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United States v. Sandoval

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

October 23, 2013



MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.


A. Procedural Background

On January 13, 2013, an Indictment was returned against defendant Jose Ignacio Sandoval and a co-defendant charging conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance or mixture containing methamphetamine which contained 50 grams or more of pure methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A) and 846. Defendant Sandoval filed a motion to suppress in which he seeks to suppress all evidence seized as a result of the search of his house pursuant to a search warrant, as well as any statements he made in a post- Miranda interview. Sandoval contends that the search warrant lacked probable cause for three reasons: (a) the information in the affidavit was stale, (b) the informants' statements were unreliable and (c) there was not a sufficient correlation or nexus that connected him or his residence to information about "Nacho." He also argues that the Leon good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule, see United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), should not apply because law enforcement officers could not have acted in good faith reliance on the search warrant.

The prosecution filed a timely resistance to Sandoval's motion. Sandoval's motion to suppress was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Leonard T. Strand, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). On August 26, 2013, Judge Strand conducted an evidentiary hearing and subsequently filed a Report and Recommendation in which he recommends that Sandoval's motion to suppress be denied. In his Report and Recommendation, Judge Strand concluded that the information in the search warrant application was not stale. Judge Strand further determined that the issuing judge could reasonably consider and rely upon the information from all of the informants mentioned in the search warrant application to conclude that probable cause existed. Judge Strand noted that, while the search warrant application did not contain specific information concerning the credibility of five informants, these informants could reasonably be considered reliable because the information they supplied was corroborated by independent evidence. Based on the totality of circumstances, Judge Strand found that probable cause supported the state judge's issuance of the search warrant. Alternatively, Judge Strand concluded that, if the search warrant application was not supported by probable cause, the Leon good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies because the law enforcement officer obtaining the search warrant acted in reasonable reliance on the state magistrate's determination of probable cause for issuance of the warrant. Therefore, Judge Strand recommended that Sandoval's motion to suppress be denied.

Defendant Sandoval has filed objections to Judge Strand's Report and Recommendation. The prosecution filed a timely response to Sandoval's objections. I, therefore, undertake the necessary review of Judge Strand's recommended disposition of Sandoval's motion to suppress.

B. Factual Background

In his Report and Recommendation, Judge Strand made the following factual findings:

On January 9, 2013, Special Agent Eric Young submitted an application for a search warrant to the Iowa District Court for Hamilton County. Def. Ex. A (Doc. No. 110-2 at 1). The application sought the issuance of a warrant to search a residence located at 1879 Stonega Avenue in rural Hamilton County, along with three vehicles. Id. The application included supporting affidavits executed by Young. Doc. No. 110-2 at 2-6, 10-11. In his affidavits, Young provided information he had gathered from several informants and agents concerning Sandoval who, according to sources, went by "Nacho."
Young first described information obtained from Christopher Hawken, who had been arrested for drug activity and had given a post- Miranda statement on December 30, 2012. Hawken said he had been purchasing methamphetamine from Jeremy Roberts. Roberts told Hawken he got his methamphetamine from a black male named "JP" who was from Boone, Iowa. Young knew "JP" was James Poole from Boone, Iowa. He had also observed Poole's vehicle in the driveway of Hawken's residence. Roberts occasionally stayed at Hawken's residence so Hawken was able to observe Roberts' drug transactions with Poole. Roberts told Hawken that Poole was being supplied with methamphetamine by a Mexican male named "Nacho."
Young next stated that in early December of 2012, he spoke with Wright County Deputy Darren Robinson about information he had received relating to Jose Sandoval. Robinson told Young that Sandoval used the nickname "Nacho" and provided the address of Sandoval's residence near Webster City in rural Hamilton County. Robinson said different cooperating defendants had identified Sandoval as a source for methamphetamine distribution.
Young also stated that on May 22, 2012, officers with the North Central Iowa Narcotics task force interviewed Joseph Stetz, who was in custody at the Cerro Gordo County jail for forgery and theft charges. Stetz was a methamphetamine user and had learned how to manufacture the substance. Stetz described other sources of methamphetamine that he knew about, including a Mexican male from Webster City named "Nacho." Stetz had heard from Jimmy Morris that "Nacho" was his supplier. Morris told Stetz he had made "Nacho" $100, 000 in a month by selling methamphetamine for him. Morris also told Stetz he had observed pails of methamphetamine in the back of "Nacho's" white Cadillac Escalade and had seen a table covered with cash from methamphetamine sales at "Nacho's" house.
Young further stated that on September 4, 2012, officers with the North Central Iowa Narcotics task force conducted a proffer interview with Pedro Delatorre at the Fayette County jail. Delatorre stated he sold methamphetamine that he received from "Nacho." He did not know "Nacho's" real name, but knew that he drove a white Cadillac Escalade. Delatorre met "Nacho" through Morris. He purchased one to two ounces twice each month from "Nacho" for one and a half years. He also purchased cocaine from "Nacho."
Young next stated that he had consulted Department of Transportation records and found that two Cadillac Escalades were registered in Sandoval's name. In his description of the property to be searched, Young itemized two Cadillac Escalades by year, license plate and color, indicating that both were white.
Next, Young stated that on January 8, 2013, James Poole and his wife were pulled over by Trooper David Saldivar. A canine sniff of their vehicle resulted in a positive indication and a large quantity of methamphetamine (approximately one quarter pound) was recovered from the vehicle. Special Agent Bryant Strouse conducted a post- Miranda interview of Poole. During this interview, Poole stated he received methamphetamine from a Mexican male referred to as "Nacho." Poole described "Nacho's" residence as rural property located outside of Webster City and provided detailed directions of how to get there. These directions were consistent with Sandoval's address, previously provided by Robinson.
Poole also stated in his post- Miranda interview that he had been purchasing five to six ounces of methamphetamine from "Nacho" every three days for the last month. He stated that he owed "Nacho" $12, 000 for the methamphetamine he was arrested with and that he had received it from "Nacho" shortly before he was pulled over. Poole told Strouse he conducted all of his transactions at "Nacho's" residence. He further stated that "Nacho" had told him he was supplying methamphetamine to others in Fort Dodge and Story City. According to Poole, when Poole was meeting with "Nacho" shortly before being arrested, "Nacho" told him another individual who delivered drugs for him had just been arrested in Wright County with cocaine and methamphetamine. Young contacted Robinson, who told him he had arrested an individual with methamphetamine and cocaine that morning. Poole also stated that he had observed several guns at "Nacho's" residence, including an AK-47, AR 15 assault rifles, a.45 caliber handgun and a.380 caliber handgun.
Young attached "Affidavit B" to the search warrant application in support of the information Poole provided. Doc. No. 110-2 at 10-11. In this affidavit, he indicated Poole was reliable because (a) he was a mature individual, (b) he had supplied information twice in the past, (c) he had helped supply the basis for two search warrants, (d) he had provided past information that led to the discovery and seizure of stolen property, drugs or other contraband, (e) he had not given false information in the past and (f) the information he supplied for this investigation had been corroborated by law enforcement personnel. The affidavit included a summary of the information Poole had provided in the past and of his criminal history.
The Iowa District Court Judge found that the information provided by Young was sufficient to establish probable cause and issued the warrant. Doc. No. 110-2 at 12; see also Def. Ex. C (Doc. No. 110-4). He noted that a portion of the grounds for issuance was based on a named informant (Poole). Doc. No. 110-2 at 12. He found that the informant had given reliable information on previous occasions and that the information he had provided was reliable based on his past ...

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