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United States v. Seys

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

October 21, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON JAMES SEYS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          C.J. WILLIAMS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION .......................................................................... 2

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW ................................................................ 3

         III. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS ........................................... 7

         A. Factual Background ................................................................. 7

         B. Analysis .............................................................................. 17

         1. GPS Warrant ............................................................... 17

         2. Hotel Warrant .............................................................. 21

         IV. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS ............................................. 23

         A. Factual Background ................................................................ 23

         B. Analysis .............................................................................. 24

         V. CONCLUSION ............................................................................. 26

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. 86) of the Honorable Mark A. Roberts, United States Magistrate Judge. On May 16, 2019, defendant filed a Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 18). On May 21, 2019, defendant supplemented the motion. (Doc. 20). On May 22, 2019, the government moved for an extension of time to file a response, which was granted by the Court. (Docs. 22 & 23). On May 29, 2019, the government timely filed a resistance. (Doc. 25). On June 5, 2019, Judge Roberts held a hearing on the motion. (Doc. 38). On June 11, 2019, the government moved to strike defendant's motion as untimely. (Doc. 39). On June 12, 2019, defendant filed a timely resistance. (Doc. 41). On June 12, 2019, Judge Roberts entered an Order alerting the government that he intended to treat defendant's resistance as a motion for leave to file untimely motions. (Doc. 42). On June 17, 2019, the government supplemented its motion to strike. (Doc. 44). On June 19, 2019, Judge Roberts denied the government's motion to strike. (Doc. 45). On August 23, 2019, defendant supplemented his motion to suppress. (Doc. 62). On August 28, 2019, a second hearing was held on defendant's motion to suppress. (Doc. 67). On September 18, 2019, the parties both submitted supplemental briefs on the motion to suppress pursuant to Judge Roberts' order. (Docs. 67, 73, 74, & 76).

         On June 4, 2019, defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 34). On June 11, 2019, the government filed a timely resistance and moved to strike defendant's motion. (Docs. 39 & 40). On June 12, 2019, defendant filed a resistance to the government's motion to strike. (Doc. 41). On June 17, 2019, defendant filed a reply to the government's resistance and the government supplemented its motion to strike. (Docs. 43 & 44). On June 19, 2019, Judge Roberts denied the government's motion to strike. (Doc. 45). On August 28, 2019, Judge Roberts held a hearing on the motion to dismiss. (Doc. 67). On September 18, 2019, defendant supplemented his motion to dismiss and the government supplemented its resistance. (Docs. 75 & 77).

         On October 8, 2019, Judge Roberts issued his R&R, recommending that the Court deny defendant's Motion to Suppress and its supplements. (Docs. 18, 20, 62, & 86). Judge Roberts also recommended that the Court deny defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Docs. 34 & 86). The deadline for filing objections to the R&R was October 15, 2019.[1](Doc. 86). On October 15, 2019, defendant filed his objections to the R&R. (Doc. 91). For the following reasons, the Court adopts Judge Roberts's R&R with minor factual modifications and denies defendant's Motion to Suppress (Docs. 18, 20, & 62) and Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 34).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The court reviews the magistrate judge's report and recommendation pursuant to the statutory standards found in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1):

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. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (2006); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) (stating identical requirements). While examining these statutory standards, the United States Supreme Court explained:

Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article III judge of any issue need only ask. Moreover, while the statute does not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are filed, it does not preclude further review by the district judge, sua sponte or at the request of a party, under a de novo or any other standard.

Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985). Thus, a district court may review de novo any issue in a magistrate judge's report and recommendation at any time. Id. If a party files an objection to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, however, the district court must “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). In the absence of an objection, the district court is not required “to give any more consideration to the magistrate's report than the court considers appropriate.” Thomas, 474 U.S. at 150.

