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United States v. Waker

November 1, 2006

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DEMOND WAKER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John T. Elfvin S.U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM and ORDER*fn1

INTRODUCTION

Defendant Demond Waker is charged in a two-count indictment with unlawfully and knowingly possessing ammunition affecting commerce and unlawfully and knowingly possessing firearms affecting commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). On February 13, 2006 the case was referred to Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio for all pretrial matters. On April 17, 2006, Waker filed pre-trial motions seeking both dispositive and non-dispositive relief, including a Bill of Particulars, discovery and suppression of certain evidence. At oral argument on these motions, all outstanding matters were resolved*fn2 except for Waker's request for a Bill of Particulars and his motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to a purportedly invalid search warrant. On June 26, 2006 Magistrate Judge Foschio issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") and Order wherein he denied the motion for a Bill of Particulars and recommended that the suppression motion be denied. On July 7, 2006 Waker filed objections to that portion of the R&R relating to the suppression motion, arguing that the search warrant was defective on its face and, therefore, the items seized under the warrant should be suppressed. Oral argument on the objections was held on September 29, 2006 and the matter submitted for decision by the Court on that date.

BACKGROUND

Familiarity with the R&R is presumed, hence the facts will be discussed only as they relate to Waker's objections. The search warrant at issue was executed at 2777 Elmwood Avenue, Tonawanda, NY on April 25, 2005. The warrant was issued by Magistrate Foschio, also on April 25, 2005, for the upper apartment at that address and was based on the Application and Affidavit of FBI Criminal Enterprise Task Force ("CETF") Agent Daniel Granville. Upon execution of the warrant, CETF agents encountered Waker and an individual named Jonathan Fields. Inside the apartment, CETF agents recovered, inter alia, a shotgun shell from inside Waker's pants pocket and other firearms and ammunition from within the apartment. Waker told the agents that he had resided at the apartment since April 24, 2005. Records checks confirmed that Waker is a convicted felon and that the firearms and ammunition were manufactured outside of New York state and the United States and hence, were necessarily transported here through interstate or foreign commerce.

Waker argued before the Magistrate that the search warrant was invalid because (1) it contained an incorrect handwritten date indicating that it was to be executed by April 30, "2004", rather than "2005"*fn3 ; (2) the items to be seized were not sufficiently particularized as required by Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure ("F.R.Cr.P.") 41 and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution*fn4, and (3) there was no probable cause in support of the Affidavit which formed the basis for the warrant. The government argued that the handwritten date error was insignificant, the warrant complied with F.R.Cr.P. 41 and the Fourth Amendment, and nonetheless the search was valid under United States v. Leon*fn5 because it was not so facially lacking in validity so as to preclude the officer's good faith reliance thereon.

The R&R addressed all of these arguments, finding that the date discrepancy was a clerical error that did not render the warrant invalid, that incorporation by reference of an Affidavit in support of a warrant that is attached to the warrant sufficiently satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment and F.R.Cr.P. 41, and also that there were ample facts contained in the Affidavit to support a finding of probable cause for the issuance of the warrant. The Magistrate also provided detailed reasons for his denial of Waker's request for a Bill of Particulars.

DISCUSSION

The District Court "shall 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); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-676, 100 S.Ct. 2406 (1980); Sieteski v. Kuhlmann, 2000 WL 744112, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. 2000). The Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge", and may adopt those parts of the R&R to which no specific objection is raised so long as such are not clearly erroneous. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(C); see also Black v. Waker, 2000 WL 461106, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. 2000). Objections to a R&R in this District are also governed by Rule 58.2 of the Local Rules of Criminal Procedure for the United States District Court for the Western District of New York ("Local Rules"). Local Rule 58.2(a)states in pertinent part that:

"(1) Review of a Magistrate Judge's orders or of his or her proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition shall be governed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

"(3) A party may object to proposed findings of fact and recommendations for dispositions submitted by a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), by filing %%% written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations within ten days %%% . The written objections shall specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings and recommendations to which objection is made and the basis for such objection and shall be supported by legal authority."

Magistrate Foschio's denial of the Bill of Particulars is a non-dispositive order to which no objection was made and is therefore deemed final. Local Rule 58.2(a)(2).

Waker did not raise the issue of probable cause, objecting only to the Magistrate's findings regarding the date discrepancy and the incorporation by reference technique of particularizing the items to be seized, arguing that, for these reasons, the warrant is facially deficient. Waker urges the Court to decline to adopt the Magistrate's findings, invalidate the warrant and suppress the items seized. He argues that Magistrate Foschio's reliance upon certain cases in support of his findings was misplaced. This is essentially a claim that Magistrate Foschio incorrectly applied the law with respect to both the analysis of the incorrect date ...


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