United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS
WILLIAMS CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter now before me is defendant's Motion to Suppress
evidence allegedly seized in violation of the Fourth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 20). The
grand jury charged defendant in a one-count indictment with
Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine in
violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections
841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 851. (Doc. 2). The charge arose
from evidence found during a traffic stop of the vehicle
defendant was driving on February 10, 2017. Defendant argues
that the traffic stop was not supported by either probable
cause or reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was
afoot; defendant does not challenge any events that occurred
subsequent to the actual stop of the vehicle.
Honorable Leonard T. Strand, Chief United States District
Judge, referred this motion to me for a Report and
Recommendation. Upon defendant's request, I held an
evidentiary hearing on August 3, 2017. For the reasons that
follow, I respectfully recommend that the Court deny
defendant's Motion to Suppress.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Drug Task Force investigator Adam Williams began working with
a confidential informant (“CI”) in the summer of
2016, after the CI had been arrested. At that time,
Investigator Williams spoke with the CI who told him, among
other things, that Scott Harry was involved with transporting
methamphetamine into the Dubuque area. Investigator Williams
was familiar with both defendant and Dennis Thul and their
physical descriptions. After the CI had been released from jail
in later 2016, he made contact with Investigator Williams to
let Investigator Williams know he was out of jail.
February 10, 2017, at approximately 11:00 AM, Investigator
Williams received a text message from the CI stating that
“Scott” had left Dubuque around 4:00 AM to
“pick up, ” that the CI believed
“Scott” would be driving approximately four hours
each way for the meeting, and that the CI expected
“Scott” to return to Dubuque around noon. The CI
further indicated that “Scott” would be riding
with Dennis Thul in a newer white, single-cab pickup truck
that was registered to Dennis Thul's father, Dale Thul.
Investigator Williams also filed a report detailing this
information. This was the first tip the CI provided to
Investigator Williams. At approximately 12:24 PM that same
day, the CI informed Investigator Williams by text message
that defendant was expected to return to Dubuque in about one
hour. The text message indicated that defendant and his
companion were then driving and were roughly one hour's
drive away from Dubuque.
on this information, law enforcement officers identified two
different pickup trucks registered to Dale Thul, one of which
matched the description given by the CI. Officers set up
surveillance on roads leading to Dubuque. Investigator
Williams subsequently observed a truck matching the
description of the subject truck travelling on Highway 151
toward Dubuque. Investigator Williams, who was driving an
unmarked police vehicle, pulled in behind the truck and
ultimately passed it. Although he could not look at the faces
of the occupants, Investigator Williams otherwise concluded
that this was the truck driven by defendant based on the
CI's description and Investigator Williams'
familiarity with defendant and Thul. Investigator Williams
called Dubuque County Deputy Daniel Kearney, whom
Investigator Williams knew was also patrolling Highway 151,
to inform him of the sighting.
while later, Deputy Kearney, a K9 officer who was traveling
southbound on Highway 151 (away from Dubuque) observed the
subject pickup truck travelling northbound on Highway 151.
Deputy Kearney used his radar gun to record the pickup truck
travelling 75 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone.
Deputy Kearney routinely calibrated his radar gun himself
using two different methods: at the beginning of each shift,
Deputy Kearney verified the accuracy of the radar gun by
comparing the speed recorded by the radar gun against a
second, objective measurement of speed, and at the beginning
of each work week, Deputy Kearney used tuning forks to
ascertain the accuracy of the radar. Additionally, the radar
gun was calibrated by the manufacturer on an annual basis;
the radar was up to date on its manufacturer-calibration as
of February 10, 2017. Deputy Kearney further testified that
based on his own visual observations and significant
experience as a seasoned law enforcement officer tasked with
enforcing traffic laws that it was his belief that defendant
was travelling in excess of the speed limit. The radar's
recorded speed served to confirm Deputy Kearney's visual
Kearney crossed the median and pulled in behind the pickup
truck. When Deputy Kearney caught up with the pickup truck
and reached a safe location he then activated the lights on
his patrol vehicle and pulled the white pickup truck over.
Deputy Kearney was also familiar with defendant and Thul from
past contact. When he approached the pickup truck from the
passenger side and made contact with the occupants, he
confirmed defendant's identity as the driver and that of
Thul as passenger. During discussions with Deputy Kearney,
defendant estimated that he was travelling 70 miles per hour
in the 65 mile per hour zone.
a few minutes of stopping the pickup truck, Deputy Kearney
retrieved his K-9 unit and the dog alerted on the truck.
Following the alert, law enforcement officers searched the
pickup truck. Officers located approximately 691 grams of
methamphetamine in the bed of the truck.
that the testimony of Investigator Williams and Deputy
Kearney during the evidentiary hearing was credible.
argues that the Court should suppress the evidence obtained
as a result of the traffic stop because Deputy Kearney did
not have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to stop the
vehicle. (Doc. 20-1, at 2). Defendant does not challenge
events occurring after the stop itself, such as the duration
of the stop or the validity of the dog search (Doc. 20-1);
therefore, it is unnecessary to analyze any issue that does
not pertain to the lawfulness of the actual traffic stop
itself. The lawfulness of the traffic stop can be considered
according to whether: 1) Deputy Kearney had probable cause to
believe that defendant was travelling in excess of the speed
limit; and 2) the CI's ...