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United States v. Neadeau

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 5, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Duane James Neadeau, a/k/a D.J. Neadeau, Defendant.

          Clifford B. Wardlaw and Deidre Y. Aanstad, for the Government.

          Caroline Durham, and Melvin R. Welch, for Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois dated November 6, 2017 [Doc. No. 54]. Magistrate Judge Brisbois recommends that this Court grant Defendant Duane Neadeau's Motion to Suppress Search of Defendant [Doc. No. 23]. The Government filed Objections to the R&R [Doc. No. 60], and Neadeau filed a Response to the Government's Objections [Doc. No. 61]. The Court has reviewed de novo those portions of the R&R to which the Government objects as required by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). Based on that review, and as explained herein, the Court adopts the magistrate judge's R&R and grants Neadeau's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 19, 2017, Neadeau was charged by indictment with one count of assault with a dangerous weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 113(a)(3), 1151, and 1153(a), and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 113(a)(6), 1151, and 1153(a). (Indictment, Counts 1-2 [Doc. No. 1].) On August 21, 2017, Neadeau filed the underlying motion to suppress, and Magistrate Judge Brisbois held a hearing on the motion on September 29, 2017. (See Min. Entry for Sept. 29, 2017 Proceedings [Doc. No. 45]; Mot. Hr'g Tr. (“Tr.”) [Doc. No. 53].) At the hearing, the Government called three witnesses-Red Lake Police Department Officer Joshua Wicker (“Officer Wicker”), then-Criminal Investigator Paul Smith (“Investigator Smith”), and FBI Agent Travis Putrah (“Agent Putrah”). (See Tr. at 2.) All three witnesses were involved in the investigation on the night of the alleged assault. (See id.) Below, the Court recites the factual background based on these officers' testimony, followed by a summary of the procedural posture of this case, including the magistrate judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         A. Factual Background

         In the early morning hours of July 17, 2016, Officer Wicker was on duty on the Red Lake Reservation in Northern Minnesota. (Wicker Test., Tr. at 36-37.) Around midnight, dispatch alerted him that there was a male covered in blood walking on West End Road. (Id. at 37.) When Officer Wicker arrived at this location, he saw Thomas Sayers with multiple stab wounds on his body, including a large laceration on the side of his face. (Id. at 37, 45.) Officer Wicker asked Sayers “who had done this to him and where they were, ” and Sayers responded that “D.J. Neadeau had stabbed him and that he lived two houses down.” (Id. at 38.) Sayers was then transported by ambulance to the Red Lake Indian Health Service Hospital, and Officer Wicker called Investigator Smith to alert him of the alleged stabbing. (Id. at 37.)

         Officer Wicker followed the ambulance to the hospital. (Id.) He testified that he did so because he “wanted to get an exact location from Thomas [Sayers] of where the incident happened.” (Id. at 38.) But when Officer Wicker attempted to get more details from Sayers, Sayers declined to provide any, responding, “That's your job.” (Id. at 47.) By approximately 12:45 a.m., Investigator Smith had also arrived at the hospital. (Smith Test., Tr. at 90.) Investigator Smith learned from Officer Wicker that “Duane Neadeau was the suspect, ” but Sayers also refused to give Investigator Smith any additional information. (Id. at 71.) Nevertheless, Investigator Smith instructed Officer Wicker to “go to the scene and secure the scene.” (Id.) Investigator Smith then contacted his department and called Agent Putrah of the FBI at approximately 12:45 a.m. (Id.; Putrah Test., Tr. at 12.)

         Knowing only that Sayers had identified Neadeau as the person who had stabbed him, Officer Wicker drove to Neadeau's home along with another officer identified as Officer Graves.[1] (Wicker Test., Tr. at 38, 41, 51, 55-56.) Neadeau's home-which Officer Wicker testified is located a “[c]ouple hundred yards away” from where he first encountered Sayers, (id. at 58)-is accessible via a dirt road, or driveway, off of West End Road, (id. at 49-50). Officer Wicker and Agent Putrah both testified that Neadeau's home is not completely visible from West End Road. (Wicker Test., Tr. at 50; Putrah Test., Tr. at 30). Both officers testified that the dirt driveway leading up to the house runs through the woods, (Wicker Test., Tr. at 50; Putrah Test., Tr. at 29-30), and Officer Wicker testified that the house was surrounded by woods. (Wicker Test., Tr. at 50.)

