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United States v. Smeal

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 1, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WILLIAM SMEAL, Defendant

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          LANCE E. WALKER, DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         On February 13, 2019, William Smeal was indicted on one count of possession with the intent to distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1). Mr. Smeal now moves to suppress “all evidence seized as the result of the unlawful search and seizure of Defendant's 2009 Mercedes Benz C-Class.” Def's Mot. to Supp. (ECF No. 59 at 1).[1] For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 31, 2019, Special Agent Jacob E. Day of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency applied for a warrant authorizing the installation and use of an electronic tracking device to be installed on a black 2005 Mercedes C-Class bearing license plate number ME PC 2012WD, and registered to William Smeal. Gov. Ex. 1. Special Agent Day provided an affidavit accompanying his warrant application to show he possessed probable cause for the search. Gov. Ex. 2.

         According to Special Agent Day's affidavit, as part of an ongoing investigation into drug trafficking involving the Defendant, he reviewed intelligence reports accumulated by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Id. From his review, Special Agent Day learned that on December 17, 2018, Officer Andrew Weatherbee of the Ellsworth Police Department interviewed a concerned citizen (“CC1”) during a traffic stop who reported that the Defendant was selling cocaine and anabolic steroids in a parking lot in Ellsworth. Id.

         On January 23, 2019, Trooper Dana Austin informed Special Agent Day that he had received information from another concerned citizen (“CC2”) that the Defendant was traveling to Massachusetts in his black Mercedes once per week to purchase one pound of cocaine, which the Defendant was then cooking into “crack.” Id. Special Agent Day noted that “[t]he information Trooper Austin obtained from the concerned citizen came independently of Officer Weatherbee's source of information who had intimate knowledge of Mr. Smeal's activities. The information provided by Trooper Austin's concerned citizen corroborated the information provided by Officer Weatherbee's concerned citizen.” Id.

         On January 28, 2019, Trooper Austin informed Special Agent Day that he had spoken with the concerned citizen and learned that the Defendant had driven to Bangor to pick up cocaine a couple of days prior. Id. The concerned citizen further reported he had heard the Defendant's cocaine was “no good, ” and the Defendant was going to travel back to Massachusetts to get better cocaine. Id.

         That day, Special Agent Day conducted a DMV registration check and found a 2005 black Mercedes C-Class with license plate ME PC 2012WD registered in the Defendant's name. Id. Special Agent Day was familiar with the Defendant, having surveilled him before, and so knew the Defendant lived at 2 Townhouse Way in Ellsworth, Maine. Id. When he drove by Townhouse Way on January 30, 2019, Special Agent Day found it appeared to be vacant. Id. At Special Agent Day's request, Trooper Austin again contacted the concerned citizen and found the Defendant was now residing in Hancock, in a mobile home park off of Maine Route 182. Id. Special Agent Day was familiar with the area and drove to the mobile home park, finding a motor vehicle bearing ME PC 2012WD, and Defendant's second vehicle, parked in the driveway. Id. Later that day, he sought and obtained the warrant Defendant challenges from a Justice of the Peace. Gov. Ex. 3.

         After placing the electronic tracking device on the Defendant's vehicle on February 4, 2019, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency was alerted on February 13, 2019 that the Defendant's vehicle was traveling to the area of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Gov. Ex. 4 at *4. As the Defendant's vehicle was returning northbound from Massachusetts, Special Agent Day conferred with an officer from the Police Department in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and learned that the Bunkerhill Street area of Lawrence, where the Defendant's vehicle had stopped, is a known area of illicit drug use. Id. at *5. That day, Special Agent Day sought and obtained a search warrant for the Defendant's vehicle. Gov. Exs. 4, 5. Maine Drug Enforcement Agents stopped the Defendant and his passenger, Savana Adams, in Ellsworth, Maine. Gov. Ex. 6. The Defendant and Ms. Adams were informed of their Miranda rights and interviewed separately. Id. A K9 sniff was also conducted on the Defendant and Ms. Adams, with the K9 indicating on the Defendant's hands and on Ms. Adams' buttock area. Id. Inside the car, agents found a bag containing a brown powdery substance that Special Agent Day recognized to be suspected heroin. Id. The gross weight of the bag and its contents was 111.4 grams. Id.

         Later on February 13, 2019, Special Agent Day sought and obtained a third search warrant, this time for the Defendant's residence located on Deerfield Drive in Hancock, Maine. Gov. Exs. 6, 7. On March 19, 2019, Special Agent Day learned from a confidential informant that the agents had missed more “dope” in the Defendant's motor vehicle. Gov. Ex. 8 at *6. To pursue this further lead, Special Agents Day and Smith sought and obtained another warrant for the search of the Defendant's vehicle, which was secured in a locked facility. Gov. Exs. 8, 9.

         ANALYSIS

         The Defendant moves to suppress all evidence seized after issuance of the January 31, 2019 tracker warrant because Special Agent Day's affidavit lacked probable cause. ECF No. 58 at 7. The Defendant further argues that no good faith exception applies, despite law enforcement obtaining additional warrants every step of the way. Id. at 12. For the reasons stated below, I find that Defendant's arguments lack merit and the Motion is DENIED.

         1. Legal Standard

         “A warrant application must demonstrate probable cause to believe that (1) a crime has been committed-the ‘commission' element, and (2) enumerated evidence of the offense will be found at the place searched-the so-called ‘nexus' element.” United Statesv. Dixon, 787 F.3d 55, ...


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