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United States v. McIver

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

November 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ANSAR MCIVER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Danny C. Reeves United States District Judge

         Defendant Ansar McIver filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized pursuant to a June 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17 search of his residence. [Record No. 71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] The motion was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier for issuance of a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1)(B). Magistrate Judge Wier issued a Recommended Disposition on November 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, recommending that this Court deny the defendant's motion. [Record No. 94] Thereafter, McIver filed objections to the Recommended Disposition. [Record No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">102] Following careful review of the matter, the Court concludes that the motion to suppress should be denied.

         I.

         Magistrate Judge Wier issued a search warrant for 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1337 Sequoia Drive in Lexington, Kentucky, on May 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, based upon the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Michael Van Aelstyn. [See Record No. 71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1.] The Recommended Disposition recites the contents of the affidavit in painstaking detail, so the Court will not repeat all of the particulars here. In summary, law enforcement officers conducted surveillance of multiple locations suspected of being involved in the distribution of controlled substances over a period of several weeks. Special Agent Van Aelstyn's affidavit includes information provided by a confidential informant (“CI”), [1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" id= "FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] including the informant's representations that narcotics were being transported from a residence at 425 Shropshire Avenue to McIver's residence at 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1337 Sequoia Drive.

         McIver argues that there was not probable cause for the warrant because Van Aelstyn failed to establish that the CI was reliable and, accordingly, there was an insufficient basis to believe that evidence of a crime would be found at McIver's residence. His arguments are wholly without merit.

         II.

         The Fourth Amendment prohibits the issuance of a search warrant unless it has been issued “upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. To demonstrate probable cause sufficient to justify a search warrant, the proponent must submit an affidavit that “indicate[s] a fair probability that evidence of a crime will be located on the premises of the proposed search.” United States v. Elbe, 774 F.3d 885, 888 (6th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The belief that items sought will be found at the location to be searched must be “supported by less than prima facie proof but more than mere suspicion.” United States v. Johnson, 351');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 254, 258 (6th Cir. 2003).

         A magistrate judge “may give considerable weight to the conclusion of experienced law enforcement officers regarding where evidence of a crime is likely to be found and is entitled to draw reasonable inferences about where evidence is likely to be kept, based on the nature of the evidence and the type of offense.” United States v. Caicedo, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">184');">85 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">184, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">192 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1996) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). On review, the Court simply must determine whether the issuing magistrate had a “substantial basis” to conclude that probable cause existed. Illinois v. Gates, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13');">462 U.S. 21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13, 236-37 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1983). A magistrate judge's probable cause determination is entitled to great deference and will be overturned only if the magistrate judge arbitrarily exercised his or her discretion. United States v. Brown, 732 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13). To the extent that McIver has raised objections the Magistrate Judge's Recommended Disposition, the Court will conduct a de novo review. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1)(C).

         III.

         McIver complains in his motion to suppress that the Magistrate Judge lacked a substantial basis for concluding that officers had probable cause to search his residence. [Record No. 71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] Specifically, he contends that the warrant depends on the word of an informant whose reliability is not substantiated and whose factual statements are not attributed to firsthand knowledge or corroborated by investigators. However, the CI's reliability is substantiated, in part, based on Van Aelstyn's knowledge of the person's identity. Importantly, as explained below, significant portions of the CI's factual statements are attributed to firsthand knowledge and are corroborated by independent police investigation.

         The Court applies a totality-of-the-circumstances approach to determine whether probable cause exists. Gates, 462 U.S. at 230-31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1; United States v. Allen, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 970');">21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 970 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 U.S. 907');">531');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 U.S. 907 (2000). With respect to statements by a confidential informant, affidavits must provide facts supporting an independent judicial determination that the informant is reliable, but the facts need not take any particular form. United States v. McCracken, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 693');">401');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 693, 697 (6th Cir. 2005). The determination of reliability can be satisfied in a variety of ways. The affidavit could state that the police corroborated significant parts of the CI's story or that the CI has provided reliable information in the past. Id. (citing Allen, 21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d at 975-76); United States v. Greene, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">250 F.3d 471');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 480 (6th Cir. 2001');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1). There could be other indicia of the CI's reliability such as a detailed description of the CI's first-hand observations or the CI's willingness to reveal his or her name. Id. Whether probable cause exists is a “commonsense, practical” inquiry. Gates, 462 U.S. at 230.

         As McIver points out, and the Magistrate Judge acknowledged, Special Agent Van Aelstyn did not provide significant background information regarding the CI. And while the affidavit did not disclose the CI's identity, Van Aelstyn attested that he knew the identity of the individual and he believed the individual to be reliable. [Record No. 71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 4] This fact lends credibility to the CI's statements because, if false, he or she would be subject to prosecution for making a false report. See United States v. May, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17');">399 F.3d 81');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, 824-25 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Gates, 462 U.S. at 241');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1). The statements of a CI whose identity is known to police and would be subject to criminal liability are entitled to “far greater weight than those of an anonymous source.” Id. 824-25.

         But even if there is some doubt regarding an informant's motives, his “explicit and detailed description of alleged wrongdoing, along with a statement that the event was described first-hand, entitles his tip to greater weight than might otherwise be the case.” Gates, 462 U.S. at 234. But see United States v. Neal, 577 F. App'x 434, 443 (6th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14) (corroboration necessary where affidavit does not contain sufficient indicia of reliability). The CI provided several key pieces of information that were detailed and corroborated by independent police investigation.

         For instance, the CI advised that inside the garage at 425 Shropshire on May 9, 201');">1') ...


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