United States v. Shelton, 3:17-cr-00147

Citation384 F.Supp.3d 916
Decision Date26 April 2019
Docket NumberNo. 3:17-cr-00147,3:17-cr-00147
Parties UNITED STATES of America v. Lorenzo SHELTON
CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee

John Benjamin Schrader, U.S. Attorney's Office (Nashville Office) Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville, TN, for United States of America.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELI RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 47). The Government filed a response in opposition (Doc. No. 53). On December 10, 2018, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion. Thereafter, the parties filed post-hearing briefs (Doc. Nos. 87, 92). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion to Suppress will be denied.

FACTUAL FINDINGS1

On October 26, 2015, when preparing for release on parole from a Tennessee prison, Defendant signed a Parole Certificate that contained conditions of his parole. (Government Exhibit 1; Doc. No. 80 ("Tr.") at 96-98.) One of the conditions stated, "I agree to a search, without a warrant, of my person, vehicle, property, or place of residence by any Probation/Parole officer or law enforcement officer, at any time without reasonable suspicion." (Government Exhibit 1.)

From May 2016 to November 2016, Defendant's assigned Parole Officer was Michael Pasqualetto. (Tr. at 94.) On July 11, 2016, Defendant provided a required Monthly Reporting Form to Officer Pasqualetto. (Id. at 98-99; Government Exhibit 2.) The Monthly Reporting Form stated that Defendant's residential address was 317 Tillman Lane, Nashville, Tennessee. (Tr. at 99; Government Exhibit 2.)

On August 4, 2016, Officer Pasqualetto went to 317 Tillman Lane with a team of parole officers to conduct a parole search, which was prompted by a phone call he had received approximately one week earlier and a second call he had received a day or two earlier. (Tr. at 102-07.) When the parole officers arrived at the Tillman address, they encountered an individual who informed them that Defendant was not home. (Id. at 108.) Officer Pasqualetto then called Defendant, who answered the phone, and Defendant agreed to meet Officer Pasqualetto at the residence. (Id. at 108-09.) Defendant arrived shortly thereafter and encountered Officer Pasqualetto in the front yard. (Id. at 109-11.)

Officer Pasqualetto then informed Defendant that he was going to perform a search. (Id. at 111.) Defendant responded by stating that he had moved out two weeks ago to another residence. (Id. at 111-12.) Defendant provided Officer Pasqualetto with an address that "had some threes in it" and the street name "Chesapeake." (Id. at 112.) When asked where he had been living at the Tillman address, Defendant responded that he had been living in the basement. (Id. ) Officer Pasqualetto asked Defendant for consent to search the Tillman address, and Defendant provided consent. (Id. at 115.)

The officers then looked in the basement and noted that it showed no sign of any recent habitation. (Id. at 115-16.) Defendant was again asked which room was his, and he did not change his answer. (Id. at 116.) The officers next went into a bedroom and found Defendant's driver license, mail, and Officer Pasqualetto's business card. (Id. at 118-19.) Officer Pasqualetto picked up the comforter on the bed and three bags of heroin fell out of it. (Id. at 118-20.) A scale was also found in that bedroom. (Id. at 118.) Metro Nashville Police Department ("MNPD") officers at some point arrived to assist because they, and not parole officers, can seize contraband and collect evidence. (Id. at 75, 106, 122, 148, 174.)

MNPD Officer Ryan Cagle placed Defendant under arrest and searched his person incident to that arrest. (Id. at 27.) Pursuant to that search, Officer Cagle seized Defendant's keys from his clothing pocket. (Id. at 27.) Parole Officers Haley Howell and Tiffany Rodd searched Defendant's vehicle. (Id. at 172.) From the vehicle, they recovered several cell phones and a box containing a large sum of cash. (Id. at 173-74, 216.)

While the search was taking place, Defendant was seated on the front porch. (Id. at 174.) Officer Howell noticed that Defendant had his cell phone in his hand and was in the process of sending a message, which appeared to be instructing another person to hide something. (Id. at 175.) Officer Howell called to someone to take the phone out of Defendant's hands. (Id. at 175.) Officer Rodd then looked at text messages and photographs on the phone. (Id. at 219.) While Officer Rodd was handling the phone, the same number repeatedly called and sent text messages to the phone. (Id. at 219-20.)

