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United States v. Smith

United States District Court, D. Alaska

March 6, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
KEENAN WELDON SMITH, Defendant.

          FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE [DOC. 29]

          DEBORAH M. SMITH, CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. MOTION PRESENTED

         Defendant Kennan Smith has been charged as a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. (Doc. 2.) In this motion, Smith seeks to suppress evidence seized pursuant to state-issued search warrants 3AN-18-863 SW and 3AN-18-883 SW. The first of these warrants allowed police to search Mr. Smith's room at the Arctic Tern Inn, which led to seizure of a Colt revolver, various types of ammunition, several cell phones, and a SIM Card. (Docs. 29, 34.) The second of these warrants authorized forensic analysis of the recovered cell phones and SIM card. Id.

         In his motion, Defendant Smith asserts that neither search warrant was supported by probable cause and thus all evidence obtained from the two searches should be suppressed. (Doc. 29.)

         The government opposes the motion (Doc. 34) arguing, first, that ample probable cause supports issuance of the warrants and, secondly, that the exclusionary rule does not apply because law enforcement relied on the warrants in good faith.

         The opportunity for presentation of evidence was provided during a hearing held on January 14, 2019. Neither party called witnesses. Oral argument followed. (Tr. at Doc. 50.)

         II. FACTS REGARDING THE SEARCH WARRANTS

         A. Warrant 3AN-18-863 SW

         On March 20, 2018, Sgt. Mike Ingram of the Alaska State Troopers (AST) applied for and received warrant 3AN-18-863 SW to search Defendant Smith's residence at the Arctic Tern Inn. (Doc. 29-1 at 5, 11.) The warrant also authorized the search of two vehicles parked outside the room: a black Subaru Legacy sedan and a blue Oldsmobile Intrigue sedan. (Doc. 29-1 at 5.) In support of the application, Sgt. Ingram's affidavit described information that AST had received from three tipsters, two of whom were anonymous and the third unnamed. The affidavit also described subsequent surveillance conducted in an attempt to verify the tipster's information.

         1. First Anonymous Tipster

         The first tipster anonymously reported information to Anchorage Crime Stoppers on February 17, 2018. (Doc. 29-1 at 7) stating that a black male identified as “Keenan” was involved with crack cocaine and heroin distribution and in possession of two fire arms. Id. at 7.

         The tipster continued to call Crime Stoppers to provide additional details through March 1, 2018. (Doc. 29-1 at 7.) The tipster claimed knowledge that “Keenan” had an active warrant out for his arrest to serve five days in jail, although the tipster claimed no knowledge of the alleged crime which resulted in the warrant. Id. at 7. The caller described “Keenan's” physical appearance as mid-to-late 40s, approximately 5'6” tall, weighing under 160 lbs., with short brown hair and no facial hair. Id. The tipster provided two cell phone numbers for “Keenan”- 907-717-8757 and 907-231-9423-and stated that he lived at the Arctic Tern Inn, in room #116. Id. The caller also reported that “Keenan” used a non-operational black car with a broken rear window for his operation, selling drugs in “little baggies” to buyers with whom he was familiar. (Doc. 29-1 at 7.) The tipster additionally stated that “Keenan” sometimes used a blue Oldsmobile Alero for his operation and provided a license plate number. Id. Finally, the tipster said that “Keenan” sometimes used female runners to help him sell drugs and gave the name of “Tayla Jones” as one runner. Id.

         Sgt. Ingram's affidavit does not provide any information about the basis of the tipster's knowledge, for example, whether it was first-hand knowledge. The affidavit does, however, report the information collected and steps taken by AST to corroborate the tipster's anonymous information. Ingram's work within the human trafficking unit caused him to be familiar with “Tayla Jones” and know her as a convicted prostitute. Id. at 8. Additionally, the Anchorage Police Department's records management system listed the number 907-717-8757 as belonging to Keenan Weldon Smith. Id.

         On March 19, 2018, Sgt. Ingram drove to the Arctic Tern Inn in Anchorage. Id. at 8. In the parking lot, he noted a black 2002 Subaru Legacy sedan with a rear broken window and no tire tracks leading away from the vehicle, suggesting that it was inoperable. Id. Ingram's Alaska Public Safety Information network (APSIN) search of the vehicle's plates showed it to be registered to Tristin Donahue and not to Keenan Smith. Id. Finally, Ingram went inside the Arctic Tern Inn and spoke with the front-desk clerk, who confirmed Smith resided in room 116 and had for several months. Id.

         On March 20, 2018, another investigator assigned to Ingram's unit, David DeCoeur, conducted surveillance of the Arctic Tern Inn. (Doc. 29-1 at 8.) Investigator DeCoeur observed a black male drive a blue Oldsmobile Intrigue into the parking lot of the Arctic Tern Inn and park.[1] Id. Investigator DeCoeur expressed 70% certainty that the driver was the defendant. Id.

         Finally, in support of his application, Sgt. Ingram pulled Smith's criminal history. Id. That history included four Alaska state drug convictions more than ten years old, and a California conviction for pimping nearly thirty years old. Id. The history noted only two convictions occurring in the past ten years, for leaving the scene of a crash and driving without a license. Id.

         2. Second Tip by Confidential Informant

         The second tip was received from a confidential informant developed by AST in an earlier drug investigation targeting Smith in April of 2017. (Doc. 29-1 at 8.) The informant claimed in 2017 that he/she could buy crack cocaine from Smith and had done so in the past, according to Ingram's affidavit. Id. However, the investigation had stalled when the informant was unable to set up a deal. Id. Sgt. Ingram's affidavit does not include any information establishing the informant's credibility or the basis of the informant's knowledge.

         3. ...


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