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United States v. Essing

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

August 31, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG ESSING, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Kelly K.E. Mahoney, Judge

         This matter is before the court on Defendant Craig Essing's motion to suppress (Doc. 56). Essing seeks to suppress evidence seized and statements made during the execution of a search warrant at his residence. Essing requests a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), arguing that the affiant intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth made material omissions from and a misrepresentation in the search warrant affidavit. In addition, Essing argues that the information in the affidavit does not establish probable cause, that it was based primarily on unreliable information from informants who were not credible, and that some of the informant information was stale. The United States (the Government) filed a written resistance (Doc. 57), asserting that Essing is not entitled to a Franks hearing, that the warrant is supported by probable cause, and that if not, agents relied in good faith on the warrant. I conducted a hearing on the motion on July 18, 2018 (Doc. 64), and the following exhibits were offered and received without objection: Exhibit 1, application, affidavit, and search warrant; Exhibit 2, report of search warrant execution; Exhibit 3, photograph of Craig Essing; Exhibit 4, photograph of Craig Essing's driver's license; Exhibit 5, detention hearing transcript; Exhibit A, report from meeting on September 6, 2017; and Exhibit B, report from surveillance on August 31, 2017 (Docs. 60, 62, 63). The Government also offered the testimony of Special Agent Eric Young with the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement (DNE). For the reasons stated below, I recommend denying the motion to suppress.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS [1]

         On September 7, 2017, Special Agent Bryant Strouse with DNE submitted an application and affidavit for a state warrant to search Essing's person, white Ford Ranger pickup, and residence located in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Ex. 1.[2] The same date, an Iowa district judge in Webster County issued the requested warrant, authorizing the search for evidence of drug-trafficking activities. Ex. 1. The affidavit submitted in support of the warrant outlined Agent Strouse's training and experience, included information about common drug-trafficking methods, and summarized the investigation of Essing's alleged involvement in distributing methamphetamine. Id. The affidavit included the following information about this investigation:

• During a debriefing in July 2015, federal defendant A.R.[3] provided information about supplying “Craig Essing” with methamphetamine during the summer of 2015. A.R. said that “Essing goes by the nickname ‘Pops'” and indicated that these drug transactions occurred at Essing's residence (the affidavit does not indicate where that residence is located).
o Agent Strouse was aware that Essing has resided at his current residence (identified in the application as the residence to be searched in Fort Dodge) since before 2015. Ex. 1 at 10.
• Special Agent Matt Anderson with DNE provided information about the November 2016 arrest of M.L.A. in Des Moines, Iowa. M.L.A. was in possession of $100, 000 in United States currency and a stolen firearm. M.L.A. described his prior distribution of methamphetamine to and collection of United States currency from two people in Fort Dodge-one an “unidentified older white male [who] lived on the South side of Fort Dodge and worked in a hospital setting as some type of therapist.” M.L.A. stated this older white male received 30-pound quantities of methamphetamine and stored the methamphetamine in a tire or washing machine.
o Agents verified that Essing previously worked as a nurse and that his residence is on the south side of Fort Dodge. Ex. 1 at 9.
• In August 2017, Special Agent Eric Studer with DNE received information from a confidential source (CS#1) about the receipt of multiple pounds of methamphetamine in the Des Moines area and cash deposits made into bank accounts to pay for the methamphetamine. CS#1 identified M.D. as a person who made cash deposits into these bank accounts. Ex. 1 at 8.
• On August 31, 2017, Agent Studer relayed information from CS#1 that M.D. was en route to Fort Dodge from the Des Moines area to collect money.
o Agents conducting surveillance saw M.D. driving a vehicle registered to M.D.
o Agent Strouse saw M.D. arrive at a restaurant in Fort Dodge at around 9:45 p.m. and “meet with a white Ford Ranger” registered to Essing. Agent Strouse “observed [M.D.] lean inside Essing's truck and appeared to conduct some sort of transaction, ” although Agent Strouse “was unable to exactly determine what was exchanged.”
o Agent Strouse described the driver of the white Ford Ranger as “an older white male with longer shaggy type hair . . . similar in appearance to Essing, ” although Agent Strouse “was not able to definitively identify Essing as the driver.”
o The white Ford Ranger left the restaurant approximately ten minutes later and Agent Strouse “observed the Ford Ranger drive in a manner consistent with conducting counter-surveillance [by] circling the block and driving slowly.” Agent Strouse followed the white Ford Ranger to Essing's neighborhood but discontinued surveillance at that time “due to the observations of counter-surveillance.”
o Agent Strouse saw the white Ford Ranger parked at Essing's residence the next morning (September 1, 2017) and has seen it parked there “on numerous occasions since.” Ex. 1 at 10.
• Agent Studer met with CS#1 on September 6, 2017, and CS#1 relayed that M.D. told CS#1 that M.D. “recently delivered nine (9) pounds of methamphetamine to ‘the old man' in Fort Dodge.” CS#1 also said that M.D. “collected $103, 000 from ‘the old man' in Fort Dodge and delivered nine (9) grams of heroin to ‘the old man.'”
o Agent Strouse knows that Essing goes by the nickname “Pops” and believed, based on his observations and information known about Essing, that Essing was “the old man” that M.D. discussed with CS#1. Ex. 1 at 11.
• Agent Strouse outlined methods he knows to be used by drug traffickers based on his training and experience. Ex. 1 at 3-8.

         Agent Strouse included an “Informant Attachment” for CS#1, indicating that CS#1:

• is a concerned citizen known to Agent Studer for five months;
• is a mature individual; . is a person of truthful reputation;
• has otherwise demonstrated truthfulness; . has provided information at least 100 times that has led to:
o five search warrants,
o multiple arrests,
o numerous drug-related charges, and
o the seizure of stolen property, drugs, or other contraband;
• has not given false information in the past; and
• provided information during the current investigation that law ...

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