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United States v. Granley

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 5, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Michael Robert Granley, Defendant.

          Carol M. Kayser, Esq., Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, St. Paul, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Douglas Olson, Esq., Office of the Federal Defender, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.




         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Michael Robert Granley's Objection [Docket No. 56] to Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois' November 2, 2016 Report and Recommendation [Docket No. 47] (“R&R”). In the R&R, Judge Brisbois recommends denying Granley's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained as a Result of Search and Seizure [Docket No. 31]. After a thorough de novo review of the record and for the reasons stated below, Granley's Objections are overruled and Judge Brisbois' R&R is adopted.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         On January 14, 2016, Investigator Chris Benson (“Investigator Benson”), of the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office, received a report from the Waynesboro, Virginia Police Department concerning a “sexually charged” online conversation between a 12-year old female and “Michael Granley, ” an approximately 42-year old male. In the conversation, “Michael Granley” exchanged sexually explicit messages with the minor girl, describing male and female genitalia and suggesting that they engage in sexual acts. Sometime later, Investigator Benson received a report from the Bemidji Police Department concerning a different online conversation between “Michael Granley” and an underage female. In this conversation, “Michael Granley” requested that the girl send him sexually explicit photographs of herself. Investigator Benson noted that the profile photograph for “Michael Granley” in both conversations was the same.

         An investigation by Detective Dunn of the Waynesboro Police Department uncovered the internet protocol (“IP”) address used to conduct the first online conversation. Detective Dunn provided the IP address to Investigator Benson who, pursuant to a subpoena, discovered that the subscriber associated with that IP address was Robert Granley located in Clearbrook, Minnesota. Investigator Benson conducted a Minnesota driver's licence check for “Michael Granley” and learned that a “Michael Granley” was registered at the same Clearbrook address. Earlier, Investigator Benson phoned the Clearbrook house and requested to speak with Michael Granley. Although Granley was not home at the time, Investigator Benson learned that Michael Granley lived full time at that house with his parents, Robert and Sandy Granley.

         On January 19, 2016, Investigator Benson applied for a warrant to search Granley and the Clearbrook residence for “electronic devices maintained and/or utilized by Michael Granley for the purpose of maintaining and/or collecting of photographs of children for either personal gratification or trade.” Investigator Benson's affidavit in support of the warrant application described the two sexually charged online conversations and specified how the Clearbrook address and Granley were identified. The warrant application was approved by Minnesota State District Court Judge John Melbye.

         On January 20, 2016, Investigator Benson executed a search of the Clearbrook home. While nothing was seized and Granley was absent from the property, Investigator Benson learned from Granley's parents that Granley was spending the night in Park Rapids, Minnesota.

         On January 21, 2016, Granley's vehicle was located by Park Rapids law enforcement officers. Investigator Benson arrived in Park Rapids and met with Granley, who agreed to talk to him. After being shown a copy of the search warrant, Granley gave his cellular phone and a tablet to Investigator Benson, who turned the devices over to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (“BCA”) for forensic examination.

         The forensic examination yielded several other sexually explicit conversations with underage girls. In one online conversation, Granley sent a picture of his penis to a 14-year old girl and received a photograph of female breasts. Based upon this and other information, Investigator Benson sought and obtained three additional search warrants, one each for Granley's iCloud account, Facebook account, and Google account. Through these warrants, Investigator Benson learned of other conversations Granley had with minor girls, including one involving a 15-year old girl in Pennsylvania with whom Granley exchanged sexually explicit photographs and discussed meeting to have sex.

         On July 20, 2016, Granley was indicted on ten counts of transferring obscene material to a minor, three counts of production of child pornography, and two counts of attempted production of child pornography. See Indictment [Docket No. 1]. On September 9, 2016, Granley moved for the suppression of any physical evidence obtained as a result of the searches on the grounds that: 1) the initial search warrant was not supported by probable cause; 2) the seizure of Granley's cellular phone and tablet was unlawful and not covered by the warrant; 3) the subsequent search of the cellular phone and tablet were unlawful, and; 4) the subsequent search warrants are the tainted fruits of the illegally obtained and searched cellular phone and tablet and are not otherwise independently supported by probable cause.

         In the R&R, Judge Brisbois recommends denying the motion, concluding that the issuing judge for the initial warrant had probable cause to authorize the searches. Judge Brisbois also concluded that there was a sufficient nexus between the evidence sought and the person or property to be searched. The search of Granley's cellular phone and tablet, Judge Brisbois reasoned, was permitted by the online nature of the correspondence between Granley and the underage girls, and ...

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