United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Katharine T. Buzicky, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE,
Reynaldo A. Aligada, Jr., OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL DEFENDER, for
Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge
Alexander Blackwell has been charged with various child-
pornography offenses. Blackwell has moved to suppress (1)
physical evidence obtained as a result of a search of
Blackwell's vehicle at the Canadian border by agents of
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”); (2)
statements made by Blackwell to CBP agents on the day of the
search; and (3) statements made by Blackwell to an agent of
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”)
more than two years after the search.
matter is before the Court on Blackwell's objection to
the October 30, 2018 Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) of Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois.
Judge Brisbois recommends denying Blackwell's motions to
suppress. The Court has conducted a de novo review.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P.
59(b)(3). Based on that review, the Court overrules
Blackwell's objection, adopts the R&R, and denies the
4, 2015, Blackwell visited the International Peace Garden,
which is located on the border between the United States and
Canada near Dunseith, North Dakota. ECF No. 48 at 14-16,
21-22. In order to visit the Peace Garden, Blackwell crossed
the border into Canada-and then, following his visit, he
attempted to re-enter the United States at the Dunseith Port
of Entry. Id. at 14-22. At the Port of Entry,
Blackwell was subject to a primary inspection, during which a
CBP agent searched for Blackwell's name in various
databases and discovered that Blackwell was on probation.
Id. at 22-23, 42-44; Gov. Ex. 7. Pursuant to
Dunseith Port of Entry policies, Blackwell was required to
submit to a secondary inspection. ECF No. 48 at 22-23, 43-44.
That secondary inspection involved a search of
Blackwell's vehicle and additional questioning of
Blackwell by CBP agents. Id. at 23-24, 29-30.
both the primary and secondary inspections, Blackwell was
asked why he had visited the Peace Garden. ECF No. 48 at
26-27. Blackwell first told CBP agents that he had attended a
concert featuring his niece, who (he said) was participating
in a music camp at the Peace Garden. Id. He then
changed his story and said that he had attended a concert
featuring a friend. Id. And then he changed his
story again and said that he had attended a concert featuring
a friend's daughter. Id.
the search of Blackwell's vehicle, CBP agents found
girls' clothing and an envelope addressed to
“HLB” from “ALB” (Blackwell's
initials). ECF No. 48 at 30-31; ECF No. 65 at 11-13. Inside
the envelope,  CBP agents found a letter that began
“Hello my dearest Hailey.” ECF No. 65 at 15. CBP
agents testified that the letter “was basically a love
letter.” ECF No. 48 at 31.
agents contacted the staff at the music camp and asked if
they had a camper with the first name “Hailey”
and the initials “HLB.” ECF No. 48 at 32-33. The
staff reported that one of their juvenile campers had a
matching name and initials. Id. CBP agents decided
to detain Blackwell until he could be questioned by a DHS
agent. Id. at 33. No DHS agents were stationed at
the Dunseith Port of Entry, however, so Blackwell was told
that he would have to wait for a DHS agent to travel to the
Port of Entry. Id. at 35-36.
point, Blackwell had been detained for about an hour. ECF No.
48 at 32- 33. DHS Special Agent Randy Helderop arrived about
four and a half hours later. Id. at 65. While
Blackwell was waiting for Special Agent Helderop to arrive,
Blackwell made one noteworthy statement: After overhearing
CBP agents talking in an adjacent room about
“HLB's” identity, Blackwell spontaneously
confirmed her name when a CBP agent later checked on him.
Id. at 36.
arriving at the Dunseith Port of Entry, Special Agent
Helderop attempted to interview Blackwell, but Blackwell
refused to answer any additional questions. ECF No. 48 at
65-69. Special Agent Helderop did, however, interview HLB
that evening. Id. at 69-73. Based on her statements
and the evidence found in Blackwell's vehicle (the
girls' clothing, envelope, and letter), law-enforcement
agents obtained warrants authorizing the search of other
property owned by Blackwell. Id. at 74-78. Further
incriminating evidence was found during those searches, and
Blackwell was charged with two counts of attempted production
of child pornography, one count of production and attempted
production of child pornography, and three counts of
transferring obscene materials to minors. ECF No. 18.
was arrested on November 16, 2017 in Union, South Carolina.
ECF No. 48 at 85-86, 106. While Blackwell was being
transported from Union to Greenville, South Carolina, he was
interviewed over the phone by Special Agent Helderop.
Id. at 86-88, 106-09. Blackwell was given a
Miranda warning before he spoke to Special Agent
Helderop. Id. at 110-12; Gov. Ex. 10.
now contends that the physical evidence seized at the
border-as well as the physical evidence later seized pursuant
to the warrants-should be suppressed. Blackwell also seeks to
suppress certain statements that he made to CBP agents on
July 4, 2015, and to Special Agent Helderop on November 16,
Physical Evidence Seized During (And as a Result Of) the July
4, 2015 Border Search
main contention is that the R&R erred in finding that the
search of the envelope and letter found in his vehicle was a
“routine” border search and thus, like all
routine border searches, was “not subject to any
requirement of reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or
warrant.” United States v. Montoya de
Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 538 (1985). Blackwell contends
that the search of the envelope and letter was not routine in
light of federal statutes and regulations, Fourth Amendment
case law, and the rationale for the border-search exception
to the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, argues ...