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United States v. Jackson

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

December 10, 2018




         This case is before the court on Defendant Christopher Wayne Jackson's (“Defendant”) Motion to Suppress (Doc. 15), First Supplement to Motion to Suppress (Doc. 16), Post-Hearing Supplement to Motion to Suppress (Doc. 23), and Motion for Consideration of Additional Authority on Pending Motion to Suppress (Doc. 30). For the reasons that follow, this Court RECOMMENDS that Defendant's Motions to Suppress should be GRANTED. (Docs. 15, 16, 23). Defendant's Motion for Consideration of Additional Authority on Pending Motion to Suppress is GRANTED. (Doc. 30). Because there are no more motions or other matters to address for Defendant Jackson, the undersigned certifies him ready for trial.


         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 27, 2018, the Grand Jury charged Defendant with knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute a detectable amount of cocaine, marijuana, and alprazolam (known as Xanax) in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841 (b)(1)(c), 841(b)(1)(D), and 841(b)(1)(E)(2) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(I). (Doc. 1). On May 14, 2018, Defendant filed his Motion to Suppress and supplemented his Motion on May 13, 2018. (Docs. 15, 16). This Court held an evidentiary hearing on July 20, 2018 (Doc. 22), and Defendant filed a Post-Hearing Supplement to his Motion to Suppress on August 7, 2018 (Doc. 23). On October 3, 2018, Defendant filed a Reply in support of his Motion (Doc. 29) and then moved on October 24, 2018, to supplement his Reply with additional legal authority (Doc. 30). Defendant's Motion for Consideration of Additional Authority on Pending Motion to Suppress is GRANTED. (Doc. 30).

         In Defendant's Motions to Suppress, he argues that evidence obtained during the search of the 498 Center Hill Avenue and his statements made at the time of the search should be suppressed because (1) there was no search warrant for 498 Center Hill Avenue; (2) the arrest warrant for Ryan Jackson did not justify entry into his residence at 498 Center Hill Avenue because the Government's evidence does not show that Ryan Jackson lived at the residence or that he was at the property; (3) there were no exigent circumstances justifying entry other than those created by the law enforcement officers; (4) the plain view doctrine does not justify entry of the residence and the subsequent search because the officers' presence in the curtilage of the home was unlawful; and (5) the search warrant obtained for the search of 490 Center Hill Avenue did not justify entry into 498 Center Hill Avenue because 498 was not listed on the face of or adequately described with particularity within the warrant.


         A. Police Attempt to Execute an Arrest Warrant for Defendant's Brother at Defendant's Residence

         On August 12, 2015, Officer Kristopher Hutchens, who was employed by the Clayton County Police Department for twenty-three years and assigned to the United States Marshal Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force for four years, attempted to apprehend fugitive Ryan Jackson. (Tr. 46-47, 50; Gov't's Ex. 1). Ryan Jackson was charged with home invasion, armed robbery, false imprisonment, two counts of aggravated assault, burglary, possession of a weapon during a crime, and possession of a firearm by a felon. (Tr. 48, Gov't's Ex. 48). Because Ryan Jackson was wanted for home invasion robbery, he was considered to be armed and dangerous. (Tr. 48). Officers had previously tried to arrest Ryan Jackson in May 2015 at an apartment which was believed to be rented by Ryan Jackson's father. (Tr. 48-49).

         At some point, Task Force Officer (“TFO”) Hutchens received a tip that Ryan was at 498 Center Hill.[1] (Tr. 50). Upon receiving the tip, TFO Hutchens looked up the address and learned that it was occupied by Defendant Christopher Jackson, who used the 498 Center Hill Avenue address on his driver's license and was Ryan Jackson's brother. (Tr. 50, 71). TFO Hutchens did not know whether Ryan Jackson resided there and Ryan Jackson was not been listed in any of the documentation TFO Hutchens could locate for the property. (Tr. 71, 73). Yet, TFO Hutchens thought Ryan Jackson might be at the residence because in his experience, he rarely found fugitives where they sleep. (Tr. 78-79). TFO Hutchens had also viewed social media postings by Ryan Jackson which showed Ryan Jackson on the porch, as well as inside the interior of the home. (Tr. 53).

