United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
Motion for Disclosure of Informants
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.
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).
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 ...