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United States v. Stile

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 10, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JAMES STILE.

ORDER ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE GATHERED DURING SEARCH OF CELLULAR TELEPHONE

JOHN A. WOODCOCK, Jr., Chief District Judge.

The Court denies the Defendant's motion to suppress evidence gathered during a September 13, 2011 search of the Defendant's cellular telephone, because the officers conducting the search obtained two search warrants on September 13, the second of which authorized the search of information stored in the Defendant's cellphone. Even if the search was conducted after the first warrant but before the second, the officers inevitably would have searched the cellphone pursuant to the second and would have discovered the text messages.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

A. Case Background

James Stile stands charged with robbery of controlled substances from a pharmacy, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, possession of a firearm by a felon, and manufacture of 100 or more marijuana plants. Indictment (ECF No. 8). The indictment has been pending since October 20, 2011. Id. The deadline for filing pretrial motions was set for November 16, 2011. Order in Respect to Discovery (ECF No. 23). The Court extended that deadline five times without objection. Speedy Trial Order (ECF Nos. 44, 59, 70, 77, 92). The last pretrial motion deadline extension requested by the Defendant and authorized by the Court was August 30, 2012. Third Unopposed Motion to Extend Pretrial Motion Deadline (ECF No. 92).

On July 1, 2014, Mr. Stile moved to suppress the September 13, 2011 search of his cellphone. Def.'s Mot. to Suppress Evidence Gathered During Search of Cellular Telephone (ECF No. 421) ( Def.'s Mot. ). The Government responded on July 11, 2014. Gov't's Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Suppress Evidence Gathered During Search of Cellular Telephone (ECF No. 428) ( Gov't's Opp'n ). Mr. Stile replied on July 16, 2014. Reply to Gov't's Opp'n to Mot. to Suppress Evidence Gathered During Search of Cellular Telephone (ECF No. 433) ( Def.'s Reply ). On September 25, 2014, pursuant to request of the parties, the Court held an evidentiary hearing. Minute Entry (ECF No. 465). The sole witness was Michael Knight, Staff Sergeant with the Somerset County Sheriff's Office.

B. The Search of Mr. Stile's Residence

Shortly after the September 12, 2011 pharmacy robbery, James Stile came under suspicion as the perpetrator. Two search warrants were issued on September 13, 2011; both authorized the search of Mr. Stile's residence. Gov't's Ex. A & B. The first warrant (the robbery warrant) was issued at 4:04 a.m., and authorized the search and seizure by the Somerset County Sheriff's Office of various items related to the pharmacy robbery, but not cellphones. Gov't's Ex. A at 2. According to Sergeant Knight, the search began at about 7:30 a.m. and, after entering Mr. Stile's residence, law enforcement officers discovered evidence of a marijuana growing operation.

Pursuant to this discovery, Sergeant Knight testified that the officers obtained a second search warrant (the marijuana warrant). The marijuana warrant was issued at 9:37 a.m. and authorized the search and seizure of various items related to the marijuana growing operation including, but not limited to, "information stored in computers/telephones[.]" Gov't's Ex. B at 1-2. Sergeant Knight confirmed that the Piscataquis County Sheriff's Department started the search for evidence related to the marijuana grow at 11:05 a.m., and finished at 12:05 p.m. See Gov't's Ex. C at 4 ( Report of Deputy Emerson ).

At some point during the September 13, 2011 search, officers found Mr. Stile's cellphone on top of a nightstand in his bedroom, see Gov't's Ex. 7, and they searched it. The officers found and photographed text messages that suggest that Mr. Stile had been in Bingham near the pharmacy on September 12, 2011. See Gov't's Ex. G.

II. THE PARTIES' POSITIONS

A. James Stile's Motion

Mr. Stile argues that the search of his cellphone was unlawful because "[t]he warrant did not authorize the officers to search the cellular telephone, nor did the officers obtain a separate warrant to search the cellular telephone." Def.'s Mot. at 1. Citing Riley v. California, 134 S.Ct. 2473 (2014), where the Supreme Court held that in general, the police must obtain a warrant to search a cellphone, Mr. Stile contends that the officers needed to obtain a warrant to search his cellphone. Def.'s Mot. at 1-2. He maintains that the search of the cellphone took place before the Government obtained the marijuana warrant that authorized the search of the cellphone and therefore, under Riley, the Court must suppress photographs of its contents. Id. Finally, Mr. Stile contends that the search of his cellphone was unreasonable because it exceeded the scope of the robbery warrant. Def.'s Mot. at 2.

B. The Government's Response

The Government argues that Mr. Stile is "well beyond" August 30, 2012, the most recent motion filing deadline set by the Court, and it urges the Court to deny Mr. Stile's motion because the motion is untimely under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(e). Gov't's Opp'n at 4. ("When a district court sets a deadline for pretrial motions pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(c), a party's failure to make certain motions, including suppression motions, by that deadline constitutes a waiver, although the court may grant relief from the waiver for good cause. Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(e)." (quoting United States v. Jose R. Lugo Guerrero, 524 F.3d 5, 11 (1st Cir. 2008))). The Government points out that no new information relevant to the September 2011 search warrants has been provided to Mr. Stile in the two years since the motions filing period expired. Id. at 4. The Government acknowledges that the Court retains discretion in setting deadlines for criminal filings, but asserts that concerns for efficient case management, judicial economy, and orderly pretrial procedure require the Court to deny Mr. Stile's motion. Id. at 3-4.

The Government's first response to the merits of Mr. Stile's motion is that because the search of Mr. Stile's cellphone was not incident to arrest, Riley is inapposite. Gov't's Opp'n at 4. The Government next contends that the photographs of the contents of Mr. Stile's cellphone are admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine because even if the search was conducted before the marijuana warrant was issued, the text messages on Mr. Stile's phone would inevitably have been discovered. Id. at 5.

The Government acknowledges that "[i]t is not entirely clear based on the evidence whether the search of the cellular telephone was undertaken before or after the second search warrant was obtained[, ]", but it notes that the a photograph of marijuana plants removed from Mr. Stile's residence, taken during the execution of the search warrants, was earlier in the order of photographs than the photograph showing the cellphone text messages. Id. at 3. The Government contends that the order in which the search warrant photographs were taken "strongly suggests" that the photographs of the texts on Mr. Stile's cellphone were taken after the execution of the marijuana warrant. Id. Thus, the ...


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