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United States v. Conrad

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

March 21, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN CONRAD, Defendant.

ORDER

LINDA R. READE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The matter before the court is Defendant Benjamin Conrad's Objections ("Objections") (docket no. 23) to United States Magistrate Judge Jon S. Scoles's Report and Recommendation (docket no. 19), which recommends that the court deny Defendant's "Motion to Suppress: Search of Home/Property" (docket no. 12) and "Motion to Suppress: Statements to Police" (docket no. 13) (collectively, "Motions").

II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 18, 2013, a grand jury returned an Indictment (docket no. 2) that charged Defendant with: (1) conspiring to import pseudoephedrine into the United States from Canada while intending, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the pseudoephedrine would be used to manufacture methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 963, 952 and 960; and (2) possessing a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of pseudoephedrine knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that it would be used to manufacture a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(c)(2). On January 16 and January 17, 2014, Defendant filed the Motions. On January 27, 2014, the government filed a Resistance to the Motions (docket no. 15). On February 4, 2014, Judge Scoles held a hearing on the Motions. See February 4, 2014 Minute Entry (docket no. 17). Defendant appeared in court with his attorney, Mark Brown. Special Assistant United States Attorney Lisa Williams represented the government. On February 24, 2014, Judge Scoles issued his Report and Recommendation. On March 5, 2014, Defendant filed his Objections. The Objections and Report and Recommendation are fully submitted and ready for decision.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When a party files a timely objection to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, a "judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3) ("The district judge must consider de novo any objection to the magistrate judge's recommendation."); United States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir. 2003) (noting that a district judge must "undertake[] a de novo review of the disputed portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendations"). "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(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3) ("The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation, receive further evidence, or resubmit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions."). It is reversible error for a district court to fail to engage in a de novo review of a magistrate judge's report when such review is required. Lothridge, 324 F.3d at 600. Accordingly, the court reviews the disputed portions of the Report and Recommendation de novo.

IV. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND [1]

On July 26, 2011, United States Postal Inspector Kevin Marshall, after receiving a tip of suspicious packages from the postmaster in Winthrop, Iowa, took possession of three packages addressed to Defendant. At approximately 2:30 p.m., Marshall, along with Special Agents John "Jake" Austin and Josh Mulnix of the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement and several other local law enforcement officials, performed a controlled delivery of the packages, and Defendant accepted the packages. Austin then identified himself as an agent with the Division of Narcotics Enforcement. Austin asked Defendant whether there was anything in the house that could hurt law enforcement, and Defendant stated that the house contained a handgun. Austin then entered the house and conducted a protective sweep.

Upon exiting the house, Austin reintroduced himself and Independence, Iowa Assistant Police Chief Darwin Meyer to Defendant. Defendant asked Austin and Meyer whether he was going to jail, and Austin assured Defendant that he was not under arrest and that Austin was not going to take Defendant to jail. Austin repeatedly asked Defendant if he could search the property and that Defendant had the option of not speaking with him. Defendant consented to a search of his property, and Defendant and the officers then entered Defendant's house. Approximately fifty minutes elapsed from the time Inspector Marshall approached the house to the time the officers entered the house.

Once inside, Austin and Assistant Chief Meyer questioned Defendant. During this conversation, Austin asked whether it was okay if he opened the packages, and Defendant replied "I don't give a fuck." Austin then sought to clarify that Defendant was giving permission to search the packages, and Defendant stated that he "didn't know" and wanted to talk to his lawyer. After further questioning, Defendant consented to a search of the packages. The officers opened the packages and discovered pills containing pseudoephedrine.

V. ANALYSIS

Defendant first argues that the government unlawfully seized the packages addressed to Defendant when Inspector Marshall arrived at the post office.[2] Defendant also objects to Judge Scoles's conclusions that: (1) Defendant voluntarily consented to a search of his home; (2) Defendant voluntarily consented to a ...


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