         De novo review, of course, is nondeferential and generally allows a reviewing court to make an “independent review” of the entire matter. Salve Regina Coll. v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225, 238 (1991) (noting also that “[w]hen de novo review is compelled, no form of appellate deference is acceptable”); see Doe v. Chao, 540 U.S. 614, 620-19 (2004) (noting de novo review is “distinct from any form of deferential review”). The de novo review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, however, only means a district court “‘give[s] fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made.'” United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675 (1980) (quoting H.R.Rep. No. 94-1609, at 3, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6162, 6163 (discussing how certain amendments affect 28 U.S.C. § 636(b))). Thus, although de novo review generally entails review of an entire matter, in the context of § 636 a district court's required de novo review is limited to “de novo determination[s]” of only “those portions” or “specified proposed findings” to which objections have been made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Thomas, 474 U.S. at 154 (“Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article III judge of any issue need only ask.” (emphasis added)). Consequently, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has indicated de novo review would only be required if objections were “specific enough to trigger de novo review.” Branch v. Martin, 886 F.2d 1043, 1046 (8th Cir. 1989). Despite this “specificity” requirement to trigger de novo review, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has “emphasized the necessity . . . of retention by the district court of substantial control over the ultimate disposition of matters referred to a magistrate.” Belk v. Purkett, 15 F.3d 803, 815 (8th Cir. 1994). As a result, the Eighth Circuit has concluded that general objections require “full de novo review” if the record is concise. Id. (“Therefore, even had petitioner's objections lacked specificity, a de novo review would still have been appropriate given such a concise record.”). Even if the reviewing court must construe objections liberally to require de novo review, it is clear to this Court that there is a distinction between making an objection and making no objection at all. See Coop. Fin. Ass'n, Inc. v. Garst, 917 F.Supp. 1356, 1373 (N.D. Iowa 1996) (“The court finds that the distinction between a flawed effort to bring objections to the district court's attention and no effort to make such objections is appropriate.”).

         In the absence of any objection, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has indicated a district court should review a magistrate judge's report and recommendation under a clearly erroneous standard of review. See Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (noting when no objections are filed and the time for filing objections has expired, “[the district court judge] would only have to review the findings of the magistrate judge for clear error”); Taylor v. Farrier, 910 F.2d 518, 520 (8th Cir. 1990) (noting the advisory committee's note to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) indicates “when no timely objection is filed the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record”); Branch, 886 F.2d at 1046 (contrasting de novo review with “clearly erroneous standard” of review, and recognizing de novo review was required because objections were filed).

         The Court is unaware of any case that has described the clearly erroneous standard of review in the context of a district court's review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which no objection has been filed. In other contexts, however, the Supreme Court has stated the “foremost” principle under this standard of review “is that ‘[a] finding is “clearly erroneous” when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'” Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573- 74 (1985) (quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). Thus, the clearly erroneous standard of review is deferential, see Dixon v. Crete Med. Clinic, P.C., 498 F.3d 837, 847 (8th Cir. 2007) (noting a finding is not clearly erroneous even if another view is supported by the evidence), but a district court may still reject the magistrate judge's report and recommendation when the district court is “left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed, ” U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. at 395.

         Even though some “lesser review” than de novo is not “positively require[d]” by statute, Thomas, 474 U.S. at 150, Eighth Circuit precedent leads this Court to believe that a clearly erroneous standard of review should generally be used as the baseline standard to review all findings in a magistrate judge's report and recommendation that are not objected to or when the parties fail to file any timely objections, see Grinder, 73 F.3d at 795; Taylor, 910 F.2d at 520; Branch, 886 F.2d at 1046; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) advisory committee's note (“When no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.”). In the context of the review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the Court believes one further caveat is necessary: a district court always remains free to render its own decision under de novo review, regardless of whether it feels a mistake has been committed. See Thomas, 474 U.S. at 153-54. Thus, although a clearly erroneous standard of review is deferential and the minimum standard appropriate in this context, it is not mandatory, and the district court may choose to apply a less deferential standard.

         III. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

         A. Factual Background

         After reviewing the record, the Court finds that, except when noted, Judge Roberts accurately and thoroughly set forth the relevant facts in his R&R. (Doc. 86, at 4-14).

         Defendant raises two objections to Judge Roberts' factual findings (Doc. 91, at 3-5), each of which the Court notes and discusses below.

         This case involves an alleged conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine in the Northern District of Iowa. The investigation into this alleged conspiracy included law enforcement use of GPS tracking devices on two vehicles and a surveillance camera to monitor a Dubuque, Iowa residence. In addition to this surveillance activity, the investigation also included searches of Defendant's person, Defendant's hotel room, one of the vehicles that was subject to tracking, a storage unit, and a residence that was subject to surveillance. All searches were conducted pursuant to warrants issued by Iowa state court judges. Defendant seeks to suppress all physical evidence seized during these searches, and seeks dismissal of the case. (Docs. 18, 20, 34, 62.)

