United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.
Defendant Antonio Darset King, Sr. is charged in a superseding indictment with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); one count of knowingly and intentionally possessing, with the intent to distribute, cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and one count of knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i).
This cause comes before the court on King's motion to suppress evidence found in a search of his home pursuant to a warrant that King contends was invalid. The magistrate judge held a full evidentiary hearing on King's suppression motion and then issued two recommendations that the motion be denied. After a thorough, independent, and de novo review of the record (including a review of the transcript of the evidentiary hearing), the court concludes that King's objections to the recommendations should be overruled, the recommendations should be adopted (albeit not for all the reasons given), and the suppression motion should be denied.
When reviewing a recommendation of a magistrate judge, the district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636.
On February 19, 2014, the body of Sayquawn Wiggins was found in the grass by a church parking lot in Cottonwood, Alabama. He had been shot to death. After identifying the body, which at the time had no picture identification on it, police interviewed several of Wiggins's relatives. The first interview took place at the local sheriff's office, where investigators asked to meet with a large group of family members. At this initial family meeting, investigators interviewed Wiggins's mother, who said that King had threatened to kill both her and Wiggins on multiple occasions. She had filed a police report in December 2013 alleging this. In August 2013, Wiggins himself had filed a police report alleging that King had threatened to kill him.
Also in the initial interview, another family member said that King wanted Wiggins dead because Wiggins had stolen 1.5 kilos of cocaine from King. This family member gave the name of another person whom the investigators interviewed and who corroborated the information about the drugs and that King had actually put out a formal hit on Wiggins. The family member also gave information on how to contact yet another person, a woman, who had been staying with Wiggins at a hotel. Investigators interviewed the woman, and she confirmed the story about the drugs and the hit. The woman told them that, the night before the murder, she, Wiggins, and another man named Montrell Davis,  had all spent the night in a hotel room. She said that, on the date of the murder, Wiggins and Davis had driven her to a pharmacy. Police pulled surveillance video from the hotel and confirmed that, on the day of the murder, Wiggins and Davis were riding together in a car shortly after 2:00 p.m.
After finding all this out, investigators interviewed Davis. Davis is married to Wiggins's aunt on Wiggins's father's side of the family. Davis first denied knowing anything about the incident. Police then confronted him with inaccuracies in his timeline of events. They also had his wife talk to him, and she encouraged him to tell them the story he had told her. Eventually, he told the investigators that he had been in a car with Wiggins when several cars pulled up to them at a traffic light and abducted the two of them. According to Davis, King was present with the abductors, and they eventually let Davis go, but not Wiggins.
The next day, police again interviewed Davis, and he told the same story about being abducted, but he added that he had been at work when an unknown man approached him and handed him an envelope. Inside were pictures of Davis's family and a telephone number. Davis says he called the number and King answered. Over the phone, King told Davis he would kill Davis and his family if he did not help King find Wiggins. Davis said he agreed to help.
Police estimated Wiggins's time of death to be shortly after 4:00 p.m. on February 19. They obtained cell-phone records of King and Davis and found that the two had been travelling together around that time and had called each other on their phones that day. The cell-phone records placed each of them within 1.5 miles of the scene of the crime. In addition, as a condition for bond in another criminal case, King was wearing a GPS ankle bracelet at the time. The GPS monitor sent a GPS "ping" every 60 seconds and was accurate to within 20 feet, according to the monitoring service. The GPS monitor placed King at the end of a road that leads to the church where Wiggins's body was found. The GPS monitor does not indicate that King went onto church property-only that he went to the road leading to the church. The crime scene is the church parking lot. The church is the only building on this road, and there are no other buildings around. It is a very rural area, and nothing else was within earshot, according to the investigator that testified at the hearing.
Investigators obtained and executed a search warrant from a state judge for King's house, but did not find any evidence of the murder there. They did, however, find evidence of the crimes with which he is charged in this federal case, namely, drugs and guns.
In this federal case, King moves to suppress all tangible evidence and statements obtained through use of the search warrant. After a hearing, the federal magistrate judge issued a recommendation that the motion be denied, and, in response to King's objections to that recommendation, issued a second or supplemental recommendation. King filed objections to the second recommendation as well. The two recommendations and the objections to them are now before the court.
King contends that the affidavit submitted to the state judge failed, on its face, to provide sufficient probable cause for issuance of a warrant ...