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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 17, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff,
v.
RON L. JONES Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          Lynn Adelman, District Judge.

         Defendant Ron Jones filed a motion to suppress physical evidence seized by law enforcement pursuant to search warrants, along with a request for a Franks hearing. See Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978) (permitting a defendant to challenge the veracity of a warrant affidavit). The magistrate judge handling pre-trial proceedings in this case denied a hearing and recommended that the motion to suppress be denied. Defendant objects. I review the denial of a Franks hearing for clear error and the recommended denial of the motion to suppress de novo. See United States v. Lewis, 386 F.Supp.3d 963, 979 (E.D. Wis. 2019); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(a), (b).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The full factual background is set forth in the magistrate judge's decision. (R. 56 at 1-6.) Neither side has objected to that recitation, which I adopt. I present an abbreviated version of events herein.

         On February 13, 2018, a Chicago police commander was shot and killed with a Glock handgun. The ATF traced the Glock to a Wisconsin man, Thomas Caldwell, who was already under investigation for unlicensed firearms dealing.[1] On February 14, 2018, agents interviewed Caldwell, and he indicated that he “probably” sold the Glock to defendant. Caldwell further indicated that he sold at least 15 firearms to defendant over the past five years.

         Agents called defendant at the number Caldwell provided, and defendant agreed to speak with them the following day. On February 15, during a meeting at a local police station, defendant admitted acquiring guns from Caldwell, including at least one Glock, but he could not recall the model or caliber. He further indicated that he likely sold the Glock on “armslist.com.”

         On February 16, 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant at defendant's residence, seizing guns, ammunition, marijuana, and electronic devices. A few days later, officers obtained and executed a warrant to search the seized electronic devices.

         In March 2018, law enforcement began working with a confidential informant (“CI”) who indicated that he previously engaged in drug and firearm deals with defendant. The CI subsequently made controlled buys from defendant: of firearms on April 10 and May 16, 2018, and marijuana on April 20 and May 30, 2018. On June 5, 2018, law enforcement executed another warrant at defendant's residence, seizing a computer, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and cash.

         On June 12, 2018, a grand jury in this district returned an indictment charging defendant with possessing a firearm as an unlawful drug user, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), based on a gun seized during the February 16, 2018 search, and two counts of marijuana distribution, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(D), based on the April 20 and May 30, 2018, controlled buys. Defendant filed a motion to compel discovery, seeking police records related to the Chicago shooting and Caldwell's mental health records. He argued that he needed the former in support of a possible vindictive prosecution claim, as he believed the police targeted him due to his uncooperativeness in the murder investigation, and the latter in support of a possible challenge to the search warrant(s), which were based in part on Caldwell's information. The magistrate judge denied that motion, and I upheld his order.

         As indicated, defendant also filed a motion to suppress the physical evidence seized pursuant to the search warrants, arguing that the warrants were facially invalid and failed to establish probable cause. (R. 29 at 1.) He further requested a Franks hearing, arguing that the warrant affidavit omitted critical information. (R. 29 at 2.) The magistrate judge rejected these arguments.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Search Warrants

         A defendant seeking suppression of evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant faces an uphill battle. United States v. McKinney, 919 F.2d 405, 427 (7th Cir. 1990). The reviewing court gives great deference to the issuing judge's probable cause determination so long as the judge had a substantial basis for the finding. United States v. Adams, 934 F.3d 720, 725 (7th Cir. 2019). Probable cause exists when the circumstances indicate a reasonable probability that evidence of crime will be found in a particular location; neither an absolute certainty nor even a preponderance of the evidence is necessary. Id.

         Where, as here, an affidavit is the only evidence presented to the issuing judge, the validity of the warrant rests solely on the strength of the affidavit. Id. Where the affidavit relies on information provided by an informant, the court considers whether the informant acquired knowledge of the events through firsthand observation, the detail and specificity of the information provided by the informant, the interval between the date of the events described and the officer's application for the warrant, and the extent to which law enforcement corroborated the informant's statements. Id. None of these factors is determinative, and a ...


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