         On the morning of August 12, 2015, TFO Hutchens began conducting surveillance of 498 Center Hill from about thirty-five to forty yards away. (Tr. 51-52). That morning, TFO Hutchens observed someone who he thought met the description for Ryan Jackson, arrive in a car during and enter the residence at 498 Center Hill. (Tr. 52-53, 74). TFO Hutchens did not seek information about the license tag of the car in which the suspect had arrived. (Tr. 74). The arriving suspect had a light complexion, tattoos, was about 6 feet, 4 or 5 inches tall and appeared to weigh approximately 230 or 240 pounds. (Tr. 52, 93). The description of Ryan Jackson within the arrest warrant indicated that Ryan was 6 feet, 4 inches, and approximately 225 pounds, African-American, with brown eyes and black hair. (Tr. 52-53, Gov't's Ex. 1). In the photograph the Government had on file, Ryan Jackson appeared to be an African-American male with short hair and light-skin. (Tr. 48, 53; Gov't's Ex. 2).

         After seeing who he believed to be suspect Ryan Jackson, TFO Hutchens requested assistance from other Marshals to meet him at a location close to 498 Center Hill so that he could brief them and then return to the house to arrest Ryan Jackson. (Tr. 54, 72-73 (explaining that TFO Hutchens called for a team to “hit the house” because he saw the person resembling Ryan Jackson at the house that morning). TFO Hutchens left his surveillance post for approximately forty-five minutes and then returned with a group of sworn U.S. Marshals. (Tr. 54-55). TFO Hutchens testified that he could not have another officer replace him to continue surveillance during that forty-five minute period because the street from which he was observing is small and there was no way to get another person to take his place without being seen. (Tr. 81). TFO Hutchens felt he could not risk someone watching, seeing another car come in there, and Ryan taking off. (Tr. 81-82).

         Following the briefing, approximately ten Marshals arrived at 498 Center Hill Avenue. (Tr. 82). Although there were cars still in the driveway at the time the police arrived, TFO Hutchens does not recall whether the car the suspect had arrived in remained at the residence. (Tr. 76-77). TFO Hutchens states that multiple cars came and went from the residence during his period of surveillance. (Tr. 77).

         The Marshals placed a perimeter around the house to make sure no one jumped out of the windows and ran. (Tr. 55). The entry team, consisting of seven or eight officers, climbed the stairs at the front entry of 498 Center Hill Avenue with TFO Hutchens. (Tr. 55). About ten minutes after their arrival, the group of officers knocked and announced their presence. (Tr. 76). Because the front door was recessed several feet and only one officer could fit at the entry, TFO Hutchens knocked on the side of the house close to the front door. TFO Hutchens states that the officers “identified [themselves] as police and requested someone to come and open the door.” (Tr. 56).

         Defendant, who had similar skin tone as Ryan Jackson, opened the door. (Tr. 56-58). TFO Hutchens thought that the person could be Ryan Jackson, but had a feeling that it was not Ryan Jackson when he saw Defendant's dreadlocks because Ryan Jackson had short hair in all of the photos TFO Hutchens had seen. (Tr. 56-58, 68-70). Nevertheless, TFO Hutchens still thought Ryan Jackson was inside because he had information that Ryan Jackson sometimes went to the residence, Ryan Jackson's brother (Defendant) claimed the address on his driver's license, Ryan Jackson had posted photos of himself at 498 Center Hill on social media, and the person he saw enter the home earlier matched the description for Ryan Jackson. (Tr. 71-73, 78).

         Defendant stood in the middle of the doorway, but slammed the door less than two seconds later. (Tr. 58, 99). TFO Hutchens testified that at that time, he smelled marijuana.[2] (Tr. 58). TFO Hutchens states that after Defendant closed the door, his initial thoughts were that Ryan Jackson was in the house and that he was collecting weapons to engage the officers, to barricade himself, or to hide in other parts of the house. (Tr. 59). Thus, TFO Hutchens was concerned for the safety of the officers. (Tr. 59).

         B. The Officers Ram the Door and Perform a Security Sweep of the Residence

         Approximately nine minutes after the officers knocked on the door and announced their presence, the officers breached the front door with a ram. (Tr. 59, 67, 77-78). TFO Hutchens states that the officers could see into the residence and observed multiple people “running left, right, [and] all over the house.” (Tr. 59). The officers then called to the interior, “Hey, this is the police, come out to us.” (Tr. 59). Several of the occupants filed out of the home where the police made contact with them on the porch. (Tr. 60). Defendant eventually came outside. (Tr. 60). Each of the occupants were secured with handcuffs away from the front porch. (Tr. 62). The officers never saw the individual who TFO Hutchens thought met the description of Ryan Jackson. (Tr. 68).

