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State v. John

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 3, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Harvey Joseph St. John, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Mille Lacs County District Court File No. 48-CR-10-2689.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Janice S. Jude, Mille Lacs County Attorney, Daniel N. Rehlander, Assistant County Attorney, Milaca, Minnesota (for respondent)

David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Leslie J. Rosenberg, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Worke, Judge.

SCHELLHAS, Judge

Appellant challenges his convictions, arguing that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress the controlled substance and drug paraphernalia found on his person. We affirm.

FACTS

On December 2, 2010, Sergeant Charles Strack of the Little Falls Police Department, who also was an investigator with the Central Minnesota Drug and Gang Task Force, applied for a search warrant in Mille Lacs County District Court. The search-warrant application requested permission to conduct a no-knock search of room 432 at a hotel in Mille Lacs County and of appellant Harvey St. John and his girlfriend, R.M., for "[c]ontrolled [s]ubstances including marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin" and "[e]quipment, paraphernalia and other items used for ingesting or selling controlled substances, " among other things. Also on December 2, Sergeant Strack sought another search warrant to search E.S. and room 750 in the same hotel for drugs and drug paraphernalia, among other things.

In the search-warrant-application affidavit pertaining to room 432, St. John, and R.M. (subject search warrant), Sergeant Strack stated that the police knew that E.S. was "active in the use and or sale of controlled substances included but not limited to methamphetamine and prescription narcotics, " that E.S. "has [i]n his possession a handgun during these controlled substance transactions, " and that E.S. had been involved in a police-officer shooting in 2002. Sergeant Strack also stated that he and Special Agent Patrick Broberg met with hotel security personnel, who had video footage of E.S. entering and leaving room 750; that he and Special Agent Broberg learned that E.S. was meeting frequently with subjects who were known to Special Agent Broberg to be active in the use and sale of controlled substances; that the subjects had been identified by hotel security and had rented room 432; and that Sergeant Strack monitored E.S. entering and leaving room 432 several times on December 2. Sergeant Strack further stated that, at approximately 4:22 p.m., he brought his United States Police Canine Association certified K9, Ellie, to the hotel to perform an open-air sniff of the hallway on the seventh floor of the hotel outside rooms 750, 751, and 752 and that K9 Ellie alerted to the bottom of the door of room number 750. At approximately 4:41 p.m., K9 Ellie conducted an open-air sniff of the hallway on the fourth floor of the hotel outside rooms 430, 431, and 432, where K9 Ellie alerted to the bottom of the door of room 432.

Sergeant Strack also stated in the search-warrant-application affidavit that Special Agent Broberg told him that St. John, R.M., and R.S., a person staying at the hotel whom E.S. had been seen visiting, are known controlled-substance "user[s]/dealers" in the Mille Lacs County area. Special Agent Broberg told Sergeant Strack that the North Central Drug Task Force has worked narcotics investigations on St. John, R.S., and R.M. in the past. Sergeant Strack also stated that Investigator Michael Dieter of the Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department had observed a hand-to-hand transaction between R.S. and E.S. and that Sergeant Strack knew through his training and experience that hand-to-hand transactions are consistent with the sale of controlled substance and the exchange of United States Currency.

The district court issued both search warrants for which Sergeant Strack applied, and, on the evening of December 2, Sergeant Strack and a team of police officers and drug investigators executed the search warrants. The police found Schedule-IV controlled-narcotics pills and methamphetamines in room 750 but did not find anything listed in the search warrant or other evidence of illegal activity in room 432. Participating Special Agent John Wersal located St. John in the hotel parking lot, and the police detained him there. At that location, Sergeant Jeff Schafer of the Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department performed a "safety search" of St. John and discovered a glass pipe. St. John admitted that the glass pipe was used to smoke methamphetamines but claimed that the pipe belonged to somebody else. The pipe field-tested positive for methamphetamine.

Respondent State of Minnesota charged St. John with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance under Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(a)(1) (2010), and possession of prohibited drug paraphernalia under Minn. Stat. § 152.092 (2010). St. John moved to suppress the evidence, conceding that the search warrant was valid as to a search of room 432 but arguing its invalidity as to him on the basis that no sufficient nexus existed between the purported illegal activity and his person. The district court denied St. John's motion to suppress; ...


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