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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 16, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
TYRONE ROBINSON, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Anne Y. Shields United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendant Tyrone Robinson (“Robinson” or the “Defendant”) is charged in a superseding indictment with crimes arising from nine gunpoint robberies and attempted robberies, as well as charges of conspiracy and firearms crimes. Docket Entry herein (“DE”) 5. In a Memorandum of Decision and Order dated November 1, 2017 (hereinafter the “November 1 Decision”) the District Court granted in part and denied in part several of Defendant's pretrial motions. See DE 83. Relevant here is the denial without prejudice of Defendant's motion to suppress the seizure of his cellular telephone.

         Robinson's cell phone was taken by officers of the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision (hereinafter “Parole”) during execution of an arrest warrant issued by that office.[1] The government argued that seizure of the cell phone was justified by a “safekeeping” policy applied by Parole when a parolee is arrested. As to that branch of Robinson's pretrial motion, the District Court held that a hearing was necessary to determine the facts surrounding the alleged policy, and the question of whether the taking of Robinson's cell phone violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. That suppression hearing was referred for Report and Recommendation to this Court, which held the hearing on January 8, 2018.

         For the reasons set forth below, this Court respectfully recommends that the motion to suppress be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         I. The November 1 Decision and the Scope of the Referral

         As noted, the November 1 Decision held that a hearing was necessary to determine the merits of Defendant's motion to suppress the seizure of his cell phone during execution of a Parole arrest warrant (the “Warrant”). The District Court identified three separate areas of inquiry.

         First, it was held that a hearing was necessary to determine whether the seizure of the phone was rationally and reasonably related to a parole officer's duties in connection with the execution of the Warrant. With respect to this issue, the District Court noted the Government's position that the seizure was made pursuant to a routine safekeeping policy of such items. In view of the fact that the Government's assertion of this policy was supported by neither factual testimony nor documentary evidence the District Court held that a hearing was necessary to determine the existence and parameters of any such policy.

         Next, the District Court noted that a hearing could shed light on the question of whether the seizure might be justified pursuant to the “inevitable discovery” rule. With respect to this theory, the Government argued that the cell phone would have been inevitably discovered during execution of a later search warrant at Robinson's apartment on July 8, 2016 -- nearly one month after execution of parole warrant. At the hearing before this Court, the Government made clear that it would not be presenting evidence with respect to the inevitable discovery doctrine. Therefore, this Court held no hearing, and makes no findings as to that issue.

         Finally, the District Court held that a suppression hearing might develop facts as to whether, assuming an unlawful seizure, the Fourth Amendment requires exclusion of the cell phone. With respect to this issue, the District Court noted that the hearing might allow presentation of evidence as to whether suppression would deter future unlawful behavior by arresting officers.

         II. Facts

         The facts set forth below are drawn from documents before the District Court, as well as those developed at this Court's evidentiary hearing. The recitation of facts is in accord with both Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which requires that “essential findings” be stated on the record, and 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), which requires that this Court submit proposed findings of fact to the District Court. See Fed. R Crim. P. 12(c); 28 U.S.C. §636 (b)(1)(B).

         A. Facts Set Forth in the November 1 Decision

         Documentary evidence before the District Court established that on August 4, 2015, after service of a New York State sentence to a two year term of incarceration, Robinson was released on parole. See November 1 Decision at 20-21. On March 26, 2016, Robinson was arrested for false impersonation in violation of Section 190.23 of the New York State Penal Law. Id. at 21. Three days later, on March 29, 2016, the Warrant was issued alleging that Defendant violated the conditions of his release. Specifically, Robinson was charged with:

• giving false pedigree information to police during a burglary investigation;
• allegedly committing burglary;
• failing to notify his parole officer of his arrest;
• being outside of his approved residence after his 7 p.m. curfew ...

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