Vaughn, 993 F.2d 776, 779 n.9 (11th Cir. 1993). Absent objection, the district court judge "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge," 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and may accept the recommendation if it is not clearly erroneous or contrary to the law. FED. R. CRIM. P. 59. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Court has conducted a de novo review of those portions of the R&R to which Defendant objects and has reviewed the remainder of the R&R for plain error. See United States v. Slav, 714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1983).


         A. Motion to Suppress Statements

         Defendant generally objects to the failure of the Magistrate Judge to grant his motion to suppress in its entirety. Def.'s Objs. at 1. His individual objections are discussed seriatim.

         1. Credibility Determination

         Defendant objects to the Magistrate Judge's credibility determination on the question of how long Defendant was held outside of his residence at the time United States Postal Inspectors searched the premises in accordance with a warrant. Id., at 1-2. Defendant evidently believes that the Magistrate Judge's determination that credited the testimony of Inspector Petronis over Bijoux Samson somehow was determinative as to the issues in dispute.

         However, the Magistrate Judge specifically stated that he

did not perceive the difference [in the testimony between Sampson and Petronis] to be dispositive in the resolution of any of the legal issues in dispute. If it were necessary to resolve this discrepancy, the Court finds that the recollection of Petronis, a trained and professional agent whose testimony was generally credible, is likely to be more reliable on a specific detail such as the duration of time, rather then the recollection of a bystander who was no doubt operating under a certain amount of shock at the inception of this encounter.

R&R at 2-3, n.1.

         The credibility determination was not dispositive and, even if it was, this Court has reviewed the transcript of the evidentiary hearing and finds the reasons given by Judge Anand for crediting the inspector's testimony and, conversely, for finding Mr. Samson's testimony to be less than credible and inconsistent were reasonable. Tr. of Evidentiary Hr'g ("Tr.") [Doc. 49] at 12-15, 68. A district court is not required to rehear witness testimony when accepting a magistrate judge's credibility findings. United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 680-81 (1980); United States v. Thompson, 422 F.3d 1285, 1297 (11th Cir. 2008). "[I]n evaluating the factual version of events between the law enforcement officer[ ] and [the defendant], we should defer to the magistrate judge's determinations unless his understanding of the facts appears to be 'unbelievable.'" United States v. Ramirez-Chilel, 289 F.3d 744, 749 (11th Cir. 2002) (citing United States v. Rivera, 775 F.2d 1559, 1561 (11th Cir. 1985)). See also United States v. Emanuel 440 Fed.Appx. 881, 883 (11th Cir. 2011) (according "substantial deference" to the credibility determinations made by the magistrate judge where the defendant "failed to show that the magistrate [judge]'s understanding of the facts is not plausible or permissible, ., ."). This is not one of those "rare cases" in which the transcript of the evidentiary hearing presents a basis for rejecting the Magistrate Judge's resolution of credibility. United States v. Marshall 609 F.2d 152, 155 (5th Cir. 1980);[1] see also United States v. Cofield, 272 F.3d 1303, 1306 (11th Cir. 2001) ("This is not the 'rare case' discussed in Marshall as the transcript here provides no basis to reject the magistrate judge's credibility findings.").

         2. ...

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