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United States v. Bradbury

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

May 30, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WILLIAM MURPHY BRADBURY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge.

         Pending before the court is defendant William Murphy Bradbury's motion to suppress (Dkt. No. 31), which has been briefed and was argued at a hearing on April 11, 2017. Bradbury argues that the court should suppress all items seized in the search of Room 203, Extended Stay America, pursuant to a search warrant issued and executed on October 4, 2016. He alleges that “the affidavit in support of the warrant (attached as Exhibit 1) contained material misrepresentations and omitted material information with reckless disregard of the likelihood of the affidavit being so misleading as to vitiate probable cause.” (Dkt. No. 31.) He does not contend that the affidavit was not facially sufficient. For the reasons set forth below, the court will deny Bradbury's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Bradbury is charged in a single-count indictment with knowingly possessing a firearm on October 4, 2016, after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 924(e).

         According to the police reports and search warrant documents attached to Bradbury's briefs, officers had information from a reliable confidential source that a man calling himself “Murphy” and with a “Murphy” tattoo had narcotics and a firearm, was driving a white Jeep Cherokee with a specific registration number, and was in Room 203 at the Extended Stay America (Room 203). Officers determined that Room 203 was registered to William Murphy Bradbury and that there was an arrest warrant for him for a revocation violation on underlying drug charges. Motel staff identified Bradbury's photo. Additionally, the jeep with the registration number provided by the informant was seen at the motel. At some point, the jeep was no longer in the parking lot. While it later returned, no officers saw who was operating the jeep. A woman, believed to be Bradbury's girlfriend, had come and gone from the motel at some point.

         Officers attempted to get Bradbury to open the door, but he only opened the door with the internal latch or slide lock still on and demanded to see the warrants. He also looked out the window and could confirm police presence.

         Officers gained access to an adjoining room and listened to Bradbury through the bathroom wall. The reports indicate that one officer heard Bradbury talking on the phone with a female discussing their love for each other, and Bradbury said, “I'm going to make them kill me” and “I'm not doing 20 years.” Then another person was talking on the phone with Bradbury and asked him what was happening. Bradbury responded, “Swat is at the door, I'm telling you they are dead through their shields and everything, I'm done with this shit, and I'm going out blazing.” The original female then returned to the phone, and they expressed their love again. After hearing Bradbury's statements, officers established a better position and evacuated portions of the motel. Eventually, Bradbury opened the door, followed commands, and was taken into custody.

         During the above events, Detective Loughery swore out an affidavit for a search warrant for Room 203 for the person of Bradbury and any firearms, ammunition, or controlled substances. With regard to the material facts constituting probable cause, he stated that Detective Maxey received information from a confidential source that Bradbury was residing in Room 203, was known to be driving a jeep with a specific registration number, and was wanted on an outstanding probation violation. He further stated that surveillance on the room and jeep was initiated, that officers approached and knocked, and that the door was opened by the occupant who was identified by Deputy Marshall [sic] Helton as Bradbury. He then noted that “Bradbury immediately closed and barricaded the door and made statements about coming out shooting.” A search warrant was issued at 4:55 p.m. on October 4. After Bradbury was arrested, the search warrant was executed.

         The female with whom Bradbury was speaking by phone was incarcerated during these events, so her phone calls were recorded. Bradbury has provided the court with the recorded calls. The recordings confirm that Bradbury was speaking with a woman with whom he had a relationship, and they were repeatedly expressing their love for each other. They confirm that Bradbury was using the speaker function of his phone at times, that he had more than one phone, and that he was speaking with persons other than the incarcerated female at times. The incarcerated female had a very difficult time hearing and understanding Bradbury because of the speaker function of the phone, and the recordings reflect the same and are indecipherable at times.

         Bradbury moves to suppress all items seized during the search of Room 203. The items listed on the search inventory are a pistol, VISA debit cards, and tan powder substance. He bases his motion on four alleged misrepresentations and/or omissions in the affidavit. First, he notes that the affidavit failed to mention that the jeep that the informant said Bradbury was driving was not registered to, or otherwise connected to, Bradbury. Second, the affidavit failed to mention that the jeep, while supposedly under surveillance, left and returned to the motel parking lot, unobserved, without anyone leaving Room 203. Third, the affidavit stated that Bradbury opened the door to Room 203 and immediately closed it, but failed to state that Bradbury never opened it to allow observation of himself or the inside of the room. Finally, the affidavit implied that Bradbury directly told Deputy Marshal Helton that he was coming out shooting or with guns blazing. Instead, Detective Maxey heard comments to that effect while listening through the bathroom wall of the adjoining motel room. Moreover, Bradbury never said he was coming out “guns blazing.”

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Preliminary Showing for a Franks Hearing Required

         A search warrant affidavit has a “strong ‘presumption of validity.'” United States v. Colkley, 899 F.2d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171 (1978)). If a defendant can make “a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in the warrant affidavit” and that the false information was “essential to the probable cause determination, ” then he may “obtain an evidentiary hearing on the affidavit's integrity” (a Franks hearing). Colkley, 899 F.2d at 300. The items found during the search will be excluded if the defendant establishes material perjury or recklessness by a preponderance of the evidence at the Franks hearing. Id. The defendant's preliminary showing must include a “detailed offer of proof” and not be merely conclusory. Id.

         With regard to omissions from affidavits, Franks “protects against omissions that are designed to mislead, or that are made in reckless disregard of whether they would mislead, the magistrate.” Id. at 301 (citing United States v. Reivich, 793 F.2d 957, 961 (8th Cir. 1986)) (emphasis in original). Neither an intentional decision not to include every piece of information in the affidavit, nor negligence in omitting a relevant matter, is sufficient to meet this standard. Id. at 300-01.[1] An omission, if it meets the above standard, must also be material. That is, it “must do more than potentially affect the probable cause determination: It must be ‘necessary to the finding of probable ...


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