         Both Officer Wicker and Agent Putrah also testified as to the orientation of the home. Officer Wicker testified that as he approached from the dirt road, Neadeau's home was on the right. (Id. at 49.) According to Officer Wicker, the front door is on the southwest side of the home and the backyard is north-northeast bearing. (Id. at 51.) Officer Wicker testified that the backyard is not visible from the front of the house. (Id. at 53.) Similarly, Agent Putrah testified that there is a “doorway on the south side of the residence and [he] believe[s] there's also a door on the east side of the residence.” (Putrah Test., Tr. at 24.)

         Officer Wicker arrived at Defendant's home at approximately 1:01 a.m. (Wicker Test., Tr. at 49.) He parked in front of the house on the west side. (Id. at 51.) Upon arriving at Neadeau's home, Officer Wicker “checked the driveway and the front porch and the front area of the residence for blood.” (Id. at 52.) He did not knock on the door. (Id.) Rather, he “began looking around th[e] residence to try and locate a crime scene, see if there was anything in the area.” (Id. at 38). The house was unlit, so Officer Wicker used a flashlight. (Id. at 52.)

         Officer Wicker testified that he first started out from the west-at the front of the house-headed south, and then went southeast. (Id. at 53.) Officer Wicker testified that on the east side of the residence, as he came around the south side, he “observed that there were burn-out tire marks on the south side of the residence.” (Id. at 38-39.) Officer Wicker further testified that he then continued around to the east side of the home-the backyard, (see Id. at 53)-where he “located about two pools of blood, along with a bent knife in the shape of a U.” (Id. at 39.) Officer Wicker also testified that it was raining when he was at Neadeau's home, although the precise timing of when the rain began is unclear from the record. (Id. at 40.) According to Officer Wicker, “the heavy rainfall” was “washing the blood off of the knife” and was causing the pools of blood to “dissipate into the ground and wash away.” (Id.) To try to protect the knife from the rainfall, Officer Wicker “placed a brown paper evidence bag over the knife to prevent . . . any more loss of blood from the knife.” (Id.) Officer Wicker also “located a trail of blood heading from the east side of the residence east into the woods, where there was a matted-down section of grass.” (Id. at 39.)

         After finding this evidence, Officer Wicker took pictures of what he had found, “exited the crime scene as safely as [he] could without disturbing it[, ] and set up a perimeter of the residence with other officers.” (Id.) In the report that Officer Wicker prepared after the incident, he indicated that he located the knife at 1:01 a.m.-the same time he indicated he had arrived at Neadeau's home. (Id. at 49.)

         About an hour after first arriving on the scene and setting up a perimeter, the officers finally entered the home. (Id. at 41, 56-57.) Officer Wicker testified that after officers had set up a perimeter, they “attempt[ed] to knock and make contact . . . and see if there was anybody inside the residence.” (Id. at 59.) No one responded to the knocks or Officer Wicker's announcement as “police.” (Id. at 59, 60-61.) Although the timing is unclear, at some point before the officers knocked, Officer Wicker was told that someone had observed movement of a curtain inside of the house. (Id. at 61.) Officer Wicker testified that he found it “suspicious that nobody [wa]s answering the door” after he knocked, and that the lack of response could be because other injured parties may be inside and unable to respond because they are “bleeding out, ” or because people are “trying to hide because . . . they know that they did something wrong.” (Id. at 60.) After entering the home, the officers located two people in the basement, one of whom was Neadeau. (Id. at 41-42.)

         Agent Putrah testified that he arrived at Neadeau's home at approximately 2:15 a.m. (Putrah Test., Tr. at 22.) Agent Putrah's testimony generally corroborated the testimony of Officer Wicker with respect to the location where the officers found the knife and pools of blood. Agent Putrah testified that he collected evidence from a “deer stand that was outside on the northeast corner of the residence, ” from “some leaves or grass that was further away” on the “outside exterior of the house, ” and from “right next to the house on the northeast corner.” (Id. at 17.) Agent Putrah indicated that the items that were collected were on the backside of the residence, (id. at 26), and further stated that “the scene that was secured was on that east and northeast side of the house, ” (id. at 18).

         At no point during these events did the law enforcement officers obtain a warrant. (Id. at 19.) Agent Putrah testified that after Investigator Smith called him from the hospital and Agent Putrah was on his way to Neadeau's home, he attempted to reach an Assistant United States Attorney. (Id.) Agent Putrah was unable to reach her, but “left a message on her cell phone to let her know that [he] would be seeking a search warrant for the property.” (Id.) Agent Putrah testified that these efforts were abandoned, however, because “[he] was concerned that by the time [he] obtained that search warrant the blood would be gone or the evidence would be gone” because of the rain. (Id.)

         B. ...

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