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United States v. Culton

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

July 16, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
EDWARD CULTON, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Timothy C. Batten, Sr., United States District Judge.

         This case comes before the Court on Magistrate Judge Janet F. King's Final Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) [79], which recommends denying Defendant Edward Culton's motion [69] to suppress evidence. Culton has filed objections [82] to the R&R. He also objects to the magistrate judge's order (contained within the R&R) denying his motion [68] for disclosure of the name(s) and location(s) of confidential informant(s).

         I. Legal Standard on Review of a Magistrate Judge's R&R

         A district judge has a duty to conduct a “careful and complete” review of a magistrate judge's R&R. Williams v. Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982) (per curiam) (quoting Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 408 (5th Cir. Unit B 1982)). This review may take different forms, however, depending on whether there are objections to the R&R. A district judge must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the [R&R] to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ., 896 F.2d 507, 512 (11th Cir. 1990) (A judge must “give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made by a party.”). Those portions of the R&R to which no objection is made need only be reviewed for clear error. Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 Fed.Appx. 781, 784 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (quoting Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005)).[1]

         “Parties filing objections must specifically identify those findings objected to. Frivolous, conclusive or general objections need not be considered by the district court.” Nettles, 677 F.2d at 410 n.8. “This rule facilitates the opportunity for district judges to spend more time on matters actually contested and produces a result compatible with the purposes of the Magistrates Act.” Id. at 410.

         The district judge also has discretion to decline to consider arguments that were not raised before the magistrate judge. Williams v. McNeil, 557 F.3d 1287, 1292 (11th Cir. 2009). Indeed, a contrary rule “would effectively nullify the magistrate judge's consideration of the matter and would not help to relieve the workload of the district court.” Id. (quoting United States v. Howell, 231 F.3d 615, 622 (9th Cir. 2000)).

         After conducting a complete and careful review of the R&R, the district judge “may accept, reject, or modify” the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Williams, 681 F.2d at 732. The district judge “may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         II. Objections to Order

         When a party objects to a magistrate judge's order on a nondispositive matter, the Court “must consider timely objections and modify or set apart any part of the order that is contrary to law or clearly erroneous.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(a). Culton objects to Magistrate Judge King's order denying his request for the disclosure of the identity of confidential informants used to conduct controlled buys from his co-Defendant, Hubert Nathans.

         Culton relies in large part on testimony that was presented in an ex parte hearing before the magistrate judge. Culton argues that at the hearing he provided reasons that the CI or CI's may have information regarding Nathans's drug-dealing habits and that he should be able to ask about any prior interactions with Nathans (regardless of whether they dealt with the specific buys at issue). Further, he argues that the conspiracy and substantive counts charged go beyond the January- February 2018 time frame and that he should be entitled to information about Nathans's drug-related activities from the full time-period charged. He contends that the Government likely showed only the usual concerns of retribution.

         However, the R&R stated (after having had the benefit of oral argument from both sides) that there were “no non-speculative reasons why the CI/Cis either would be in a position to offer additional information about each controlled buy or would be able to cast any doubt on any testimony that Nathans may offer concerning the source of the controlled substances sold to the CI/CIs.” [79] at 4-5.

         The Court has reviewed the transcript of Culton's ex parte hearing before the magistrate judge and finds no clear error in her conclusion in the R&R. Culton's objection therefore will be overruled, and his request for a hearing will be denied.

         III. Objections to the R&R

         Culton also has filed several objections to the R&R, which the Court will review de novo. Specifically, he argues that there were sufficient omissions and misrepresentations in the search warrant affidavit to require a Franks v. Delaware hearing. These include (1) the drug use of Alexandra Lagouros, co-Defendant Hubert Nathans's girlfriend; (2) Lagouros's allegedly false denial that she did not know Nathans was selling drugs; (3) Grant Smith's overdose on Xanax that he purchased in Athens, as opposed to from Nathans; and (4) the description of the ...


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