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United States v. Lasher

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

July 1, 2019

United States of America,
Christopher Lasher (18), Defendant.


          Michael L. Brown United States District Judge.

         Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson recommends denial of Defendant Christopher Lasher's motion to suppress intercepted communications. (Dkts. 556; 659 at 1, 28.) Defendant Lasher has objected to that recommendation. (Dkt. 688.) The Court accepts the Magistrate Judge's recommendation and affirms the denial of Defendant Lasher's motion.

         I. Background

         The United States did not charge Lasher in Count One of the superseding indictment, which alleges a conspiracy by various members of the Ghostface Gangsters to violate federal racketeering laws. But the superseding indictment mentions him in several overt acts that the government claims were part of the racketeering activity. For example, Lasher allegedly sent a text message to another Ghostface gang member about a person who falsely claimed to be a “Capo, ” or leader. (Dkt. 279 at 10 (defining the word “Capo” as a leader in the Ghostface gang), 21.) The superseding indictment also alleges that Lasher planned to pick up illegal drugs with another Ghostface gang member. (Id. at 22.) In another overt act, it alleges Defendant Lasher traveled to a motel room where other Ghostface gang members were located to sell drugs. (Id.) It alleges Lasher possessed drugs on August 22, 2016. (Id.) Finally, the superseding indictment alleges that while in prison, Lasher offered to sell and then directed the sale of methamphetamine to an individual. (Id. at 28.)

         The United States charged Defendant Lasher in Count Two of the superseding indictment. (Id. at 32-34.) The United States alleged that he conspired with others to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine from sometime in 2002 until sometime in 2018. (Id.)

         During the criminal investigation, law enforcement officers obtained a series of wiretaps and intercepted Defendant Lasher using a phone with the number 470-509-0122, referred to by law enforcement as Target Telephone #4 (TT#4). Defendant Lasher moved to suppress evidence obtained under four wiretap applications presented to and granted by the Cobb County Superior Court: 678-927-4512 (IW 2016-05) (“T1”); 770-895-8914 (IW2016-05) (“T2”); 678-732-5118 (IW 2016-05) (“T3”); and 470-509-9122 (IW 2016-05) (“T4”). (Dkt. 556 at 2.) He subsequently agreed that he lad standing to challenge intercepts of TT#4 only the final two intercepts (specifically, T3 and T4) as he was not a named target of the first two. (Dkt. 659, n.2.)

         II. Legal Standard

         After conducting a careful and complete review of the findings and recommendations, a district judge may accept, reject, or modify a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59; Williams v. Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982) (per curiam). A district judge “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). The district judge should “give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made by a party.” Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ. of Ga., 896 F.2d 507, 512 (11th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). For those findings and recommendations to which a party has not asserted objections, the court must conduct a plain error review of the record. See United States v. Slay, 714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1983).

         Parties filing objections to a magistrate's report and recommendation must specifically identify those findings to which they object. Marsden v. Moore, 847 F.2d 1536, 1548 (11th Cir. 1988). “Frivolous, conclusive, or general objections need not be considered by the district court.” Id. Defendant Lasher both generally relies on the arguments he set out in his motion and specifically objects to some findings in the Magistrate Judge's R&R. The Court thus conducts a plain error review of the portions of the R&R to which neither party offers specific objections and a de novo review of the Magistrate Judge's findings to which Defendant Lasher specifically objects. See Tauber v. Barnhart, 438 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1373 (N.D.Ga. 2006) (“[I]ssues upon which no specific objections are raised do not so require de novo review; the district court may therefore ‘accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge[, ]' applying a clearly erroneous standard.”) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)).

         III. Discussion

         As stated above, Defendant Lasher moved to suppress T3 and T4, claiming the applications and intercepts violated the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution; Article I, Section I, Paragraphs III, V, IX, and XII of the Georgia Constitution; Sections 16-11-60 and 17-5-30 of the Georgia Code Annotated; and Sections 2515 and 2518(10)(a) of Title 18 of the United States Code. (Dkt. 556 at 2.) He argued that (1) the interception orders are general warrants lacking probable cause; (2) the government failed to show any need for the use of electronic surveillance; (3) the recordings were not timely sealed; (4) monitoring agents did not comply with minimization requirements; (5) no inventory notice was served, and there was no postponement authorized by the court; (6) the issuing courts lacked jurisdiction; (7) renewals to interception orders failed to provide results of prior interceptions; and (8) the interception orders did not state the period of authorization. (Id. at 5-6, 11-22.) Defendant Lasher did not request an evidentiary hearing on his underlying motion. (Dkt. 608 at 8 n.8.)

         The Magistrate Judge recommended denial of Defendant Lasher's motion to suppress. In his objections, Defendant Lasher specifically challenges only the Magistrate Judge's recommendation about the wiretap-issuing court's territorial jurisdiction.[1] He argues that the Government failed to prove that the issuing court had territorial jurisdiction over the telephone number subject to the final intercept order (T4); that the government's failure to prove territorial jurisdiction over his communications is a fatal defect requiring all the illegally obtained communications to be suppressed; and that the wiretap evidence the government obtained is not admissible under the good faith exception.

         A. Territorial Jurisdiction

         Georgia law requires law enforcement officers seeking a state-ordered wiretap to comply with the federal wiretap statute. Under Georgia law, a superior court judge may issue a wiretap “upon written application, under oath, of the prosecuting attorney having jurisdiction over the prosecution of the crime under investigation, or the Attorney General” so long as the wiretap is consistent with “Chapter 119 of Title 18 of the United States Code Annotated, as amended.” Id. Chapter 119 of Title 18 ...

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