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United States v. McCauley

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

April 25, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff
Zachary Thomas McCauley, Defendant


          Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Before me is Defendant Zachary Thomas McCauley's motion for disclosure of informants (Doc. No. 16), with opposition by the government (Doc. No. 17), and reply by Defendant (Doc. No. 18). The government also responded to Defendant's reply (Doc. No. 27), to which Defendant then replied. (Doc. No. 28). Also decisional is Defendant's motion to suppress evidence (Doc. No. 23), opposed by the government. (Doc. No. 26).

         II. Background

         On March 31, 2017, Toledo Municipal Court Judge Michelle Wagner granted a search warrant for Room 205 of the Quality Inn Hotel located in Toledo, Ohio, occupied by Defendant Zachary Thomas McCauley. (Doc. No. 16-1; Doc. No. 18-1). The warrant was granted based on the affidavit of Toledo Police Detective J. Picking. (Doc. No. 16-1). In the affidavit, Detective Picking stated that during the month of March 2017, he was contacted by two separate confidential sources who each claimed to have observed McCauley in possession of large quantities of cocaine, meth, and heroin in the hotel room. Id. at 1. The confidential sources also stated that he was selling the drugs out of the hotel room. Id. The first confidential source also stated that he/she had observed McCauley in possession of a large amount of heroin in his Dodge Charger. Id.

         On March 31, 2017, while conducting surveillance of the Quality Inn, members of the Toledo Police Vice and Bulk Cash units observed McCauley's Dodge Charger. Id. at 2. The same day, Detective Picking was contacted by a confidential source who stated he/she could purchase methamphetamine from McCauley in the hotel room. Id. Detective Picking met the confidential informant and provided him/her with funds from the Toledo Police Vice Drug Fund to purchase the drugs. Id. He/she purchased the drugs in the hotel room and returned the drugs to Detective Picking. Id. A field test confirmed the substance purchased was methamphetamine. Id. The confidential source also informed Detective Picking that he/she had observed a handgun in the hotel room. Id.

         After receiving the warrant, officers entered the room. Seized were a scale, a Beretta, 40 caliber pistol, a Walther, 22 caliber pistol, three bags of heroin, methamphetamine, a needle/cap, three cell phones, $110.00 cash, and a wallet with McCauley's Id. (Doc. No. 16-2).

         The search also resulted in McCauley's arrest. (Doc. No. 26-2 at 1). Days later McCauley was released on bond on what were then state charges. Id. Following his release on April 3, 2017, McCauley reported to his parole officer, Jamie Gentene. Id. Gentene had been McCauley's parole officer since November 2014. Id.

         Gentene and McCauley were the only two individuals present at the April 3, 2017 meeting. Id. During the meeting, McCauley admitted to possession of the firearms, heroin, and methamphetamine found in the hotel room. Id. He also admitted that he had been selling the drugs and that he had purchased the firearms. Id. Following his admission, Gentene asked whether he would like to speak to ATF agents about the purchase of the firearms. Id. Gentene states that she did not tell McCauley that, in order to stay out of jail, he was required to talk to federal agents or even make the admissions to her. Id. at 1-2. Instead, she maintains that McCauley made the admissions to her as if he getting them off his chest and that he was willing to speak with ATF agents, who were not involved in McCauley's state supervision. Id. McCauley tells a different story. (Doc. No. 23-1).

         Following the admission, McCauley was not taken into custody but was required to report weekly to Gentene. (Doc. No. 26-2 at 1-2). At one of these weekly reporting meetings on April 17, 2017, McCauley spoke with ATF agents in a conference room at the Adult Parole Office in Toledo. (Doc. No. 23-1 at 1; Doc. No. 26-1 at 1; Doc. No. 26-2 at 2). Present in the meeting were McCauley and three ATF agents: Justin Chamberlain, Steve Allick, and Jimmie Pharr. (Doc. No. 23-1 at 1; Doc. No. 26-1 at 1). All three agents were in plain clothes and of similar, medium build as McCauley. (Doc. No. 23-1 at 1; Doc. No. 26-1 at 1). Although the conference room was in the interior of the building, one wall contained a window looking onto a photocopier in the parole office. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 1). The conference room had two doors and contained a conference table and eight chairs. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 1-2). During the interview, both doors were shut but at least one of the doors was unlocked. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 2). McCauley claims he “could not get to either door without passing an agent.” (Doc. No. 23-1 at 1). But ATF Agent Chamberlain stated that McCauley “took the seat right next to the door he entered.” (Doc. No. 26-1 at 2).

         Prior to the interview, ATF Agent Chamberlain stated that he told McCauley that he was free to leave and could stop the interview and do so at any time. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 1). Because McCauley was told he was not in custody and could leave at any time, he was not given his Miranda warnings. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 1). During the interview, McCauley admitted possession of the two firearms and disclosed where he had purchased them. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 2). Though McCauley revealed the identity of one seller, he would only say that he purchased the Walther .22 caliber from someone on Craigslist. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 2). The ATF agents did not press McCauley to name the Craigslist seller after he first declined to do so. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 2). At the conclusion of the interview, approximately ten minutes after it commenced, McCauley exited the room. (Doc. No. 26- 1 at 2-3). It was not until six months after the interview that McCauley was taken into custody. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 3).

         III. Motion for Disclosure of Informants

         Generally, the informer's privilege allows the government to withhold the identity of persons who disclose “their knowledge of the commission of crimes to law-enforcement officials.” Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 59 (1957). But, “[w]here the disclosure of an informer's identity, or of the contents of his communication, is relevant and helpful to the defense of an accused, or is essential to a fair determination of a cause, the privilege must give way.” Id. at 60-61.

         To determine whether disclosure is “justifiable, ” the district court must weigh “the public interest in protecting the flow of information against the individual's right to prepare his defense.” Id. at 62. Specifically, the determination “must depend on the particular circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the crime charged, the possible defenses, the possible significance of the informer's testimony, and other relevant factors.” Id. “In analyzing this issue, courts have traditionally utilized in camera interviews in order to assess the relevance and possible helpfulness of the informant's identity to the defense.” United States v. Sharp, 778 F.2d 1182, 1187 (6th Cir. 1985).

         Before I may compel disclosure or grant an in camera interview, the defendant must “show how disclosure of the informant would substantively assist his defense.” United States v. Moore, 954 F.2d 379, 381 (6th Cir. 1992); see also United States v. Ray, 803 F.3d 244, 274 (6th Cir. 2015) (“A defendant must provide some evidence that disclosure of the informant's identity would assist in his defense before disclosure will be warranted.”); United States v. Sierra-Villegas, 774 F.3d 1093, 1109 (6th Cir. 2014) (“[A]n in camera hearing is not required when the defendant fails to identify how the informant's testimony could be relevant or helpful.”). “Mere conjecture or supposition about the ...

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