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United States v. Thomas

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

April 24, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES WILLIAM THOMAS, III, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ARENDA L. WRIGHT ALLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Objections filed by Defendant James William Thomas, III to the Report and Recommendation issued by the Magistrate Judge regarding Defendant's First Motion to Suppress. ECF No. 79. Also before the Court are Defendant's Objection to Appointment of Currently Assigned Stand-by Counsel, ECF No. 80, and Defendant's Motion to Transfer, ECF No. 84. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's objections to the Report and Recommendation are OVERRULED. Defendant's request that his current standby counsel be relieved from duty is GRANTED, and no new standby counsel will be appointed. Defendant's Motion to Transfer is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation contained a detailed recitation of the facts surrounding the search of Defendant's home and the seizure of property therefrom. The Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's factual findings in full.

         In 2014, the Southampton County Sheriffs Office began investigating a series of burglaries that had occurred in Southampton County during a short timespan that year. ECF No. 51 at 55. Items stolen during these burglaries ranged from small household items to larger items such as a refrigerator. Id. at 57. Lieutenant Camden Cobb testified at the hearing before the Magistrate Judge that in each of the burglaries, "it seemed like everything was taken." Id.

         In February 2014, Robert Clarke's home was burglarized. Id. at 59. Mr. Clarke told police that he had observed a white male drive a white pick-up truck by his house regularly, and that he suspected that person of being the culprit. Id. at 60. Mr. Clarke informed the detectives that he believed that the suspect lived in a trailer near Mr. Clarke's home. Id. He also gave the detectives a list of thirty-eight items that he believed were stolen. Id. at 65, 67.

         On April 27, 2014, a coin shop and attorney's office were burglarized in nearby Franklin, Virginia. Id. at 68, 91. The burglar came back later that night, was arrested, and was identified as Defendant. Id. Incident to Defendant's arrest, police recovered power tools that were consistent with tools Mr. Clarke had previously reported stolen, and Mr. Clarke's name was written on a drill battery recovered from Defendant. Id. at 68-69.

         Following Defendant's arrest, Lt. Cobb wrote an affidavit for a search warrant for Defendant's residence, which was issued. Id. at 71. The affidavit read, in part,

things or persons to be searched for are . . . [a]ny and all items and evidence related to the crimes of larceny and burglary, to include but not limited to, cash, televisions and other electronic devices, power tools, outdoor equipment, chainsaws, firearms, ammunition, bows, binoculars, rods and reels, game cameras, various types of hunting equipment and sporting goods, camouflage clothing and household goods, and any and all similar items.

         ECF No. 16-1.

         The search was permitted for

Any and all items and evidence related to the crime of Larceny and Burglary, to include but not limited to cash, televisions and other electronic devices, power tools, outdoor equipment, [chainsaws], firearms, bows, binoculars, rods and reels, game cameras, various types of hunting equipment and sporting goods, camouflage clothing and household goods and any and all similar items[.]

Id.

         The Southampton County Sheriffs Office executed the search warrant over the course of three days. ECF No. 51 at 75-76. Lt. Cobb testified that after officers began to inventory the items known to be stolen, they "started to find evidence of other burglaries and break-ins, and that information was fairly quickly verified." Id. at 76.

         Many of the items in Defendant's residence had the names of the true owners written on them. Id. at 82-84, 92. Eventually, the Sheriffs Office determined that items that were newer or of nicer quality were likely to be stolen. Id. at 95-96. The Sheriffs Office then obtained a second search warrant, which was identical in the items to be searched but added an updated probable cause statement. Id. at 98-99.

         In executing the search warrant, the Sheriffs Office seized numerous electronic devices. Id. at 104. The Sheriffs Office then attempted to determine the ownership of those devices. Id. Law enforcement checked the exteriors of the devices to see if they had identifying information and they also contacted the manufacturers of the ...


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