Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Knutson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 13, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Todd Seaver Knutson, Defendant.

          Andrew Dunne, United States Attorney's Office, for United States of America

          John C. Brink, for Defendant Todd Seaver Knutson.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HILDY BOWBEER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for a pretrial motions hearing on September 21, 2017. The case was referred for resolution of pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1(a)(3)(A). In this Report and Recommendation, the Court will address Defendant Todd Seaver Knuston's Motion to Suppress Electronic Surveillance Evidence [Doc. No. 34], Motion to Suppress Search and Seizure Evidence [Doc. No. 35], Motion to Suppress Interrogation Evidence [Doc. No. 36], and Motion to Suppress Identification Evidence [Doc. No. 37]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the motions to suppress search and seizure evidence and interrogation evidence be denied (with the exception of one portion that has been referred to the Honorable Katherine M. Menendez, as noted in footnote 1 below), and that the motions to suppress electronic surveillance evidence and identification evidence be denied as moot.

         I. Procedural Background

         On July 11, 2017, Defendant Todd Seaver Knutson (“Knutson”) was charged with two counts of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). (Indictment at 1-2 [Doc. No. 20].) At his July 18, 2017 arraignment, Knutson entered a plea of not guilty. (Arraignment Order [Doc. No. 24].) Knutson subsequently filed thirteen discovery and evidence related pre-trial motions, including four separate motions to suppress evidence, which are the topic of this Report and Recommendation. (Tr. Pretrial Mots. Hr'g [Doc. No. 55].)

         On August 8, 2017, Knutson was again charged by Superseding Indictment with two counts of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2), and with one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, in violation of 20 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 20 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). (Superseding Indictment at 2-3 [Doc. No. 39].) Knutson again entered a plea of not guilty at his August 23, 2017 arraignment. (Arraignment Order [Doc. No. 44].) Knutson did not file new motions responding to the Superseding Indictment, but instead proceeded with his previously filed pre-trial motions pending before the Court.

         This Court held an evidentiary hearing on Knutson's pre-trial motions on September 21, 2017. (Min. Entry Mots. Hr'g [Doc. No. 51].) At the hearing, the Government submitted five exhibits into evidence: the application for and warrant authorizing the search of the premises at 890 Arkwright Street North in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as the person of Todd Seaver Knutson, issued by Ramsey County District Court on June 6, 2017 (Gov't Ex. 1 [Doc. No. 47-1].) (“the June 6 warrant”); the application for and warrant authorizing the seizure of DNA evidence from Knutson issued by Ramsey County District Court on June 7, 2017 (Gov't Ex. 2 [Doc. No. 47-2].) (“the June 7 warrant”); the application for and warrant authorizing the search of data contained in a Samsung smartphone issued by Ramsey County District Court on June 8, 2017 (Gov't Ex. 3 [Doc. No. 47-3].) (“the June 8 warrant”); the application for and warrant authorizing the search of the Bunker Hill Security digital video recorder issued by the undersigned on June 23, 2017[1] (Gov't Ex. 4 [Doc. No. 47-4].) (“the June 23 warrant”); and the Sherburne County Jail Inmate Handbook (Gov't Ex. 6). (Tr. Pretrial Mots. Hr'g at 8-9, 13.) This Court ruled on Knutson's nondispositive motions in its October 2, 2017 Order [Doc. No. 53]. In this Report and Recommendation, the Court reviews and makes recommendations regarding the four pending motions to suppress, which the Court took under advisement on October 17, 2017, following briefing by the parties. (See Def.'s Mem. [Doc. No. 56]; Dunne Letter [Doc. No. 58].)

         II. Relevant Factual Background

         The FBI Safe Streets Violent Crime Initiative is a decades-long effort through which FBI field divisions around the country establish “long-term, proactive tasks forces” focused on “violent gangs, crimes of violence, and the apprehension of violent fugitives.” Combating Gang Violence in America: Examing Effective Fed., State and Local Law Enforcement Strategies Before S. Judiciary Comm., 108th Cong. 429 (2003) (testimony of Grant Ashley, Ass't Dir., FBI Criminal Investigative Div.). Under this program, the FBI created the Twin Cities Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force (“SSTF”) to, among other things, facilitate cooperation between the FBI and the St. Paul Police Department when investigating violent and drug-related crimes in the Twin Cities area. See Federal Bureau of Investigation, What We Investigate, Violent Gang Task Forces, https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/gangs/violent-gang-task-forces (last visited Oct. 30, 2017). Pursuant to that mission, the SSTF opened an investigation in late May 2017 into alleged drug-related criminal activity by Defendant Todd Seaver Knutson. (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1 at 2 [Doc. No. 47-1].)

