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United States v. Rucker

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 1, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
AARON RUCKER, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR. CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         INTRODUCTION

         On May 26, 2015, the United States of America filed a two-count indictment alleging that Defendant Aaron Rucker robbed a home while using a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951(a)[1] and 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). ECF No. 1. The next day, the case was referred to Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman for pre-trial matters and dispositive motions. ECF No. 2.

         On July 21, 2015, the United States filed a four-count, superseding indictment alleging that Rucker conspired to violate the Hobbs Act on November 4, 2014; Rucker attempted to violate the Hobbs Act on October 8, 2014 and November 4, 2014; and that he used a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). ECF No. 8.

         On April 28, 2016, Rucker moved to dismiss the first three counts of the indictment; moved to dismiss the entire indictment for selective and vindictive prosecution; and moved to suppress evidence seized from his bedroom, identification testimony, and statements that he made. ECF No. 49. Judge Feldman then held several hearings, including a suppression hearing, and issued a report and recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the Court deny all of Rucker's motions. ECF No. 115. Rucker then objected to Judge Feldman's R&R. ECF No. 118. For the reasons that follow, the Court accepts Judge Feldman's R&R in part. Consequently, Rucker's motion to suppress evidence seized from his bedroom is granted, and his remaining motions to suppress and motions to dismiss the indictment are denied.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court reviews those portions of an R&R to which a party has timely objected de novo. Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). When a party does not object to a portion of an R&R, or when the objections are conclusory, general, or without legal support, a district court reviews those portions for clear error. See United States v. Preston, 635 F.Supp.2d 267, 269 (W.D.N.Y. 2009) (citing Cullen v. United States, 194 F.3d 401, 405-07 (2d Cir. 1999)); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(2); Loc. R. Crim. P. 59(c)(2) (“Written objections . . . shall specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings and recommendations to which objection is made and the basis for each objection, and shall be supported by legal authority.”).

         After reviewing the R&R and the objections thereto, a district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Objections

         Rucker makes two objections: (1) that Judge Feldman erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence seized from his bedroom, and (2) that Judge Feldman failed to address his request for a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). Rucker's second objection, regarding the Franks hearing, is simply a repackaged version of his first objection. Rucker argues that Judge Feldman granted a search warrant for his bedroom based on an improper protective sweep of his house incident to his arrest. ECF No. 118 at 7-10. This argument matches the one Rucker makes in support of his first objection-the protective sweep was illegal, so all evidence seized from Rucker's bedroom based on the subsequent search warrant should be suppressed. ECF No. 118 at 3-7. Accordingly, the Court construes both objections as a single objection to Judge Feldman's recommendation that the Court deny Rucker's motion to suppress the evidence seized from his bedroom.

         Additionally, because Rucker did not object to Judge Feldman's other recommendations, the Court reviews them for clear error. See Preston, 635 F.Supp.2d at 269. The Court has reviewed Judge Feldman's recommendations regarding the motions to dismiss three counts of the indictment, the whole indictment, and the motions to suppress identification testimony and Rucker's statements, and finds no clear error. Consequently, the Court adopts those recommendations and the motions are denied. The Court next considers Rucker's objection regarding the motion to suppress the evidence seized from Rucker's bedroom.

         II. Factual Background

         On May 29, 2015, FBI Special Agent Jason Galle and other members of the FBI's Buffalo Field Office SWAT team executed an arrest warrant for Rucker at 784 Hudson Avenue, Rochester, New York. See ECF No. 97 at 8. FBI Special Agent Christopher Fiorito led the arrest team. Id. at 29. The warrant authorized the arrest to begin at 6:00 a.m. Id.

         While agents usually know how many people reside in the home at which they are executing a search warrant, Agent Galle could not recall this information for 784 Hudson Avenue. Id. at 37-38. Agent Galle was also not aware of any dangers in the house and did not participate ...


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