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United States v. Howard

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

March 26, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
GREGORY HOWARD, Defendant.

CENTRAL DIVISION AT LEXINGTON OPINION & ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Gregory Howard's motion to suppress (DE 26). Howard contests the validity of the search warrant used in this case on the grounds that it was not supported by probable cause and did not describe with particularity the things to be seized. For the following reasons, the defendant's motion will be denied.

I.

The search warrant in this case was procured on February 6, 2013 and from information obtained the day prior. It sought permission to search "[t]he residence owned or occupied by Greg Howard, " which was "more particularly described as follows: Beginning at the Intersection of Old U.S. 460 and Ky 1081 turn east onto Ky 1081 and travel approximately 0.2 miles to a Brick and tan vinyl sided home situated on the right side of the roadway. The property also contains a black covered trailer sitting in the front yard." (DE 26-2, at 3). The warrant also sought permission to search "Any and All Vehicles located on the property at the time of service whos [sic] owners or operators are at the residence for the purpose of narcotics trafficking." (DE 26-2, at 3). Finally, the warrant requested permission to seize various items that might be found on the residence relating to the suspected narcotics trafficking. (DE 26-2, at 7). Among these items were "[c]urrency" and "[c]ontrolled substances." (DE 26-2, at 7).

The majority of Howard's motion focuses on whether Detective Skeens' affidavit supported a finding of probable cause. In particular, Howard argues that the information obtained from the known criminal informant Shawn Compton is inadequate because it is based on hearsay and "third party hearsay." Skeens' affidavit states that he received information from Shawn Compton indicating that the defendant's cousin, Brian Howard, "was currently conducting narcotics deliveries for a variety of addicts in Magoffin Co[.]" (DE 26-2, at 4). According to Compton, "Brian Howard [was] receiving the narcotics from [Defendant] Greg Howard... at the location described herein and the photo attached hereto." (DE 26-2, at 4). The affidavit then goes on to describe the specific way in which Gregory Howard engages in his drug trafficking by using his cousin Brian as a deliveryman:

[Compton] states that Brian Howard does not have a vehicle and usually borrows the purchasers [sic] vehicle and drives to the residence described herein to pick up the pills for the addicts while leaving the addicts at Brians [sic] home located on coon creek.

With this information from Compton in hand, Skeens' affidavit next states that they decided to conduct a controlled purchase from Brian Howard:

[Compton] stated they arrived at the residence of Brian Howard on Coon Creek and Brian Howard took the witnesses [sic] money and vehicle and began pulling out of the driveway and stopped, Brian exited the vehicle and told the witness that Greg Howard had just contacted him and told him to wait 15 minutes before leaving coon creek to come get the pills.
Durring [sic] the buy the witness stated that Brian Howard went to the residence of Greg Howard described herein to purchase a quantity of Oxycodone pills for the witness.
Detectives also personally observed the witnesses [sic] vehicle leaving the residence described herein.
The witness stated that when Brian returned with the pills that was purchased that Brian Howard told the witness that he went to purchase the pills from Greg Howard and further told the witness that Greg Howard was currently laying low because he was scared of getting caught by Law Enforcement.

(DE 26-2, at 4).

Finally, Detective Skeens provided one additional piece of independent investigatory evidence. Officers from the Operation UNITE Drug Task Force and Kentucky State Police had received "tips about Greg Howard and his Oxycodone trafficking activities that has [sic] been directly linked to Howards Grocery located in Magoffin County." (DE 26-2, at 5). These officers conducted several ...


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