         The SSTF first began to investigate Knutson on May 30, 2017, when a cooperating defendant in a different criminal case tipped off the SSTF that large amounts of methamphetamine were being sold from a property located at 890 Arkwright Street North in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1 at 2.) The cooperating defendant specifically reported to the SSTF that a white male named “Todd” sold methamphetamine from that location, and that s/he had been purchasing methamphetamine from “Todd” for a long time. (Id.) The cooperating defendant additionally reported that s/he had observed “Todd” within the past four days in possession of several firearms including “a .45 revolver handgun, [a] .40 calliber [sic] automatic handgun, [a] Mac 10 submachine gun, and an assault rifle” and that Knutson also was storing a stolen car inside his garage. (Id.) According to the cooperating defendant, “Todd” was dangerous and had installed “numerous surveillance cameras on the exterior of his home to alert him of the presence of police or others attempting to rob him.” (Id.)

         Using the information provided by the cooperating defendant, the SSTF was able to identify Todd Seaver Knutson as the tenant of the 890 Arkwright residence. (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1 at 3). To help confirm its identification, the SSTF showed an unidentified picture of Knutson to the cooperating defendant, who stated that the picture was of the person named Todd who had previously sold him/her methamphetamine. (Id.) The SSTF additionally conducted a criminal background check and learned that Knutson had previously been convicted of a number of felonies which prohibited him from legally possessing firearms. (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1 at 3-4)

         After obtaining the initial tip off from the cooperating defendant, the SSTF secured the assistance of a confidential informant who relayed information similar to that previously reported by the cooperating defendant. (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1 at 3.) The confidential informant professed to be familiar with Knutson, and stated that Knutson sold large amounts of methamphetamine from the 890 Arkwright residence. (Id.) The confidential informant additionally reported that he/she had observed Knutson with several firearms including a “.45 calliber [sic] silver revolver, [a] .45 automatic handgun, [a] Mac 10 sub machine gun, and a Mac 90 assault rifle” and that Knutson was storing a stolen car in his garage. (Id.) Like the cooperating defendant, the confidential informant identified Knutson in a photograph that was presented to him/her by the SSTF. (Id.)

         The SSTF then convinced the confidential informant to take an active role in the investigation. On or about June 5, 2017, at the direction of the SSTF, the confidential informant visited Knutson at the 890 Arkwright residence with the specific goal of surveilling the inside of the home to determine if Knutson had guns or methamphetamine on the premises. (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1 at 3.) The SSTF stationed officers nearby to observe the confidential informant coming and going from the residence. (Id.) When the confidential informant arrived at the home, s/he was let inside by Knutson. (Id.) After spending time in the home, the confidential informant left and went directly back to SSTF personnel and reported that Knutson had a large amount of methamphetamine and various guns in the home. (Id.)

         Shortly thereafter, the SSTF applied for a warrant in Ramsey County District Court to search the home at 890 Arkwright and the person of Knutson.[2] (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1.) The application requested permission to search for the following items: methamphetamine; letters, bills or other mail and papers which tend to show the owner or renter of the premises; money, precious metals and stones, bankbooks, bank statements and other papers that tend to show profit from the sale of drugs; scales and other paraphernalia used in the sale or use of drugs; photographs that show the use of drugs or of drug paraphernalia; a stolen black Dodge sedan; all drugs covered under the controlled substance law; cell phones; and weapons, guns, firearms, ammunitions, and other dangerous weapons. (Id.) The application additionally asserted that probable cause existed to believe that crimes had been committed by Knutson at the 890 Arkwright residence based on the information obtained from the previous day's undercover surveillance as well as the other information supplied by the confidential informant and cooperating defendant. (Raichert Appl. Ex. 1.) The Honorable Gary Bastian, Ramsey County District Court, reviewed the application, determined that probable cause existed to permit the search, and issued a warrant at 9:43 a.m on June 6, 2017, authorizing members of the SSTF to search the premises at 890 Arkwright as well as the person of Todd Seaver Knutson for the items listed in the application. (Search Warrant Ex. 1 at 2-3 [Doc. No. 47-1].). That same day, the SSTF executed the warrant. (Parker Aff. ¶ 6 [Doc. No. 1].)

         In executing the warrant, SSTF members first surveilled Knutson as he drove from the 890 Arkwright Street residence to a nearby SuperAmerica gas station located at the corner of Arkwright and Maryland Avenue in St. Paul. (Parker Aff. ¶ 6; Gov't Resp. to Pretrial Suppression Mots. at 2.) There, at about 2:15 p.m., law enforcement officers approached Knutson and he reacted by attempting to flee on foot. (Bilek Aff. at 1 [Doc. No. 47-2].) Knutson ran around the gas station and onto Maryland Avenue, but was apprehended by an officer after traveling a relatively short distance. (Parker Aff. ¶ 6.) After Knutson was in custody, police searched the pathway along which Knutson had fled and found cash they believed Knutson dropped while running away from the police. (Id.) Police also viewed surveillance video at the gas station that appeared to show Knutson throwing something into the air during his attempted flee. (Id.) Police then searched the roof of the gas station and found a Lorcin .25 caliber handgun with the serial number scratched off, which SSTF inferred was the item thrown by Knutson in the video captured by the surveillance camera. (Bilek Second Aff. at 2 [Doc. No. 47-3].)

