United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD United States District Judge.
Taj Williams ("Defendant") has been charged in a
three-count Indictment with various crimes related to a fire
occurring on January 18, 2015, at 989 Chili Avenue in
Rochester, New York, as follows: (1) Count One alleges that
Defendant damaged and destroyed a building in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 844(i); (2) Count Two alleges that Defendant
possessed three Molotov cocktails in violation of 26 U.S.C.
§§ 5822, 5845(a)(8), 5845(f), 5845(f), 5861(c), and
5871; and (3) Count Three alleges that Defendant possessed
unregistered Molotov cocktails in violation of 26 U.S.C.
§§5841, 5845(a)(8), 5845(f), 5861(d), and 5871.
(Dkt. 17). This Court referred all pretrial matters and
motions to United States Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) & (B). (Dkt.
before the Court are Defendant's objections (Dkt. 51) to
the Report & Recommendation issued by Judge Payson on
April 6, 2017 (Dkt. 50). For the reasons set forth below,
after a de novo review, this Court accepts and
adopts the Report & Recommendation (Dkt. 50), and
Defendant's motion to suppress tangible evidence (Dkt.
24) is denied.
filed pretrial motions seeking various forms of relief, but
only one is now at issue: his motion to suppress tangible
evidence. (Dkt. 24 at 7-9). Specifically, Defendant contends
that law enforcement conducted an illegal pre-warrant search
of his vehicle, and then relied on observations from that
illegal search to obtain a search warrant. (Id.).
Payson filed a first Report & Recommendation on October
26, 2016, finding, inter alia, that the Government
had established that there was sufficient probable cause to
support the warrant, independent of any possible illegal
search of Defendant's vehicle. (Dkt. 37 at 18-22).
However, Judge Payson found insufficient information in the
record concerning whether law enforcement would have applied
for a warrant in the absence of observations made during the
pre-warrant vehicle search. (Id. at 22).
Payson conducted an evidentiary hearing on December 5, 2016,
at which the Government elicited testimony from Investigator
Andrew MacKenzie ("MacKenzie"), a member of the
Arson Task Force who is employed by the City of Rochester
Police Department. (See Dkt. 44). MacKenzie was the
only witness to testify. (See id.).
the hearing and the filing of post-hearing submissions, Judge
Payson issued a second Report & Recommendation
("R&R") recommending that this Court deny
Defendant's motion to suppress tangible evidence. (Dkt.
50). Defendant timely filed objections (Dkt. 51), and the
Government timely filed its response (Dkt. 53).
Defendant does not contest Judge Payson's prior
determination that there was sufficient probable cause to
support the warrant application even without the illegally
obtained information (see Dkt. 37; Dkt. 38; Dkt. 41;
Dkt. 51), Defendant does object to Judge Payson's Report
& Recommendation concluding that the investigating
officer would have applied for a warrant in the absence of
the observations made during the pre-warrant vehicle search
(see Dkt. 50; Dkt. 51).
district court reviews any specific objections to a report
and recommendation under a de novo standard. Fed. R.
Crim. P. 59(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1) ("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."). To trigger the de novo review
standard, objections to a report "must be specific and
clearly aimed at particular findings in the magistrate
judge's proposal." Molefe v. KLM Royal Dutch
Airlines, 602 F.Supp.2d 485, 487 (S.D.N.Y. 2009).
Following review of the report and recommendation, the
district judge "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).
"[t]he Second Circuit has instructed that where a
Magistrate Judge conducts an evidentiary hearing and makes
credibility findings on disputed issues of fact, the district
court will ordinarily accept those credibility
findings." United States v. Lawson,961 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (W.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing Carrion v.
Smith,549 F.3d 583, 588 (2d Cir. 2008) ("[A]
district judge should normally not reject a proposed finding
of a magistrate judge that rests on a credibility finding
without having the witness testify before the judge."
(quoting Cullen v. United States,194 F.3d 401, 407
(2d Cir. 1999)))); Grassia v. Scully,892 F.2d 16,
19 (2d Cir. 1989) ("Had the district court rejected the
magistrate's conclusions regarding the credibility of the
central witnesses without hearing live testimony from those
witnesses, troubling questions of constitutional due process
would have ...