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State v. Jones

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

December 26, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
DANIELLE JONES STATE OF MAINE
v.
BRANDON ROSS

          COMBINED ORDER ON MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS BROUGHT BY DANIELLE JONES AND BRANDON ROSS

         Before the Court are two motions to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the execution of four search warrants against Danielle Ross and Brandon Ross. They are both charged with Class D Failure to Comply with Court Order. Their cases have not been joined for trial but a combined hearing on the Motions to Suppress brought in the above-captioned cases took place on December 3, 2018. The State is represented by Assistant District Attorney Tracey McCarthy. Danielle Ross is represented by Attorney Darrick Banda and Brandon Ross is represented by Attorney Scott Hess.

         The Court has reviewed the four search warrants at issue in this case, has considered the parties' written filings, and for reasons stated denies the motions to suppress with respect to three of the search warrants, and grants the motions with respect to one.

         Standard of Review

         The Court conducted a four-corners analysis of the four warrants at issue, as no issues were raised under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978).

         In State v. Simmons, the Law Court held that a finding of probable cause rests on "a practical, commonsense determination whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." 2016 ME 103, ¶ 11, 143 A.3d 819 (quoting State v. Johndro, 2013 ME 106, ¶ 9, 82 A.3d 820). The affidavit filed in support of the warrant request "must set forth some nexus between the evidence to be seized and the locations to be searched." State v. Gurney, 2012 ME 14, ¶ 33, 36 A.3d 893 (quoting State v. Samson, 2007 ME 33, ¶ 15, 916 A.2d 977). A nexus "may be inferred from the type of crime [and] the nature of the items sought[.]" Id. (quoting id.). In addition, courts reviewing search warrants must "do so ... in a positive light" and "allowing for reasonable inferences that may be drawn to support the magistrate's determination[]" Simmons, 2016 ME 103, ¶ 12, 143 A.3d 819 (quoting Johndro, 2013 ME 106, ¶ 9, 82 A.3d 820).The Court will address each of the four search warrants applying these standards.

         Search Warrant Issued October 30. 2017

         This search warrant sought authorization to search the person of both Defendants, their residence, place of business, and vehicles. It sought to seize any electronic devices along with passcodes and chargers, and to be able to make duplicate images of any electronic data stored on the devices.

         The affiant, Detective Kyle McDonald of the Waterville Police Department, disclosed the following information to the judge who authorized this warrant. The Waterville Humane Society, which was housing and caring for two pit bulls who were subject to a euthanasia order issued by the Waterville District Court, reported on the night of October 24, 2017 that the dogs had come free of their restraints when they were being walked by their owner, Danielle Jones. The euthanasia order had been appealed to the Law Court which issued a decision that same day upholding the District Court order. At approximately 1240 hours the Animal Control Officer (ACO) for Winslow was notified by Winslow PD about the Law Court's decision and the ACO advised he would notify the Humane Society. At approximately 1302 the Humane Society requested "paperwork" regarding the Law Court decision which was faxed to the Humane Society at approximately 1517 hours. At approximately 1844 hours, Winslow PD received a call that the dogs had been being walked by a volunteer but were now at large. Just prior to that call, at approximately 1806, Humane Society Director Lisa Smith texted the ACO to notify him as well. Ms. Smith told the ACO that she left a message on the phone of the person walking the dogs in hopes that they had a "lapse in judgment" and would return them. Ms. Smith said that staff at the shelter had conducted a search for the dogs but could not find them. Ms. Smith clarified for the ACO that the volunteer was actually the owner, Danielle Jones.

         Ms. Smith informed the ACO that Ms. Jones and her boyfriend, Brandon Ross, had been coming to the shelter every week to walk the dogs but that today Ms. Jones was by herself that day because Mr. Ross had a medical appointment. She told the ACO she was skeptical about Ms. Jones's story as to how both dogs could come out of their chest harnesses at the same time, and on their own.

         The next day, Det. McDonald went to the residence where Ms. Jones and Mr. Ross live in Winslow. A dog was inside barking, and two vehicles, registered to the Defendants, were in the driveway. He then went to Ms. Jones's place of business (The Muddy Paw) and there was a note on the front door that stated the store was closed until the next day.

         Staff at the shelter were interviewed, including Ms. Smith, that same day. Ms. Smith told Det. McDonald that Ms. Jones and Mr. Ross were allowed to walk the dogs twice a week but had been told to keep the walks confined to the property. This had been the practice for almost a year since the dogs were housed there. She said when her staff informed her the day before that the dogs were at large she drove to the shelter to confront Ms. Jones as she found the story "suspicious." She noted that Mr. Ross was always with Ms. Jones, and that she believed it likely that Ms. Jones had learned about the Law Court ruling before she arrived at the shelter to walk the dogs. She had texted Ms. Jones about her suspicions but Ms. Jones responded by text denying that she had the dogs.

         Det. McDonald also interviewed Christopher Corson, who works at the shelter and came in to assist in the search for the dogs. He searched for almost two hours but found no tracks where he was told the dogs had entered the woods, and remarked that if the dogs had harnesses they would likely have "got hung up" on trees in the woods. He saw other animal tracks but no sign the dogs had been in the woods. Det. McDonald also spoke with Thomas Gamache who stated that when he came inside the shelter after hearing that the dogs were at large, thirty seconds later he took the call from the ACO informing him about the Law Court decision. Mr. Gamache also said that when he saw Ms. Jones walking the dogs that they did not seem to be pulling that hard.

         Det. McDonald interviewed Stacey Recanati who told him that she had observed Ms. Jones walking the dogs in the woods near the Webb Road. She stated that Ms. Jones told her that one of the dogs' harnesses was on upside down, a truck went by and spooked the dogs and they both ran off. Ms. Recanati drove in van with Ms. Jones for four hours looking for the dogs with no success. Ms. Recanati told Det. McDonald that she was aware during this time how the Law Court had ruled, and asked Ms. Jones if she had heard from her attorney. Ms. Jones indicated she had not. She told Ms. Jones she should call her lawyer and that Ms. Jones made a call in the van and told her that the call was to her lawyer. She left a voicemail, and a few minutes later someone called Ms. Jones and she heard her ask the person if they had heard anything about the case. Ms. Jones reported that he lawyers had not heard anything about the case. Ms. Recanati then told Ms. Jones about the Law Court decision and Ms. Recanati said Ms. Jones became hysterical. They then ran into Mr. Ross at approximately 3 pm at the driveway to the shelter who stated he had been looking for the dogs. A few minutes later Mr. Ross called Ms. Jones and she reported to Ms. Recanati that Mr. Ross told her he was going to stop looking for the dogs and he would rather they get hit by a car than euthanized. Ms. Recanati told Det. McDonald that she had seen Ms. Jones come to the shelter by herself before but that when she did she only walked one dog at a time.

         Melissa Dawes also gave a statement stating that Ms. Jones came to walk the dogs at approximately noon or 12:30. She said that Ms. Jones said she should be fine with the dogs since they were both leashed and harnessed. After approximately twenty minutes she returned without the dogs or their harnesses or leashes. They began looking for the dogs for approximately five minutes when Danielle began calling ...


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