         After TFO Hutchens reached the point where he believed that no other individuals would be leaving the house, he decided that the officers should enter the residence and perform a security sweep. (Tr. 85-86). TFO Hutchens testified that because of Defendant's reaction when he opened the door, the smell of narcotics emanating from the residence, the presence of the weapons systems in an apartment where law enforcement officers previously tried to arrest Ryan Jackson, and all of the issues police had at the prior attempt to arrest Jackson, he believed that the officers needed to enter the house to clear it. (Tr. 61, 93). Additionally, TFO Hutchens was concerned that because of the amount of time that had elapsed between the officers arriving at the residence, knocking, and actually putting their feet inside the door, Ryan Jackson would have had plenty of time to “barricade up, collect these weapons, [and] could be waiting on [the officers].” (Tr. 93). TFO Hutchens also testified that the officers entered the residence because he was there for a fugitive that he believed to be inside. (Tr. 81).

         Several minutes after the officers breached the door, the entry team conducted the security sweep. (Tr. 60, 80). As part of the security sweep, the officers, with their weapons drawn, looked for people in the residence anywhere in which a body could fit. (Tr. 61-62). Once the house was secure, the officers holstered their weapons. (Tr. 62). While performing the security sweep, the officers observed multiple firearms laying around the residence. (Tr. 50).

         Task Force Officer Joshua Mauney, who was also assigned to the United States Marshal Fugitive Task Force pursuing Ryan Jackson on August 12, 2015, testified that he went to 498 Center Hill Avenue with the team to arrest Ryan Jackson. (Tr. 97-98). After Defendant slammed the door in the officers' faces, TFO Mauney became concerned that Defendant was trying to hide Ryan Jackson and that he was trying to give Ryan Jackson time to escape or to barricade himself. (Tr. 99). TFO Mauney testified that before Defendant closed the door on the officers, TFO Mauney smelled marijuana. (Tr. 100). TFO Mauney also testified that he could still smell marijuana after he entered the residence. (Tr. 100). While conducting the search, he observed guns and drugs in plain view inside the residence. (Tr. 101). TFO Mauney admits that he did not enter 498 Center Hill Avenue because he smelled marijuana, but rather because he was pursuing a fugitive. (Tr. 106).

         C. Law Enforcement Officers Obtain a Warrant for a Search of 498 Center Hill Avenue

         TFOs Hutchens and Mauney were not involved with the paperwork to obtain a warrant. (Tr. 89). Investigator O'Hare of the United States Marshal Service contacted Detective David Pickering of the Atlanta Police Department to seek assistance in obtaining a warrant for the search of the residence. (Tr. 120-22). Investigator O'Hare told Detective Pickering that the house was located on the 400 block of Center Hill, that the exterior of the house was blue, and that the color of the steps for the house was red. (Tr. 122-23). Investigator O'Hare also told Detective Pickering that the reason for the search warrant was because officers observed marijuana in plain view in three rooms. (Tr. 145). Investigator O'Hare did not mention the marijuana smell to Detective Pickering. (Tr. 145).

         The affidavit and application for a search warrant initially described the address to be searched as 490 Center Hill Street NW, 30318. (Def.'s Ex. 14, at 000007). One line below, it described the location to be searched as a blue single-story dwelling with red wooden stairs leading to the front door on 490 Center Hill Avenue. (Def.'s Ex. 14, at 000007). In the affidavit and application, it was noted that during the search of the residence for Ryan Jackson, the officers discovered “marijuana in plain view in three rooms” and approximately twelve types of firearms inside the residence. (Gov't's Ex. 6). The officers sought authorization for the search of Defendant's residence for marijuana, weapons, and other evidence of narcotics possession or distribution. (Gov't's Ex. 6).

         The Judge signed the search warrant at 4:45 p.m. and Detective Pickering arrived at the scene approximately fifteen or twenty minutes later to execute the search warrant. (Tr. 150). The warrant described the location to be searched in exactly the same way it was described in the affidavit and application, including the description as being a blue house with red front steps and the discrepancy between 490 Center Hill Street on one line and 490 Center Hill Avenue on the next. (Def.'s Ex. 15, at 000002).

         Detective Pickering states that when he arrived at the scene for purposes of executing the search warrant, officers directed him to a blue house with the red steps, on 498 Center Hill Avenue. (Tr. 64, 127, Gov't's Ex. 4). Detective Pickering testified that he did not realize the last digit of the house number was incorrect on the warrant until after executed the search warrant at the blue house.[3] (Tr. 125, 164). Detective Pickering states that prior to August 12, 2015, he had never been to Defendant's neighborhood and that mail for 490 Center Hill was found in the mailbox outside 498 Center Hill. (Tr. 125, 130). Detective Pickering also points out that 490 Center Hill did not ...

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