Officer Rodd then gave the phone to MNPD officers. (Id. at 24, 220.) When Defendant's phone was handed to Detective Seth England, it was opened to the number that Officer Rodd had observed calling and texting Defendant. (Id. at 24.) Detective England gave the phone to Detective Bobby Young who ran it through a Nashville Electric Service ("NES") database on his laptop. (Id. ) Officer Pasqualetto had already relayed to Detective England that Defendant had provided an address for an additional residence on Chesapeake, albeit apparently one with a street number that could not possibly have matched an actual address on Chesapeake because it did not have enough digits. (Id. at 24, 122-23.) Detective England testified that the street name provided was Chesapeake but that the number provided had three digits even though all addresses on Chesapeake have four or more digits. (Id. at 24.) The officers decided to run the number through an NES database to see if it would "come back to potentially anybody that he might be staying with or any addresses in relation to the case." (Id. ) The number was found to be associated with an address on Chesapeake. (Id. at 25-26, 136-37.)

Based on this information, Officers Howell and Rodd determined that Defendant was also possibly residing at a secondary address on Chesapeake, and that there may be a risk that evidence was being destroyed at that address. (Id. at 177-78, 222.) Officers Howell and Rodd went to that address, followed by MNPD officers. (Id. at 178.)

When Officers Howell and Rodd arrived at 3565 Chesapeake Drive, Officer Howell knocked on the door. (Id. at 179.) An individual, who appeared to be a minor, answered the door. (Id. ) The officers asked whether an adult was home, and a woman (the "twenty year-old female") came to the door who stated that she was twenty years old. (Id. at 179-80.) That individual stated that Defendant had been "staying" at the residence for approximately two weeks. (Id. at 180, 224.) Officers entered the residence and were directed towards a locked bedroom. (Id. at 180-81.) A key on Defendant's key ring that was taken from his person was used to unlock the door. (Id. at 40-41, 181, 224-25.) Parole officers entered the room and began to search. (Id. at 182, 225.) Officer Howell found a shoebox containing heroin and scales. (Id. at 182.) Officer Rodd recovered a box full of money and a handgun. (Id. at 183, 225.)

The fruits of the August 4, 2016 search of 317 Tillman Lane form the basis of Count One (possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin). (Doc. No. 1.) The fruits of the August 4, 2016 search of 3565 Chesapeake Drive form the basis of Count Two (possession with intent to distribute a detectable amount of heroin), Count Three (felon in possession of a firearm), and Count Four (possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime). (Id. ) Defendant has moved to suppress the contraband found at both locations as well as Defendant's statement that he had moved out of the Tillman address two weeks ago to an address that "had some threes in it" and was off Chesapeake.

DISCUSSION
I. Search of 317 Tillman Lane

For the purposes of this motion, the Court assumes, without deciding, that Defendant has standing to challenge the search of 317 Tillman Lane.2 A person serving the remains of his sentence on parole has limited protections under the Fourth Amendment. See Samson v. California , 547 U.S. 843, 856, 126 S.Ct. 2193, 165 L.Ed.2d 250 (2006). Defendant argues that the Court should apply the two-part test set forth in United States v. Doxey , 833 F.3d 692 (6th Cir. 2016) to determine whether the search violated Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. In Doxey , the Sixth Circuit stated that a two-step test applies to evaluate the search of a parolee. Id. at 703. The Sixth Circuit examines whether: (1) the relevant regulation or statute pursuant to which the search was conducted satisfies the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness requirement; and (2) the facts of the search itself satisfy the regulation or statute at issue. Id. at 703-04. This is not the correct standard to apply here. As the Government aptly asserts, the two-part test Defendant discusses applies when the search is made pursuant to a state policy. See United States v. Tessier , 814 F.3d 432, 433 n.1 (6th Cir. 2016). Where, as here, the search was made pursuant to a condition of probation, the test set forth in United States v. Knights , 534 U.S. 112, 122 S.Ct. 587, 151 L.Ed.2d 497 (2001) applies. See id. (" Griffin [v. Wisconsin , 483 U.S. 868, 107 S.Ct. 3164, 97 L.Ed.2d 709 (1987) ] governed our inquiry in [United States v.] Henry [429 F.3d 603 (6th Cir. 2005) ] because the search was made pursuant to a state policy, but Knights governs our inquiry here because the search was made pursuant to a condition of probation.").

Under the general Fourth Amendment approach, the Court examines the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a search is reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

See Knights , 534 U.S. at 118, 122 S.Ct. 587 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "[T]he reasonableness of a search is determined by assessing, on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individual's privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests." Id....

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