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United States v. Lagrange

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

February 13, 2019



          C.J. Williams United States District Judge


         This matter is before the Court pursuant to defendant's Objections (Doc. 18) and the government's Objections (Doc. 19) to the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 15) of the Honorable Mark A. Roberts, United States Magistrate Judge. On October 17, 2018, defendant filed a Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 7). The government timely filed a resistance. (Doc. 10). On November 5, 2018, Judge Roberts held a hearing on the motion. (See Doc. 12). On November 28, 2018, Judge Roberts issued the Report and Recommendation, which recommends that the Court deny the Motion to Suppress. On December 10, 2018, defendant and the government filed their respective Objections. For the following reasons, the Court overrules in part and sustains in part defendant's Objections, overrules the government's Objections, and denies the Motion to Suppress.


         When a party files a timely objection to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, a “judge of the court 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)(C); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3) (“The district judge must consider de novo any objection to the magistrate judge's recommendation.”); United States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir. 2003) (noting that a district judge must “undertake[ ] a de novo review of the disputed portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendations”). “A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3) (“The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation, receive further evidence, or resubmit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.”). It is reversible error for a district court to fail to engage in a de novo review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation when such review is required. Lothridge, 324 F.3d at 600. Accordingly, the Court reviews the disputed portions of the Report and Recommendation de novo.


         On December 29, 2017, Cedar Rapids Police Department Officers Matt Messer and Lucas Liddle were on routine uniformed patrol. Before their shift began, the officers received an intelligence memorandum regarding defendant with the subject line “Burglary/Wanted Subject/Officer Safety Information.” The memorandum advised:

An informant advised DOT Investigator Jason Nusbaum that Shane Lagrange . . . is in possession of a pink Glock with camo grips. The CI stated he saw him in possession of the gun on 12/27/2017. Lagrange has been staying at different hotels on 33rd Ave SW. Use caution if you make contact. . . . Lagrange is a meth user as well.

         Officer Messer was personally familiar with defendant, having had contact with defendant several times and having arrested him once. Officer Messer recalled that defendant's driver's license was in suspended status at the time of each of Officer Messer's previous encounters with defendant. Officer Messer interpreted the subject line of the memorandum to mean that defendant had an outstanding warrant. There was, however, no outstanding warrant with respect to defendant.

         Officers Messer and Liddle decided to patrol the area around the hotels on 33rd Avenue SW. While driving through the parking lot of the Hometown Inn and Suites, the officers noticed a white Pontiac Grand Prix parked and running in the parking lot with at least one person inside. The car caught the officers' attention because the weather was very cold and it was snowing heavily that night, which led the officers to reason that most people would want to get inside the hotel as quickly as possible. The officers could not identify the vehicle's occupant at that time, but Officer Messer noticed that the driver was “staring intently at the officers” through the car's side mirror.

         The officers left the hotel parking lot and returned fifteen to twenty minutes later to see if the status of the Grand Prix and its occupant had changed. As the officers pulled into the lot, they saw the same Grand Prix driving toward them. The car stopped in the middle of the parking lot as soon as it pulled into view of the officers' squad car. The officers drove closer to the Grand Prix and noticed that the driver was turning his head away from the officers and toward the center of the car in an apparent attempt to hide his face. Despite the driver's efforts, Officer Messer was able to identify the driver as defendant.

         At about the same time that Officer Messer was able to identify defendant, defendant accelerated and left the parking lot. The officers turned around to pursue defendant, following him to a nearby restaurant parking lot, where defendant exited his vehicle. The officers exited their vehicle as well and called out to defendant, detaining him. The officers conducted a brief pat down for weapons but found nothing. Officer Messer attempted to find a record of defendant's outstanding warrant, but there was no warrant. In the meantime, however, Officer Messer was able to confirm that defendant's driver's license was suspended. The officers then placed defendant under arrest. A search that was conducted incident to defendant's arrest revealed that defendant was in possession of methamphetamine. The officers then searched the Grand Prix and discovered a firearm, as well as other evidence. After defendant's arrest, defendant gave a post-Miranda interview and made incriminating statements.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         In the Motion to Suppress, defendant argues that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain him and that the firearm, ammunition, methamphetamine, and statements made by defendant must, therefore, be suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful seizure. (Doc. 7, at 1). In its resistance, the government argues, inter alia, that the officers lawfully detained defendant and that the evidence discovered in the vehicle is admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine. (Doc. 10, at 5-9, 15).

         In the Report and Recommendation, Judge Roberts found that the officers had reasonable suspicion to detain defendant and that the subsequent searches of defendant's person and vehicle were lawful. (Doc. 15, at 11-25). Judge Roberts also found, in the alternative, that if the officers' initial detention of defendant were unlawful, the evidence inside the vehicle would not be admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine. (Id., at 24-25). Defendant makes a number of objections to Judge Roberts' factual findings and also objects to Judge Roberts' legal conclusions that the officers' detention and search of defendant and his vehicle were lawful. The government objects to Judge Roberts' finding that the inevitable discovery doctrine does not apply. The Court will address each objection in turn.

         A. Defendant's Factual Objections

         1. Officer Messer's History with Defendant

          Judge Roberts found that “[Officer] Messer was familiar with [d]efendant because [Officer Messer] had personally encountered [d]efendant ‘a handful' of times in the past, and arrested [d]efendant once.” (Doc. 15, at 4). Defendant objects that “Officer Messer's testimony was ‘roughly a handful' of times.” (Doc. 18-1, at 1 (emphasis in original)). Upon review of the record, the Court finds that Officer Messer did testify that he had encountered defendant “roughly a handful” of times. (Doc. 16, at 8). The Court concludes that Judge Roberts' finding was not inaccurate and that the addition of the word “roughly” to what was already a vague estimate does not alter Officer Messer's testimony in any material way. Accordingly, this objection is overruled.

         2. Defendant's ...

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