United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division
LEONARD T. STRAND, CHIEF JUDGE.
matter is before me on a Report and Recommendation (R&R)
in which the Honorable Kelly K.E. Mahoney, Chief United
States Magistrate Judge, recommends that I deny
defendant's motion (Doc. No. 56) to suppress. Doc. No.
66. Defendant Craig Essing (Essing) filed timely objections
(Doc. No. 71) on October 5, 2018, and the Government filed a
resistance (Doc. No. 74) on October 10, 2018.
September 20, 2017, the grand jury returned an indictment
(Doc. No. 1) charging Essing with one count of conspiracy to
distribute a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) and 846 (Count I), one
count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled
substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1)
and 841(b)(1)(B) (Count II) and one count of possession of a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count III). The grand
jury returned a superseding indictment (Doc. No. 35) on
November 30, 2017, charging the same three counts, but with
additional quantities on Count II and additional firearms on
22, 2018, Essing filed a motion (Doc. No. 56) to suppress.
The Government filed a resistance (Doc. No. 57) on June 27,
2018. Judge Mahoney held a hearing on July 18, 2018.
See Doc. No. 64. She found Essing did not make the
required preliminary showing to warrant a Franks
hearing but conducted an evidentiary hearing on the issue of
the officers' good faith reliance on the warrant.
Id. The Government presented testimony from Special
Agent Eric Young with the Iowa Division of Narcotics
Enforcement (DNE). Id. Judge Mahoney admitted
Government Exhibits 1 through 5 and defense Exhibits A and B.
Mahoney issued her R&R (Doc. No. 66) on August 31,
2018. Trial is scheduled to begin December 3,
2018. See Doc. No. 65.
Mahoney summarized the following relevant facts based on the
exhibits and testimony presented during the suppression
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. 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. 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 - on an
“unidentified old 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
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
Strouse included an “Informant Attachment” for
CS#1, indicating that CS#1:
• is a concerned citizen known to Agent Studer for five
• is a mature individual;
• is a person of truthful reputation;
• has otherwise demonstrated truthfulness;
• has provided information at least 100 times that has
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 enforcement corroborated.
Ex. 1 at 12. Agent Strouse also included information from the
Webster County Assessor about Essing's residence. Ex. 1
endorsing the search warrant application, the judge handwrote
“see affidavit attached” and “[p]ersonal
observation of ‘drop' which was supported by other
information” under the “Abstract of
Testimony” section. Ex. 1 at 13. The judge marked that
he relied in part on the information from an informant
(CS#1), that the informant had given reliable information on
previous occasions, and that the judge found the
informant's information reliable because
“[information reliable historically [and] supported by
other independent evidence.” Id.
executed the warrant on September 8, 2017. Agents seized
several items from Essing's person, the residence, and
detached garage, including: suspected methamphetamine, United
States currency, firearms, ammunition, digital scales, and
packaging material with suspected drug residue. Special Agent
Young participated in the execution of the search warrant and
identified Essing during the suppression hearing (whose
features match the general description of an older male with
white, shaggy hair, see Ex. 3). Agent Young had
reviewed the search warrant and testified he believed the
warrant was supported by probable cause. He was not aware of
Agent Strouse acting in bad faith in seeking or executing the
Young testified about law enforcement practices and his
knowledge of general drug-trafficking methods, to include the
• Recordings by informants: Although informants
are often given recording equipment, that equipment does not
• Surveillance: Agents conduct surveillance to
try and observe what is happening and yet work to avoid being
seen by the people under surveillance. Agents use their own
eyes, binoculars, and electronic equipment (such as tracking
devices) to conduct surveillance and can effectively conduct
surveillance at night.
• Quantities of methamphetamine: Distribution
quantities of methamphetamine vary and could include
one-sixteenth (1/16) of an ounce, commonly known as a
“teener, ” and would definitely include
quantities of at least one-eighth (1/8) ounce, commonly known
as an “eight-ball.”
• Indicia of distribution: Common indicia of
drug distribution include large sums of United States
currency, large quantities of drugs, packaging materials,
surveillance equipment, ...