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United States v. Mohring

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

June 11, 2019



          C.J. Williams United States District Judge


         This matter is before the Court pursuant to defendant's Objections (Doc. 41) to the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 39) of the Honorable Mark A. Roberts, United States Magistrate Judge. On February 12, 2019, defendant filed a Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 12). The government timely filed a resistance. (Doc. 15). On March 7, 2019, Judge Roberts held a hearing on the motion. (See Doc. 23). On March 20, 2019, defendant filed a supplemental brief. (Doc. 28). On March 21, 2019, the government filed a response to defendant's supplemental brief. (Doc. 32). On April 9, 2019, Judge Roberts issued the Report and Recommendation, which recommends that the Court deny the Motion to Suppress. On April 22, 2019, defendant filed his Objections. For the following reasons, the Court overrules defendant's Objections and denies the Motion to Suppress.


         When a party files a timely objection to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, a “judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3) (“The district judge must consider de novo any objection to the magistrate judge's recommendation.”); United States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir. 2003) (noting that a district judge must “undertake[ ] a de novo review of the disputed portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendations”). “A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3) (“The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation, receive further evidence, or resubmit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.”). It is reversible error for a district court to fail to engage in a de novo review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation when such review is required. Lothridge, 324 F.3d at 600. Accordingly, the Court reviews the disputed portions of the Report and Recommendation de novo.


         On October 9, 2018, Chickasaw County Sheriff's Deputy Steven Johnson responded to a report of a burglary at the Five Star Co-op in Nashua, Iowa. The manager of the co-op reported that two computer towers had been stolen from the co-op some time during the night. The manager advised Deputy Johnson that surveillance camera footage showed a dog, specifically a boxer, on a leash walking past the co-op in the middle of the night. Deputy Johnson reviewed the video and positively identified the dog as belonging to defendant. Deputy Johnson was familiar with defendant, having executed search warrants at defendant's apartment on two separate occasions, and having seen him and his dog walking in the area of the co-op frequently. Deputy Johnson knew that defendant operated an “electronic repair and salesman” business out of his apartment, which was only a few blocks away. Deputy Johnson interviewed a witness that had also seen defendant walking his dog frequently in the area. Deputy Johnson also recalled having seen defendant's roommate walking defendant's dog near the co-op the night before.

         Based on the information gathered, Deputy Johnson applied for a search warrant for defendant's apartment. In the warrant affidavit, Deputy Johnson detailed the results of his investigation to that point including his identification of the dog, which he described in detail. Deputy Johnson described the surveillance video in the affidavit, and included still images captured from it. Those images, however, were blurry and grainy, and only in black and white, making it very difficult to see anything in them. The Honorable William Patrick Wegman, District Associate Judge of the Iowa District Court for Chickasaw County, issued a warrant to search defendant's apartment for evidence of the burglary. While executing the warrant, Deputy Johnson discovered narcotics and firearms in defendant's residence. Deputy Johnson applied for and received a second warrant to search for and seize firearms, ammunition, and drug-related items, based on his observations during the first search. Deputy Johnson later applied for and received a third search warrant to obtain a blood sample from defendant.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         In the Motion to Suppress, defendant argues that the first search warrant was not supported by probable cause, and that all evidence gathered at defendant's apartment during both searches must be suppressed. (Doc. 12). In the Report and Recommendation, Judge Roberts found that first warrant was supported by probable cause, and that even if the warrant lacked probable cause the Leon good-faith exception would apply, and suppression would not be appropriate. (Doc. 39, at 8-18). Defendant now objects to both of Judge Roberts' legal conclusions. (Doc. 41). The Court will address each objection in turn.

         A. Probable Cause

         Judge Roberts found that the “affidavit in support of the first search warrant established probable cause to believe evidence relating to the burglary of the co-op would be found upon searching Defendant's residence.” (Doc. 39, at 13). Judge Roberts reasoned that:

The nature of Defendant's business, the proximity to the scene of the crime and the distinctiveness of the dog, along with the other facts set forth in the affidavit, allowed the issuing judge to make a practical and common-sense determination there was “a fair probability” that evidence of a crime would be found at Defendant's residence.

(Id., at 12). Defendant objects that “it was erroneous to conclude that the search warrant was supported by probable cause.” (Doc. 41-1, at 3). Defendant focuses his argument on the question of whether Judge Wegman reasonably relied on ...

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