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United States v. Welch

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 2, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Chris Maurice Welch, Defendant.

          Jeffrey S. Paulsen, United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415, for United States of America

          Shannon R. Elkins, Office of the Federal Defender, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415, for Chris Maurice Welch


          HILDY BOWBEER, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This case came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for a pretrial motions hearing on November 15, 2017. The case has been referred for resolution of pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1. In this Report and Recommendation, the Court will address Defendant Chris Maurice Welch's Pretrial Motion to Suppress Search and Seizure [Doc. No. 22]. Defendant's nondispositive motions were addressed in a separate Order [Doc. No. 30]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Defendant's motion to suppress be denied.

         I. Procedural Background

         On September 27, 2017, Chris Maurice Welch was charged by Indictment with Felon in Possession of a Firearm - Armed Career Criminal, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e)(1). (Indictment [Doc. No. 1].) Defendant filed pretrial motions, including the motion to suppress, on October 25, 2017. He originally sought to suppress all evidence seized from the search of 3xxx Aldrich Avenue North, Minneapolis, Minnesota, on March 27, 2017, on the following grounds: (1) as an overnight guest, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home; (2) the search warrant lacked probable cause; and (3) the police did not conduct a controlled buy or otherwise corroborate information obtained from a confidential informant that Defendant was selling marijuana. (Def. Mot. Suppress at 1-2 [Doc. No. 22].) Defendant also moved to suppress physical and forensic evidence obtained from a buccal swab. (Id.) At the pretrial motion hearing, Defendant withdrew the portion of his motion seeking to suppress evidence seized from the Aldrich Avenue home and told the Court he was seeking to suppress only the seizure of his DNA from the buccal swab. (Mot. Hr'g Tr. 4:4-15 [Doc. No. 32].)

         The Government submitted two exhibits into evidence at the hearing: a packet of photographs taken inside the Aldrich Avenue home (Gov't Ex. 1) and a recorded statement (Gov't Ex. 2). Defendant submitted a photograph as evidence (Def. Ex. 1). Minneapolis Police Officer Jeffrey Werner testified for the Government.

         After requesting and receiving an extension of time to file his post-hearing memorandum, Defendant filed a memorandum in support of his motion to suppress on December 13, 2017 [Doc. No. 37]. The memorandum confirms that Defendant is seeking to suppress only the DNA evidence seized on March 27, 2017. He argues the DNA evidence was seized without his permission or lawful authority, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Government filed its post-hearing memorandum on December 18, 2017 [Doc. No. 38], and the Court took the motion to suppress under advisement on that date.

         II. Relevant Facts

         Officer Werner obtained information from a confidential informant (CI) that Defendant was storing drugs and weapons at, and selling drugs from, 3xxx Aldrich Avenue North. (Mot. Hr'g Tr. 7: 21-25, 8:1-3.) The CI had personally seen Defendant with drugs and weapons inside the residence within the past seventy-two hours. (Id. 8:4- 6.) The CI described the person as having a medium build and a medium afro, and identified him as Chris Welch. (Id. 8:10-14; Def. Ex. A at 2.[1]) Officer Werner entered the name on the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles website and located an individual who matched the description given by the CI. (Mot. Hr'g Tr. 8:19-21.) He showed a photograph of Defendant to the CI, who confirmed the person in the photograph as the person whom he knew to be storing drugs and guns at 3xxx Aldrich Avenue North. (Id. 8:21-24.)

         Officer Werner further corroborated the information from the CI by conducting surveillance of 3xxx Aldrich Avenue North. (Id. 9:2.) He observed heavy foot traffic and short-term vehicle traffic that, in his experience, signified narcotics activity. (Id. 9:3-7.) A fellow officer, Officer Schroeder, also conducted surveillance at ¶ 3xxx Aldrich Avenue North and observed Defendant and another person sitting inside a vehicle parked in the driveway of 3xxx Aldrich Avenue North. (Id. 9:11-25, 10:1.)

         Upon further investigation, Officer Werner learned that Defendant had been convicted of felony first-degree aggravated robbery in 2002 and felony third-degree narcotics in 2014. (Def. Ex. A at 2.) Officer Werner therefore knew that Defendant was prohibited from possessing a firearm. (Id.)

         Officer Werner obtained a search warrant for 3xxx Aldrich Avenue North, which was executed on March 27, 2017. (Id. 10:2-8.) Defendant was inside the home when the warrant was executed. (Id. 10:17-19.) Two other males, a female, and two children were also inside the home. (Id. 10:13:15.) Officers entering the home found Defendant and the other two men in a bedroom, along with three cellphones that had been broken in half and damaged. (Id. 11:25, 12:1-6.) Officer Werner believed the phones had been broken and damaged to prevent law enforcement from retrieving text messages, data, pictures, and other information that could link the three men to criminal activity. (Id. 12:7-11.)

         Other officers executing the search warrant discovered four firearms in a kitchen closet, a large amount of synthetic marijuana, some of which was packaged for sale, and digital scales. (Id. 12:17-22; Gov't Ex. 2.) The guns were in plain view, and the baggies of marijuana and digital scales were in a kitchen cabinet. (Mot. Hr'g Tr. 14:20-21, 14:24-25, 15:1-2.) Defendant was arrested for probable cause-weapons and probable ...

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