458 F.3d 477 (6th Cir. 2006), 05-3577, United States v. Pruitt

Docket Nº:05-3577.
Citation:458 F.3d 477
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Demetrius PRUITT, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:August 11, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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458 F.3d 477 (6th Cir. 2006)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Demetrius PRUITT, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 05-3577.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

August 11, 2006

Submitted: June 7, 2006.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 04-00489—James Gwin, District Judge.

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Charles E. Fleming, Federal Public Defender's Office, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

Bruca A. Khula, United States Attorney, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: SILER, CLAY, and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.


McKEAGUE, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant Demetrius Pruitt appeals the district court's grant of the Government's motion for reconsideration of Pruitt's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a protective sweep of a third-party's residence. For the reasons that follow, the ruling of the district court is affirmed.


In June of 2004, Demetrius Pruitt was on parole following his conviction for possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug-use paraphernalia in violation of Ohio law. Pruitt became a fugitive from justice after failing to report to his parole officer in July of 2004. After law enforcement officials were unable to locate Pruitt at his listed address, an arrest warrant was issued in the Lorain County Common Pleas Court.

During this time period, the U.S. Marshal's service was conducting "Operation LASSO" in Lorain County in conjunction with the Lorain Police Department and the Adult Parole Authority. The collaborative program was designed to arrest potentially violent fugitives. Following issuance of the arrest warrant, officials involved with the initiative began an investigation of Pruitt's whereabouts.

In August 2004, an anonymous female caller contacted Burt Fitzgerald, Pruitt's parole officer. She told Fitzgerald that Pruitt was no longer residing at the address that Pruitt had provided, but instead was residing at 2652 Meister Road, Lorain, Ohio. Fitzgerald believed, but did not verify, that the caller was Pruitt's ex-girlfriend, a woman he had spoken to previously in either December 2003 or January 2004. The caller told Fitzgerald that she had seen Pruitt at the Meister Road address

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within the past few hours, and that Pruitt was in possession of drugs and a firearm. Fitzgerald reported the anonymous tip to the LAS SO officers, who began surveillance in the Meister Road area.

Shortly after arriving in the area, the officers saw a man knock and enter the Meister Road home. The man exited the home a few minutes later, and sped away from the scene, prompting the officers to conduct a traffic stop. The driver identified himself as "Freddie Garcia" and produced a driver's license and recited a social security number. The officers showed the driver a photograph of Pruitt, who he identified as "Meaty." He stated that "Meaty" was inside the residence, and that "Meaty" had refused to sell him crack cocaine on credit.1 He stated that there was crack cocaine in the Meister Road residence.

Unbeknownst to the officers, the driver was not Freddie Garcia, but was Thomas Garcia, who had possession of his brother's driver's license and knowledge of his social security number. The officers were unaware of this fraudulent identity until just prior to the suppression hearing in the district court.

After receiving the information from Garcia, the officers went to the Lorain County Municipal Court to seek a search warrant for 2652 Meister Road. The prosecutor prepared a form affidavit after Detective Earl related the anonymous tip and Garcia's statement, which Earl then signed without reviewing. The section of the affidavit requiring the affiant to provide the facts upon which the warrant should issue was left blank.

Subsequently, the detective presented the defective affidavit to the Municipal court. Detective Earl recited the factual basis for the search warrant under oath, however, no transcript of his sworn statement was prepared. Following Earl's testimony, the search warrant was issued. Earl notified the LASSO team that the warrant had been issued and the team entered the Meister Road residence.

Upon entry, the officers found Pruitt hiding in a kitchen closet. Pruitt was arrested and a protective sweep of the premises was conducted. The officers found several bags of crack cocaine, marijuana, a wallet, and a loaded .25 caliber pistol all within plain view. Pruitt refused to allow the officers to search the premises, stating that it "wasn't his place," although he admitted to owning the contraband that the officers had collected during the protective sweep. The LASSO team returned to the Municipal Court to successfully obtain another search warrant for the premises, because Pruitt disclaimed ownership of the property.

Pruitt was indicted on December 20, 2004, for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B), (b)(1)(C) respectively.

On December 20, 2004, Pruitt moved to suppress the evidence obtained in the search of the Meister Road Residence. Pruitt claimed that the officer's reliance on Garcia's statements was improper because he had provided false identification to the police, and that Garcia's credibility was lacking because he admitted to police that he was trying to purchase crack cocaine. Pruitt also argued that the "bare bones" affidavit, lacking any factual basis upon which a warrant could issue, was so defective that it could not be saved by the good faith exception of United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984).

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On March 16, 2005, the district court granted Pruitt's motion to suppress, finding that he had a limited expectation of privacy in the Meister Road residence pursuant to Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 110 S.Ct. 1684, 109 L.Ed.2d 85 (1990). The court also found that the search warrant lacked indicia of probable cause because there were no facts listed in the affidavit, and the sworn statement of detective Earl was not transcribed. Thus, the LASSO team could not have reasonably relied on the search warrant in order to meet the good faith exception of Leon.

On March 17, 2005, the Government moved the district court to reconsider the suppression order. The Government relied on this court's published opinion in United States v. Buckner, 717 F.2d 297 (1983). The district court found that while the relevant portion of Buckner was dicta, it was still worthy of consideration and on March 18, 2005, the court reversed its grant of Pruitt's motion to suppress. This decision was timely appealed.


The district court properly exercised subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3231. This court has jurisdiction over this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

When reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, this Court reviews a "district court's findings of fact for clear error and its conclusions of law de novo" considering the evidence "in the light most likely to support the district court's decision." United States v. Hurst, 228 F.3d 751, 756 (6th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). "A factual finding will only be clearly erroneous when, although there may be evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Navarro-Camacho, 186 F.3d 701, 705 (6th Cir. 1999).


A. The Search Warrant Issued for 2652 Meister Road was Invalid

An affidavit underlying the issuance of a search warrant must provide information sufficient to establish "a substantial basis for determining the existence of probable cause." Leon, 468 U.S. at 915, 104 S.Ct. 3405 (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 239, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983)). In the absence of an affidavit containing the essential facts, a warrant may be obtained in reliance on sworn testimony, but such testimony must be recorded by a court reporter, and the judge must file a transcript with the clerk. Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(2)(d)(B)-(C). Pruitt contends that the affidavit filed by Detective Earl constituted an invalid "bare bones" affidavit because there were no facts establishing the grounds for the issuance of the search warrant, as required by Leon. further, Pruitt argues that Earl's oral recitation of the facts was inadequate because no court reporter was present to transcribe the testimony and no transcript was entered as required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(d)(2)(C).

The Government argues that despite the failure of the detective to follow the correct procedure, the LASSO team relied on the warrant in good faith, and the search is protected under the Leon good faith exception. The Leon good faith exception allows for the inclusion of evidence obtained by an invalid warrant if the officers reasonably and in good faith relied on the warrant at the time the search was conducted. Leon, 468 U.S. at 922, 104 S.Ct. 3405. Here, the district court properly ruled that the officers could not have had a good faith belief that the warrant

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was valid because the warrant was obtained with a "bare bones" affidavit, and no transcript of Earl's sworn statement was recorded by the Court. (Order of the district court, JA 76) Under Leon, such a bare bones affidavit cannot support a reasonable belief on the part of law enforcement officials that a warrant is valid. Leon, 468 U.S. at 915, 104 S.Ct. 3405.

B. Appellant's Fourth Amendment Rights Were Not Violated


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