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United States v. Simeon

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

April 7, 2015



LEONARD T. STRAND, Magistrate Judge.


Defendant Teresa Ann Simeon is charged by indictment (Doc. No. 2) with (a) conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and (b) possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. She has filed a motion (Doc. No. 23) to suppress certain evidence. Plaintiff (the "Government") has resisted the motion (Doc. No. 28). The Trial Management Order (Doc. No. 10) assigns motions to suppress to me to conduct any necessary evidentiary hearings and to prepare reports on, and recommended dispositions of, those motions.

I held an evidentiary hearing on March 12, 2015. Assistant United States Attorney Jack Lammers appeared on behalf of the Government. Simeon appeared personally and with her attorney, Robert Tiefenthaler. The Government offered the testimony of Matthew Benson, Nathan Sands, Todd Trobaugh, James Bauerly and Wendell Nope. Simeon offered the testimony of Kyle Heyen. The following exhibits were admitted into evidence:

Government Exhibit 1 : USPCA Certification - Detector Dog Government Exhibit 2: USPCA Certification - Patrol Dog

Government Exhibit 3 : K9 Monthly Training Reports Government Exhibit 4: CAD Dispatch Report Government Exhibit 5: Video of Dog Sniff- Full Length Government Exhibit 5a: Video of Dog Sniff- Edited Length Government Exhibit 6: Advisement of Rights Form- Teresa Simeon Government Exhibit 7 : Affidavit in Support of Search Warrant Application Government Exhibit 8: Wendell Nope Expert Report Government Exhibit 9: Video and Audio Recording of Security Office Interview Defense Exhibit A: Curriculum Vitae of Kyle Heyen Defense Exhibit B: Kyle Heyen Expert Report

The hearing reconvened on March 18, 2015, for the presentation of oral arguments. The motion is now fully submitted and ready for decision.


Events inside the Casino. On the morning of October 3, 2014, a housekeeper at the WinnaVegas Casino & Resort (Casino) found a small baggie containing a white crystalline substance on a pillow in hotel room 418. Believing the baggie contained drugs, she reported it to Tribal Police Officer Matthew Benson. Benson seized the baggie from the room, took it to the Casino's security office and performed a field test on the substance. The field test was positive for methamphetamine. Benson then contacted the front desk to determine who had rented room 418. Teresa Simeon was the registered renter of the room. Benson reviewed security footage from the hallway near the room and determined that no one other than Simeon, a male (who was later determined to be Simeon's husband) and the housekeeper had entered or exited room 418 during the relevant period of time.

Benson then searched the premises for Simeon and found her on the Casino floor. He asked her to accompany him to the security office for questioning. She complied. Once in the security office, Benson advised Simeon of her rights and presented her an Advisement of Rights form, which she signed at 1:32 p.m. Benson then questioned Simeon about the methamphetamine found in her room. Simeon denied having any knowledge of it. Benson told Simeon that he had done his research. He explained that he knew she resided in Wayne, Nebraska, that he had contacted law enforcement there and that they were aware of her.

Because Simeon is not a tribal member, Benson advised her that she would be detained while he contacted the Woodbury County Sheriff's Office (WCSO). At that point, Simeon requested to speak with her husband and asked if she could call her lawyer. Benson stated that she could call her lawyer but indicated that she would need to use her personal cell phone because he would be using to the security office phone to call WCSO.

Mr. Simeon was brought into the security office at 1:42 p.m. He, too, was advised of his rights and signed an Advisement of Rights form. Benson then asked him about the methamphetamine. Mr. Simeon denied any knowledge of the narcotics or how they appeared in their hotel room. Meanwhile, Simeon placed a call on her iPhone. She asked the recipient of the call to pick up her vehicle at the Casino. After the call, Simeon asked Benson what would happen to her vehicle and if she could give the keys to someone. Benson told her it would be up to the WCSO but that he would normally let her have a friend retrieve the vehicle.