         A. Search Conducted Via GPS Mobile Tracking Devices Affixed to Two Vehicles Beginning December 5 and 6, 2018

         Law enforcement first learned of Defendant's alleged involvement in a drug trafficking conspiracy between late 2017 and early 2018. (Gov. Ex. 1 at 3-4 ¶ 4.) In April 2018, Investigator Chad Leitzen of the Dubuque Drug Task Force (“DDTF”) met with M.S., one of Defendant's alleged customers. (Id. at 4 ¶ 9.) M.S. told Investigator Leitzen that Defendant is a large methamphetamine dealer in Dubuque. (Id. at 3-4 ¶ 4.) M.S. further told Investigator Leitzen that Defendant regularly makes trips to Kansas City to pick up large amounts of methamphetamine, then sells that methamphetamine in Dubuque. (Id. at 4 ¶ 5.) M.S. stated that K.R.S. is M.S.'s ex-girlfriend, and K.R.S. began dating Defendant after M.S. and K.R.S. ended their relationship. (Id. at 4 ¶ 6.) M.S. stated that he had K.R.S.'s phone in his possession, and K.R.S.'s Google Maps history showed she had taken a trip to Kansas City. (Id. at 4 ¶ 7.) Shortly after meeting M.S., Investigator Leitzen met K.R.S. at the Dubuque County Jail. K.R.S. told Investigator Leitzen that she once accompanied Defendant to Kansas City. (Kearney June 5, 2019 Hr'g Test; Gov. Ex. 1 at 4 ¶ 8.) K.R.S. told Investigator Leitzen she believed she was going to visit Defendant's family in Kansas City, but the pair instead met a methamphetamine supplier in a hotel. (Gov. Ex. 1 at 4 ¶ 8.) K.R.S. further stated she returned with Defendant to Dubuque so Defendant could sell the methamphetamine. (Id. at 4 ¶ 8.).

         On May 26, 2018, the Muscatine County Sheriff's Office investigated a motor vehicle accident in the city of Muscatine, Iowa. (Id. at 4 ¶ 10.) The debris from the accident included two backpacks holding a total of 8.5 ounces of methamphetamine. (Id.) Defendant's name was present on items found in the backpacks.[2] (Id.; Def. Ex. G.)

         On October 10, 2018, Deputy Daniel Kearney [(“Deputy Kearney”)] met with Dubuque County Jail inmate C.M. (Gov. Ex. 1 at 5 ¶ 17.) C.M. told Deputy Kearney that Defendant regularly brings five to ten kilograms of methamphetamine into the Dubuque area, but C.M. did not provide any specific dates regarding when Defendant allegedly brought the methamphetamine to Dubuque. (Id.; Kearney June Hr'g Test.) In a second meeting with Deputy Kearney on November 6, 2018, C.M. stated that Defendant was residing at K.H.'s Dubuque residence and that the residence is Defendant's safehouse. (Gov. Ex. 1 at 6 ¶ 26; Gov. Ex. 3 at 12 ¶ 15.) Law enforcement believed K.H. resided at 740 Boyer Street. (Gov. Ex. 1 at 6 ¶¶ 25-26.)

         On October 16, 2018, Investigator Leitzen spoke with D.G.F. while D.G.F. was in custody for possession of ice methamphetamine. (Id. at 4 ¶ 11.) D.G.F. told Investigator Leitzen that Defendant was the largest methamphetamine dealer in Dubuque. (Id. at 5 ¶ 12.) D.G.F. repeated M.S.'s claim that Defendant picks up methamphetamine every week or two from a supplier in Kansas City, and returns to Dubuque to sell the methamphetamine. (Id. at 5 ¶ 15.) D.G.F. further stated that Defendant drove a silver minivan or silver car, and that Defendant texted D.G.F. coded drug messages. (Id. at 5 ΒΆΒΆ 12, 14.) D.G.F. has a criminal history, but, as was true of all individuals law enforcement interviewed, the affidavit did not ...


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