United States District Court, E.D. New York
February 1, 2003
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
LONNIE LAKE, ALPHONSE LAKE and SYLVESTER LAKE, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPATT, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
This case involves charges of narcotics possession, narcotics
distribution, and gun possession. Presently before the Court are
objections by Alphonse Lake and Lonnie Lake to the Report and
Recommendation ("Report") dated December 30, 2002 of United States
Magistrate Judge Arlene Rosario Lindsay.
The background of this case is incorporated in this Court's memorandum
of decision and order dated October 5, 2002 and memorandum of decision
and order dated October 24, 2002. Familiarity with these decisions is
In these decision, motions to suppress statements made by Alphonse Lake
and Lonnie Lake were referred to Judge Lindsay to conduct a suppression
hearing. On December 23, 2002, Judge Lindsay conducted a suppression
hearing at which time the Government called Sergeant William Flanagan,
Detective Michael Beckett and Detective James Canner as witnesses.
Alphonse Lake called Yolanda Lake as a witness.
[244 F. Supp.2d 105]
A. As to Alphonse Lake
On January 7, 1999, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Alphonse Lake was at
home with his infant child when approximately 5 or 6 police officers
entered Lake's home to execute a search warrant. During the course of the
search, Lake was discovered in possession of cocaine, was placed under
arrest, handcuffed, and removed to the kitchen area where Sergeant
Flanagan, a Nassau County police officer, was guarding him. It is
undisputed that Lake was under arrest and was not informed of his
Miranda rights while at his home.
Shortly after the search was initiated, the police officers permitted
Lake to call his wife, Yolanda Lake, at work so she could come home to
watch their child. At the hearing, Mrs. Lake stated that she arrived home
a little after 2:30 pm. to find officers searching her home. She
testified that after hearing her son wake up, she brought him into the
living room, which was approximately 12 to 15 feet from, and directly
adjacent to, the kitchen area where her husband was seated. Mrs. Lake
testified that she was upset and holding her child on the sofa. In
addition, she said she could look right into the kitchen where her
husband was seated.
During the search, the officers discovered a gun in the couple's
bedroom. After the gun was discovered, Detective Ludwig entered into the
kitchen and, in the presence of Lake, informed Sergeant Flanagan that the
officers had found a gun in the bedroom. Sergeant Flanagan testified that
because Mrs. Lake was in earshot of Detective Ludwig, she could hear what
the detective was saying. At the hearing, Sergeant Flanagan stated that
at this time, he observed Lake exchange glances with his wife.
Immediately thereafter, Detective Ludwig approached Mrs. Lake to ask
whether she knew anything about the gun. Lake then stated that the gun
was his and that his wife did not know it was in their house. He also
stated that he bought the gun in Rockaway.
Lake moves to suppress these statements.
B. As to Lonnie Lake
On January 7, 1999, after being stopped by the police while driving a
1990 Toyota Celica, Lonnie Lake was arrested near his home located at 51
E. Market Street in Long Beach. Lake was removed from his vehicle and
placed under arrest at approximately 10:25 a.m. He was then transported to
the Nassau County Narcotics Bureau in Mineola. Although Lake was not
informed of his Miranda rights, he asserted his right to counsel.
In the early afternoon, Lake requested that to be transported back to
his home to assist in locking up his pet dogs. The officers granted his
request and transported him back where approximately 15 to 20 officers
were searching his home. Detective Beckett, who testified that he had
known Lake for almost 20 years, moved Lake outside to a patrol car.
Beckett testified that while he was in the patrol car, Lake asked him
what the police were doing at his house, to which Beckett responded that
he did not have that information. Lake then stated that he had a gun
under a mattress.
Because a crowd began to form outside his home, Beckett testified that
he removed Lake from the patrol car to move him inside his home. As they
walked back into the home, and before Beckett had a chance to relay the
information that Lake had a gun, another officer announced that they had
discovered a gun. When Lake heard the announcement, he stated to
Detective Vincent Buscemi, who Lake knew as, "Vinnie," that the gun is
[244 F. Supp.2d 106]
Thereafter, Lake was taken back to the Narcotics Bureau for
processing. During processing, Lake asked Detective Hanrahan what would
happen to his vehicle. Detective James Canner testified that Detective
Hanrahan responded that the vehicle would be retained because it
contained a "trap." Lake protested and said that there was nothing in the
trap and that he would prove it to the officers. Detective Canner
testified that pursuant to Lake's offer, Hanrahan and Canner took Lake to
his vehicle where he proceeded to "press a number of buttons, which
included turning on the blower on high, pressing the rear defroster, and
then [lowering] the front driver's side window" which opened a hidden
compartment under the driver's floorboard. The compartment was empty.
Lake moves to suppress this series of statements.
A. Standard of Review
Pursuant to § 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), any party may file written
objections to the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge within
ten days after being served with a copy. See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).
