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State v. Ireland

Superior Court of Maine, Waldo

September 25, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
JERRY IRELAND Defendant

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS

         The defendant filed a Motion to Suppress evidence seized from the defendant's property as the result of a search undertaken subsequent to a search warrant having been issued. The pending motion challenges several aspects of the warrant relating to the application for it, the warrant itself, and its ultimate execution. A hearing on the defendant's motion was held before the Court at which two witnesses provided testimony and additional exhibits were admitted for the Court's consideration. Subsequent to the hearing, the parties provided written closing arguments.

         BACKGROUND INFORMATION

         The pending Complaint against the defendant asserts a number of counts alleging Cruelty to Animals in violation of Title 17 M.R.S.A. §1031 (1)(B). At the hearing, Rae-Ann Demos, a District Humane Agent with the Animal Welfare Program in the Department of Agriculture, testified with respect to her involvement in both the application for the search warrant which was issued, and her underlying involvement in the investigation of the defendant. Ms. Demos was the affiant of the affidavit submitted in support of the request for a search warrant in this case. The affidavit and request for a search warrant was submitted to, and reviewed and approved by District Court Judge Sparaco on March 27, 2018.

         Ms. Demos, in her affidavit, and as part of her testimony at the motion hearing described her own personal involvement in visiting the defendant's farm location prior to March 27, 2018. Specifically, the affidavit refers to at least five separate occasions between November 16, 2017 and March 21, 2018 when Ms. Demos had personally been to Mr. Ireland's farm location to address concerns regarding animal care and treatment issues there. The affidavit also describes other occasions in that same timeframe where a different Animal Control Officer was also present at the defendant's farm location to address animal care and treatment issues. Ms. Demos also personally participated in the execution of the search warrant at the defendant's property on March 28, 2018.

         The affidavit submitted to the reviewing judge, and which was included as Joint Exhibit 1 at the motion hearing, also attached four photographs of the specific portion of the defendant's property where it was believed that the mistreatment of the defendant's animals was occurring.

         The defendant's farm was located in a rural area of Swanville, Maine on the Nickerson Road. The affidavit in support of the request for a search warrant did not include a specific street address for the defendant's farm location. The search warrant itself which was proffered to the reviewing judge did include a reference to 361 Nickerson Rd. in Swanville in the section of the warrant identifying the "place(s) or person(s) to be searched." Testimony presented at the motion hearing suggests that the defendant's farm property included two contiguous parcels along Nickerson Road at both 361 and 282 Nickerson Rd. The defendant testified that the property ultimately seized was taken from the parcel at 282 Nickerson Rd.

         The affidavit in support of the search wan-ant specifically asked for the authority to "remove any live, dead or unborn animals from the property that are being or have been deprived of necessary sustenance, proper shelter, and humanely clean conditions." The search warrant identified the "Property or article(s) to be searched for" as, "Evidence of the crime(s) of animal cruelty." The items actually seized from the defendant's property, when the warrant was executed on March 28, 2018, was limited to five deceased pigs and one live pig. Ms. Demos testified that the live pig which was seized was in an area where there was no food or water, and that that pig's body score was 2, 5 on a 1 to 9 scale measuring the level of emaciation. The five deceased pigs which were seized were all excavated from an area on the defendant's property which was described in the search warrant affidavit and depicted in the pictures attached to the affidavit. Ms. Demos testified that the five deceased pigs that were seized were all very thin, and some had stab wounds in addition to evidence of having been shot.

         ANALYSIS

         The defendant's motion to suppress raises a number of arguments as potential bases for it being granted. These include:

1. The search warrant affidavit failed to establish probable cause for the address and location to be searched;
2. The search was executed at an address different than that issued in the warrant;
3. The search for an affidavit failed to establish probable cause that evidence of a crime would be found at the Ireland farm;
4. The search warrant failed to describe with particularity the items ...

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