         After arresting Knutson, a St. Paul Police SWAT team working in cooperation with the SSTF executed the search warrant on the 890 Arkwright residence. (Bilek Aff. at 2; Parker Aff. ¶ 7.) At the house, SSTF members found approximately 1, 481 grams of field-tested methamphetamine in a backpack in the closet of a bedroom. (Parker Aff. ¶¶ 8-9.) The SSTF also found an FN 9 mm handgun, two Rugar Vaquero .45 caliber handguns, a MAK 90 rifle, a Mac 10 .45 caliber handgun, and a Marlin .22 caliber rifle. (Parker Aff. ¶ 8.) Small amounts of methamphetamine were discovered in different rooms throughout the house, as well digital scales and pipes used for smoking narcotics. (Bilek Second Aff. at 2.) Additionally, SSTF collected multiple items of evidence indicating that Knutson lived at 890 Arkwright. First, the SSTF interviewed Knutson's cousin, who appears to have been at the home when the search took place, and who informed SSTF personnel that Knutson lived at 890 Arkwright with his girlfriend. (Parker Aff. ¶ 7.) Second, SSTF interviewed an unidentified woman who was also at the home during the search, and she reported that the home was Knutson's. (Id.) Lastly, the SSTF located multiple pieces of mail and other paperwork in the home which indicated to them that Todd Knutson lived there. (Id.; Bilek Second Aff. at 2.)

         The next day, on June 7, 2017, the SSTF applied for another search warrant in Ramsey County District Court to authorize it to obtain a DNA sample from Knutson to compare with DNA recovered from firearms and narcotics seized at 890 Arkwright. (Bilek Aff. at 2.) The SSTF asserted that it had probable cause to seize the DNA from Knutson because the SSTF had gathered substantial evidence indicating that guns and narcotics were illegally trafficked out of the residence and the DNA sample would tend to show whether or not Knutson committed those crimes. (Bilek Aff. at 1.) Specifically, the warrant application pointed to the circumstances surrounding the attempted stop of Knutson, his subsequent efforts to flee from the police, the gun found at the SuperAmerica gas station where Knutson was arrested, the mail and other paperwork addressed to Knutson found in the home at 890 Arkwright, and the narcotics and guns also found there. (Bilek Aff. at 1-2.) The Honorable Judith Tilsen, Ramsey County District Court, reviewed the application detailing the circumstances of the previous day's searches, found probable cause to authorize the seizure of a DNA sample based on those circumstances, and issued the warrant at 11:29 a.m. on June 6, 2017. (Search Warrant 1-2 [Doc. No. 74-2].) At some point thereafter, the SSTF collected a DNA sample from Knutson. (Gov't Resp. Pretrial Suppression Mots at 5 [Doc. No. 47].)

         On June 8, 2017, the SSTF applied for another search warrant in Ramsey County District Court to search the Samsung smartphone taken from Knutson and look for evidence of narcotics and weapons trafficking. (Bilek Second Aff. at 1, 3.) In particular, the SSTF requested permission to access the data contained in the cell phone to search the phone's call history, contact list, text messages, images and videos, internet history, calendar entries, voice recordings, file system and global positioning system locations. (Bilek Second Aff. at 1.) The SSTF asserted that it had probable cause to conduct the search of the phone for the same reasons provided in its application for the DNA sample search warrant, i.e. that the SSTF had gathered significant evidence to show that Knutson had trafficked narcotics and illegally possessed multiple firearms. (Bilek Second Aff. at 2-3.) The Honorable Laura Nelson, Ramsey County District Court, reviewed the application, determined that the SSTF had demonstrated probable cause to permit the search of the phone, and issued the search warrant. (Search Warrant 4-5 [Doc. No. 74-3].)

         III. Motion to Suppress Search and Seizure Evidence

         Knutson moves to suppress evidence obtained by the SSTF incident to Knutson's arrest on June 6, 2017, and also moves to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to three search warrants: the June 6 search warrant authorizing the search of the 890 Arkwright residence and the person of Knutson; the June 7 search warrant authorizing the seizure of DNA evidence from Knutson; and the June 8 search warrant authorizing the search of data on Knutson's cell phone [Doc. No. 35].

         A. Standard of Review

         The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend IV. To protect that right, the Fourth Amendment generally requires the government to obtain a warrant from a neutral judge prior to searching any place where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 (1968) (stating “police must, whenever practicable, obtain advance judicial approval of searches and seizures through the warrant procedure”); see also Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 177 (1984) ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.