Once objections are filed, the district court is required to make a de
novo determination as to those portions of the report and recommendation
to which objections were made. See § 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1);
Brassia v. Scull, 892 F.2d 16, 19 (2d Cir. 1989). The phrase "de novo
determination" in section 636(b)(1) as opposed to "de novo
hearing" was selected by Congress "to permit whatever reliance a
district judge, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, chose to
place on a magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations." U.S. v.
Radios, 447 U.S. 667, 676, 100 S.Ct. 2406 (1980). Section 636 does not
require the district court "to rehear the contested testimony in order to
carry out the required `determination.'" Id. at 674. Rather, in making
such a determination, the district court may, in its discretion, review
the record and hear oral argument on the matter. See Pan Am. World
Airways, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 894 F.2d 36, 40
n. 3 (2d Cir. 1990). Furthermore, the district judge may also, in his
sound discretion, afford a degree of deference to the Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendations. See U.S. v. Radios, 447 U.S. 667, 676, 100
S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980).
B. Custodial Interrogation
The parties do not dispute that the both the defendants were in custody
and were not given Miranda rights. The Government argues that the
defendants' statements are admissible because they were voluntarily given
and did not result from custodial interrogation.
As the Court noted in its October 5, 2002 decision, "the coercion
inherent in custodial interrogation blurs the line between voluntary and
involuntary statements." Dicker son v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 435,
120 S.Ct. 2326 (2000). To prevent such coercion and safeguard a suspect's
privilege against self-incrimination, law enforcement officers must
provide a suspect with Miranda warnings prior to conducting a custodial
interrogation. See id.; United States v. Ramirez, 79 F.3d 298, 304 (2d
Cir.), cert. denied, 117 S.Ct. 140 (1996). Interrogation "refers not only
to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of
the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody)
that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an
incriminating response from the suspect." Rhode Island v. Ignis,
446 U.S. 291,
[244 F. Supp.2d 107]
308, 100 S.Ct. 1682 (1980).
1. As to Alphonse Lake's Statement
In her Report, Judge Lindsay found that Alphonse Lake's statement was
not elicited by custodial interrogation or its equivalent. In his
objections to the Report, Lake argues that when Detective Ludwig advised
Sergeant Flanagan in Lake's presence that the officers found a gun it was
the "functional equivalent" of confronting Lake with this evidence.
According to Lake, the officers should have known that by doing so they
were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from him. In
addition, Lake contends that there was no indication that he spoke to
protect his wife from further upset, and that even assuming he had, such
police tactics would require suppression of the statement.
The Court finds Lake's argument to be without merit. After reviewing
the transcripts for the suppression hearing held on December 23, 2002,
the Court finds that Judge Lindsay correctly determined that the motion
to suppress Lake's statement should be denied. The record shows that the
officers merely exchanged information that a gun had been found. A review
of the record also reveals that this announcement was neither addressed
to nor directed at Lake. Furthermore, Judge Lindsay is correct in finding
that the officers could not reasonably have anticipated that when they
spoke to Mrs. Lake in an adjacent room, Lake would have assumed they were
discussing the gun. In addition, the Court finds that it was reasonable
for Judge Lindsay to conclude that based on a glance Lake received from
his wife and because she was upset and crying, he volunteered that the
gun was his and that his wife was not involved in order to protect his
wife and to avoid further upset. Therefore, the Court finds that Judge
Lindsay correctly determined that Lake was not coerced or questioned in
any way. Accordingly, the motion to suppress Lake's statement is denied.
2. As to Lonnie Lake's Statement
On January 8, 2003, the Court received a letter from Lonnie Lake
stating that "Mr. Lake objects to Magistrate Lindsay's findings of fact
and conclusions of law." However, Lake provides absolutely no grounds for
his objection to Judge Lindsay's Report. In short, he provides no
"specific, written objections to the proposed findings and
recommendations." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) (emphasis added). Where a party
makes only "conclusory or general objections, the court reviews the
report and recommendation for clear error." Parker v. Johnson, No.
99-11805, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13745, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 6, 2001);
Camarado v. General Motors Hourly-Rate Employees Pension Plan,
806 F. Supp. 380, 382 (W.D.N.Y. 1992) (determining that the court need
not consider objections which are frivolous, conclusive, or general and
constitute a rehashing of the same arguments and positions taken in
original pleadings); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) advisory committee's
note (when no specific, written objections are filed, "the court need
only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the fact of the
record in order to accept the recommendation.").
After carefully reviewing Judge Lindsay's well-reasoned and thorough
Report, the Court concludes that her Report is not clearly erroneous.
Judge Lindsay applied the proper standard and reasonably applied the
facts obtained from all the testimony given at the suppression hearing to
the law. Accordingly, the Court adopts Judge Lindsay's Report.
[244 F. Supp.2d 108]
Based on the foregoing, it is hereby
ORDERED, that the objections by both Alphonse Lake and Lonnie Lake to
Judge Lindsay's Report are DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED, that the Court adopts Judge Lindsay's Report in its entirety.
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