In response to Benson's call, WCSO dispatch contacted Deputy Nathan Sands. He advised dispatch that he was available to respond and, indeed, was only about eight to ten miles away from the Casino. Sands was dispatched to the Casino at 1:47 p.m. According to the WCSO's records, he arrived at the Casino security office at 1:54 p.m. Benson briefed Sands about the situation in a hallway outside the security office while Simeon and her husband remained in the office.

Sands entered the security office at 1:58 p.m. and questioned Simeon about the methamphetamine found in her hotel room. He testified that both Simeon and her husband appeared to be very nervous during the discussion. When asked about prior drug use, Simeon admitted she had used methamphetamine the day before but denied that the methamphetamine in the room belonged to her. She also denied having any guests in the room. Sands then asked Simeon if her vehicle was in the parking lot. She responded by stating that it probably had been picked up by a friend and was no longer at the Casino.

Sands believed this to be a lie because Simeon resides near Sioux City and any friend driving from the Sioux City area would not have had time to arrive at the Casino and retrieve the vehicle in such a short amount of time. He asked Simeon why she would have had someone pick up her vehicle. She answered: "Because I figured I was going to be arrested." Sands then asked about prior arrests. Simeon responded that she had been arrested for drugs while her husband stated that he had been arrested for a DUI and a few other minor offenses long ago.

Sands asked Simeon if his drug dog would detect drugs if he deployed the dog around her vehicle. Simeon answered "no." Sands followed up by asking when she last had methamphetamine in the vehicle. Simeon initially answered that she had never had drugs in her vehicle but, when pressed, changed her answer to "it's been a real long time ago." Sands then told Simeon that he did not believe she or her husband were being honest with him and that he knew they were very nervous about something.

Sands left the security office at 2:04 p.m. and called his supervisor for directions as to how he should proceed. He described the positive field test, the fact that Simeon was the registered renter of the hotel room and her nervous behavior and evasive answers. Based on this information, the supervisor directed Sands to place Simeon under arrest for possession of a controlled substance.

Sands came back into the office at 2:11 p.m. He again asked Simeon about the location of her vehicle and she again stated that she thought someone from Sioux City had already picked it up. Sands then asked what type of vehicle she drove. Simeon looked at her husband, who shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect of "it's up to you." At that point, Simeon stated that she wanted to talk to an attorney. Sands placed Simeon under arrest at 2:12 p.m. and advised her that her vehicle could not leave the parking lot until he had conducted a dog sniff.

Events in the Casino Parking Lot. After Simeon was placed under arrest, another deputy arrived to transport her to the county jail. Meanwhile, Sands searched the parking lot for Simeon's vehicle. Because Simeon had declined to provide information about the vehicle, Sands started running every Nebraska license plate in the parking lot until he found one registered to Simeon. He testified that he located the vehicle about 30 minutes after his initial arrival at the Casino.

After locating the vehicle, Sands deployed his canine, Rico, for a free air sniff of the exterior of the vehicle. A Casino security video camera recorded a time-stamped video of the sniff. The video indicates that it started at approximately 2:30:35 p.m. and ended just over one minute later, at 2:31:40 p.m. Sands testified that a strong wind was blowing across the vehicle from the passenger's side towards the driver's side.

Sands and Rico began the sniff on the driver's side rear panel and proceeded to walk counterclockwise around the vehicle toward the passenger side door. They made their way to the front of the vehicle and then around to the driver's side. Sands testified that upon approaching the driver's door, Rico became more intense and his breathing changed. According to Sands, this was Rico's natural, untrained "alert" to the odor of narcotics. Rico then jumped up and placed his front paws on the driver's window. Rico also jumped onto and scratched at the driver's door seam and on the window of the back door. Sands had maintained a continuous pace around the vehicle, pointing to various areas for Rico to smell, until Rico jumped at the driver's door. At that point, Sands paused for approximately four seconds before he took a few more steps toward the rear of the vehicle. Rico continued to scratch at the driver's door and door seam. After Rico made his third jump onto the vehicle, Sands rewarded him with a toy ball and placed him back into his patrol car. Sands testified that Rico's three jumps and his scratching on the driver's side of the vehicle were his indications that he smelled narcotics and was pinpointing the source.

