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United States v. Hammonds

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division

October 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LEDGER LYNN HAMMONDS, JR., Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendant's motion to suppress and motion for Franks[1] hearing (DE 42). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), United States Magistrate Judge Robert B. Jones, Jr., entered order and memorandum and recommendation ("M&R"), wherein the magistrate judge denied defendant's motion for Franks hearing and recommended that the court deny defendant's motion to suppress (DE 51). Defendant timely filed an objection to the M&R and order on Franks hearing. (DE 54). The government did not respond to defendant's objection, and the time to do so has expired. In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, the court adopts the M&R and denies defendant's motion.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On March 14, 2018, the grand jury returned a one count indictment, charging defendant with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924 (a)(2). On June 4, 2019, defendant filed the instant motion to suppress all evidence derived from a search of his residence and additionally to request a hearing to examine whether the search warrant is valid under Franks. In support of the instant motion, defendant relies upon the following: 1) defendant's indictment, 2) search warrant affidavit, 3) search warrant, 4) charges filed against Ronald Hammonds ("Ronald"), 5) transcript of Ronald's interview, 6) charges filed against defendant, 7) affidavit from Shawn Freeman ("Freeman"), 8) affidavit from Albert Locklear ("Locklear"), and 9) affidavit from Nicoya Dail ("Dail").

         On August 30, 2019, the magistrate judge entered an order and M&R, denying defendant's request for a Franks hearing, and recommending that defendant's motion to suppress be denied. In objection to the M&R, Defendant maintains that all evidence from the search should be suppressed because law enforcement either intentionally or recklessly omitted and misrepresented material information in the search warrant affidavit.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The background facts as set forth in section II of the order and M&R, as relevant to the instant motion, are repeated below:

On October 8, 2015, defendant's uncle, [Ronald], was interviewed by Detective Mike Ellis of the Robeson County Sheriffs Department concerning an investigation into animal cruelty. (DE 42-5). During the interview, Ronald told Detective Ellis that he owned a herd of buffalo and that he had discovered two of them dead in July 2015, one of which had been decapitated. Id. at 3:15-22. Ronald told Detective Ellis that although he did not suspect anyone at the time of the incident, the twelve-year-old son of his nephew's brother-in-law admitted to decapitating the buffalo. Id. at 5:19-22. Ronald told Detective Ellis further that in September 2015, Ronald had seen someone with a flashlight near his pasture at night, and he heard a gunshot. Id. at 10:10-18. During the interview, Ronald first identified defendant's brother Joshua Hammonds ("Josh") as the culprit, then corrected himself and stated that it was defendant. Id. at 10:16-11:9. Ronald stated that on the evening in question he saw defendant holding two items, one of which was a flashlight and one of which could have been a rifle, but Ronald admitted he could not see clearly. Id. at 11:16-22. According to Ronald, the following day he discovered that one of his buffalo had been shot. Id. at 12:14-16. Several times during his interview with Detective Ellis, Ronald confused Josh's and Defendant's names and corrected himself. Id. at 30:21-24, 32:11-14, 34:21-22, 35:23-24, 40:25-41:5. Ronald told Detective Ellis that he had never seen defendant shoot a firearm but that on one occasion he saw defendant carry a rifle while riding a horse. Id. at 31:2-19. In fact, Ronald told Detective Ellis that when Defendant entered his property the day prior to the interview, Ronald pointed a gun at Defendant, told him to leave, and fired a shot over his head. Id. at 34:1-6. Ronald repeated that he had never seen defendant shoot a firearm.
On June 27, 2017, Investigator Erich Von Hackney ["Von Hackney"] of the Robeson County District Attorney's Office submitted an affidavit requesting a warrant to search defendant's home. (DE 42-3). [Von Hackney] stated in the affidavit that in 2013, Ronald reported that he suspected defendant of deer hunting and trespassing on his property. Id. at 2. According to the affidavit, defendant and Josh live near Ronald's property. Id. In July 2015, Ronald found that three of his buffalo had been killed, and one had been decapitated. Id. According to the affidavit, in September 2015, Ronald reported to the Robeson County Sheriffs Office that he heard a gunshot at night near the back of his pasture in the area where defendant and Josh live. Id. at 2-3. The next day, Ronald found that another buffalo had been killed. Id. at 3. Ten days later, Ronald found yet another dead buffalo, and he reported to the Robeson County Sheriffs Office that he witnessed "them" shoot the buffalo. Id. When asked who "they" were, Ronald identified defendant and said that he observed a defendant shoot a pistol. Id. In August 2016, Ronald reported that firearms were discharged near the trailer where defendant and Joshua live. Id. In May 2017, Ronald reported that two more buffalo had been killed. Id. at 3-4. In June 2017, another buffalo was shot. Id. at 4.
[Von Hackney] spoke with Ronald in June 2017. Id. Ronald said that six or seven years ago, he purchased a rifle, and approximately a year after the purchase, he saw defendant holding a rifle, and he noticed that his rifle had been stolen. Id.
[Von Hackney] stated in his affidavit that Katherine Floyd ["Floyd"], the Robeson County Animal Cruelty Investigator, told him that she had observed defendant in possession of a firearm on two occasions. Id. at 6. In particular, on or about May 24, 2017, she saw defendant operate a dirt bike with a firearm in a holster on his right side. Id. In September 2015, Floyd saw defendant riding a horse with a firearm in a hip holster. Id.
[Von Hackney] stated that based on that information, there was probable cause to believe defendant had committed the crimes of cruelty to animals and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Id. at 7. A North Carolina magistrate issued a warrant authorizing a search of defendant's home. (DE 42-4). The warrant was executed on June 28, 2017, and a rifle and handgun were seized. (DE 50 at 2).[2]

(Order and M&R (DE 51) at ...


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