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United States v. Welch

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 7, 2018

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

          Jeffrey S. Paulsen, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Shannon R. Elkins, Esq., Office of the Federal Defender, Minneapolis, MN on behalf of Defendant Chris Maurice Welch.




         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Defendant Chris Maurice Welch's (“Welch”) Objection [Docket No. 42] to Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer's January 2, 2018 Report and Recommendation [Docket No. 40] (“R&R”). Judge Bowbeer recommends denying Welch's Pretrial Motion to Suppress Search and Seizure [Docket No. 22]. Based on a de novo review of the record, Welch's Objection is overruled and the R&R to deny Welch's suppression motion is adopted.


         In March 2017, a confidential informant (“CI”) told Minneapolis Police Officer Jeffrey Bernard Werner (“Officer Werner”) that Welch was storing guns and drugs in a home on 33XX Aldrich Avenue North, and that he was also selling drugs from that address. Hr'g Tr. [Docket No. 32] at 7-8. The CI told Officer Werner that within the past 72 hours he had been in the home where he personally witnessed Welch storing guns and drugs. Id. at 8. The CI described Welch as “a black male about 30-35 years old, about 6'0 tall with a medium build and medium afro.” Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Suppress [Docket No. 37] Ex. A (“Def.'s Ex. A”) at 2.

         To verify this information, Officer Werner entered Welch's name in the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicle website and found an individual whose description matched the description given by the CI. Hr'g Tr. at 8. Officer Werner showed the CI a photograph of Welch, and the CI identified the person in the photo as the person he had witnessed storing drugs and guns inside the Aldrich Avenue residence. Id. at 8, 24. Welch's driver's license information shows that he is a black male, 32 years old, 6'1" tall, and 196 pounds. See Def.'s Mot. Franks Hr'g [Docket No. 24] Ex. C. His driver's license photos show him wearing his hair in different styles, including with and without braids. Id.

         Officer Werner investigated Welch's criminal history and discovered that Welch had been convicted of felony first-degree aggravated robbery in 2002 and felony third-degree narcotics in 2014. Def.'s Ex. A at 2. This information gave Officer Werner the knowledge that Welch was prohibited from possessing a firearm. Id.

         Officer Werner further corroborated the CI's information by performing surveillance on the Aldrich Avenue residence. Hr'g Tr. at 9. He observed people approach the home on foot and in vehicles, enter the home, and leave a short time later. Id. This traffic pattern led Officer Werner to believe that drugs were being sold from within the home. Id. Another officer, Officer Schroeder, also conducted surveillance of the home and observed Welch and another person sitting inside a vehicle that was parked in the home's driveway. Id. at 8-9.

         On the morning of March 27, 2017, Officer Werner obtained a search warrant for the Aldrich Avenue residence. See Def.'s Ex. A at 4. Also that morning, law enforcement followed Welch from his probation officer's office in St. Paul to the Aldrich Avenue address. Hr'g Tr. at 10, 26. After Welch had entered the home, a SWAT team executed the search warrant. Id. at 10.

         While the search was occurring inside the home, law enforcement officers outside the residence encountered two men in a car parked directly in front of the home. Id. at 19, 26-27. Officers found marijuana and a loaded handgun in the car. Id. at 19, 26-27. Based on his experience as a narcotics officer, Officer Werner concluded that the men were there to buy drugs. Id. at 19, 26-27.

         Inside the home, law enforcement officers found the woman who rented the home, along with her two children. Id. at 11. Welch and two other men were also present inside a bedroom. Id. at 11-12. In the bedroom with the three men were three cell phones; each phone had been broken in half. Id. at 12. Officer Werner surmised the phones had been broken to prevent retrieval of text messages and other incriminating evidence that could link the men to criminal activity. Id.

         The search of the home resulted in the discovery of four guns in a kitchen closet, as well as a large amount of synthetic marijuana-some packaged for sale-and digital scales located inside a kitchen cabinet. Id. at 12, 14-15. Welch was arrested for probable cause-weapons and probable cause-narcotics. Id. at 15. At the time of his arrest, Welch was wearing his hair in long braids. Id. at 24; Def.'s Mot. Franks Hr'g Ex. B.

         After Welch had been arrested and handcuffed, Officer Werner interviewed him in one of the bedrooms. Hr'g Tr. at 15, 23, 28. The interview began with Officer Werner advising Welch of his Miranda rights and Welch agreeing to speak with him. Id. at 16-17. During the interview, which was audio recorded, [1] Officer Werner asked, “You're a felon, correct, so you're not ...

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