United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MARKS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action for civil forfeiture of the Defendant property
brought by the United States of America pursuant to 21 U.S.C.
§ 881(a)(6). On July 27, 2017, Claimant Ruby Barton
filed an answer and a verified claim seeking the Defendant
property. (Doc. 42). Now pending before the Court is Claimant
Barton's motion to suppress, filed on April 12, 2019.
(Doc. 75). The Government filed a response to the motion to
suppress on April 29, 2019 (doc. 80), and the Claimant filed
a reply on May 13, 2019 (doc. 84). For the reasons that
follow, the Claimant's motion to suppress (doc. 75) is
due to be denied.
Facts from Investigator James Talley's Affidavit.
13, 2016 at 10:48 p.m., Millbrook Police were dispatched to
the Sonic Drive-In at 77 Dudley Drive in Millbrook, Alabama.
Officers approached a vehicle containing Rodriguez Lakeith
Garth, who was shot twice in the torso, but was still
conscious. Garth told police that he was shot while he was
sitting in his vehicle near the Liberty Convenience Center at
154 Deatsville Highway.
11:05 p.m., the Elmore County Sheriff's Office received a
call from John Bloch, a resident of 74 Breckenridge Court in
Deatsville. Bloch reported that his neighbor, Shanda Daniels,
came to his house and told him that her husband, Rodriguez
Lakeith Garth, had been shot and was laying in the backyard
at 94 Breckenridge Court. Bloch reported that he and his wife
had gone to the neighbor's house at 94 Breckenridge Court
and attempted to look into the backyard. However, it was too
dark to see, and they didn't enter the backyard. Bloch
told the deputy that shortly after asking him for help,
Daniels received a call informing her that Garth was not at
94 Breckenridge Court, and she left.
determined that Bloch was referring to the same Garth who had
already been attended to at the Sonic Drive-In. Accordingly,
they did not dispatch to Breckenridge Court at that time.
Soon thereafter, Bloch called the Sheriff's Office again
to report that several vehicles arrived at and left from the
residence at 94 Breckenridge Court. The Sheriff's Office
advised Bloch to contact the Millbrook Police Department, as
Breckenridge Court was within their jurisdiction. Bloch then
contacted Millbrook Police and relayed the same, and he also
told Millbrook Police that his daughter heard two gunshots
around 11:00 p.m. that evening.
Elmore County Sheriff's Deputy went to 94 Breckenridge
Court and found one spent shell casing in the driveway
outside the garage. He also discovered tire tracks, which
originated in the driveway at 94 Breckenridge Court and
crossed through the neighbor's yard, tearing up the
grass. Based on the condition of the neighbor's yard, it
appeared the vehicle that left the tracks was moving quickly.
Investigators also went to the Liberty Convenience Center,
where Garth claimed he had been shot, and found a shell
casing similar to the one located at 94 Breckenridge Court.
the investigation, Garth's sister told investigators that
Garth called her at 10:40 p.m. and informed her that he had
been shot and was driving for help. Garth stated that he was
driving down a backroad, and he remained on the line with her
for three to four minutes. Shanda Daniels reported to
investigators that Garth called her as well. In this call,
Garth told Daniels that he had been shot, but because he did
not give her any information about the shooting, she went to
94 Breckenridge Court, believing he was there.
James Talley of the Elmore County Sheriff's Office
presented all of the preceding facts in an affidavit to
Elmore County District Judge Glenn Goggans for the purpose of
obtaining a search warrant for 94 Breckenridge Court.
Investigator Talley concluded that the timing of Garth's
phone calls and the distance between 94 Breckenridge Court
and the Liberty Convenience Center indicated that Garth had
been shot at 94 Breckenridge Court and then traveled several
miles along Deatsville Highway. Accordingly, Investigator
Talley requested a search warrant for 94 Breckenridge Court
to locate firearms, ammunition, spent ammunition casings and
any other evidence related to the discharge of a firearm or a
on Investigator Talley's affidavit, Judge Goggans found
that probable cause existed and issued a search warrant for
94 Breckenridge Court for the purpose of locating firearms,
ammunition, spent ammunition casings and any other evidence
related to the discharge of a firearm or a physical
to the search warrant, officers discovered several large
bundles of marijuana in the guest bedroom of 94 Breckenridge
Court. The officers then sought and obtained a second, more
extensive search warrant authorizing them to search 94
Breckenridge Court, and any vehicles on the property, for
firearms, ammunition, illegal narcotics, drug packaging
materials, currency, ledgers, notes, computers, cellular
telephones, mediums used for storing electronic data,
measuring scales, and any stolen property. During the search
of 94 Breckenridge Court pursuant to the second search
warrant, agents seized nineteen bundles of marijuana (over
200 kilograms), five bags of cocaine (over 1.6 kilograms), a
digital scale, two pistols, six cell phones, assorted
jewelry, AR 15 magazines, and over $400, 000 in United States
Currency found both in the residence and in the trunk of a
1972 Chevrolet Chevelle parked on the property. Agents
impounded Garth's Mercedes, the 1972 Chevelle, and a
Cadillac CTS that was also parked on the property. Several of
these seizures are the subjects of the instant civil
motion to suppress, the Claimant alleges that the initial
search warrant for firearms, ammunition, spent ammunition
casings and any other evidence related to the discharge of a
firearm or a physical altercation was not properly supported
by probable cause. Accordingly, the Claimant asserts that all