Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Essing

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

October 22, 2018

CRAIG ESSING, Defendant.



         This 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On 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 Count III.

         On June 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. Id.

         Judge Mahoney issued her R&R (Doc. No. 66) on August 31, 2018.[1] Trial is scheduled to begin December 3, 2018. See Doc. No. 65.

         B. Relevant Facts

         Judge Mahoney summarized the following relevant facts based on the exhibits and testimony presented during the suppression hearing:

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 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 enforcement corroborated.

Ex. 1 at 12. Agent Strouse also included information from the Webster County Assessor about Essing's residence. Ex. 1 at 20-22.

         In 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.

         Officers 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 search warrant.

         Agent Young testified about law enforcement practices and his knowledge of general drug-trafficking methods, to include the following:

Recordings by informants: Although informants are often given recording equipment, that equipment does not always work.
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, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.