Sands then returned to the Casino security office, told Mr. Simeon that the vehicle would be searched and asked him for the key. Mr. Simeon complied. Sands returned to the parking lot, opened the vehicle and had Rico sniff the interior. Sands testified that Rico alerted and indicated on a black bag inside the car. Sands opened the bag and found twenty-three individually packaged baggies of methamphetamine (totaling approximately 125 grams), a digital scale and a Nebraska driver's license issued to Simeon. An officer assisting with the search found a Samsung phone on the front seat, along with Simeon's Social Security card. Sands then contacted the Tri-State Drug Task Force and had Simeon's vehicle towed to the police department. Later, during a more thorough search of the vehicle, officers found a cooler containing twenty individually packaged baggies of methamphetamine (totaling approximately 416.8 grams) hidden inside.

Sands documented Rico's sniff in a report written two days later. Sands wrote that Rico indicated only one time - at the passenger door on the B pillar. He did not specify which passenger door. He also stated that Rico "began sniffing heavily on the driver's door, eventually picking his nose up to the door handle area and actually lifted the door handle with his muzzle." This action does not appear on the video recording of the sniff. Sands also wrote that Rico rose up on his back legs near the passenger side of the vehicle but stated that this was not an alert or indication.

Training and Certification. In April 2013, with the help of Deputy Todd Trobaugh, Sands purchased Rico from a breeder in the Netherlands. The team went through a two-to-three week bonding period prior to beginning police dog training. They then began training both on their own and with the WCSO K-9 Unit. When the team trained on their own, they were often assisted by Trobaugh, who is certified as an instructor by the Randy Hare School for Dog Trainers.

Sands testified that the team's training began with Rico "imprinting" and becoming familiar with the four drug odors he would be deployed to detect: marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. Once Rico learned these odors, the team used drug boxes and scratch boxes as training tools. Various drugs are placed in the boxes for the dog to detect. As Rico gained experience at detecting the drug odors, Sergeant James Bauerly, who leads the WCSO K-9 Unit, made the puzzles and hides more difficult. The team trained indoors and outdoors, both with other K-9 teams and on their own, and with drugs hidden in vehicles, under furniture, in cabinets or in other difficult locations. The team trained almost daily until March 2014, when they underwent a certification test through the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA). Sands and Rico passed the test. On March 19, 2014, the USPCA certified the team for drug detection. Bauerly and Trobaugh testified they believed Rico was a very competent and well-trained police dog.

The USPCA certification process involved a one-day test that included an indoor and outdoor section.[1] The indoor section consisted of three rooms, two with hidden drugs and one without drugs. The outdoor section included five vehicles, two with hidden drugs and three without drugs. Sands was not aware of the location of the drug hides when the team completed the test. Rico's certification test was judged by eight individual judges. Bauerly and Trobaugh were judges for Rico's certification test but the other six judges were not affiliated with the WCSO. Rico detected all four drug hides. Sands testified that Rico had no false positive indications during either round. Rico began patrolling in April 2014, about one month after his USPCA certification.

After Rico and Deputy Sands were certified, they continued with maintenance training but did not train as frequently as they had prior to certification. The team attended training sessions approximately once a week with Bauerly and the K-9 Unit. These sessions are documented in training logs and grids that Bauerly maintains for the K-9 Unit. During 2014, Sands and Rico participated in 91 practice hides during WCSO K-9 training. The records indicate that Rico had three false positive indications for the odor of drugs during those practice sessions. Bauerly testified that based on his ...

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