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United States v. Chapman

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 14, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Justin Thomas Chapman, Defendant.

          Alexander D. Chiquoine and Manda M. Sertich, Assistant United States Attorneys, (for the Government);

          Manvir K. Atwal, Assistant Federal Defender, (for Defendant).



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements, Admissions and Answers, (ECF No. 33), and Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained as a Result of Search and Seizure, (ECF No. 34). These motions have been referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation under 28 U.S.C. § 636 and D. Minn. LR 72.1.

         A hearing was held on January 3, 2019. (ECF No. 45). For Defendant's challenge to two search warrants, the Court received into evidence: an August 2, 2018 search warrant for a residence, truck, and email account, No. 18-mj-679-HB, (Gov't Ex. A); and a September 28, 2018 search warrant for a residence in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, No. 18-mj-817-BRT, (Gov't Ex. B). No. testimony or further argument was presented on this motion and it was submitted on the briefing. (ECF Nos. 34, 35). With respect to Defendant's motion to suppress statements, the Court received into evidence: photographs taken during an August 10, 2018 search, (Gov't Exs. 1-7); an audio recording of Defendant's questioning by law enforcement, (Gov't Ex. 8); and a completed FD-1086 Form from the FBI, (Gov't Ex. 9). The Court heard testimony from one witness, FBI Special Agent Robert Blackmore. (January 3, 2019 Motion Hearing Tr. 8:1-49:19, ECF No. 44).

         Post-hearing briefing is complete, (ECF Nos. 47, 48), and these motions are ripe for a determination by the Court. Based upon all the files, records, and proceedings herein, the undersigned recommends that Defendant's motions be denied.


         A. Findings of Fact

         1. The Investigation

         In June 2017, the website chatango contacted the FBI in San Francisco, reporting that users were opening chat rooms where they shared images and videos of child pornography or links thereto. (Tr. 8:20-9:4, 35:14-18). Investigation showed the moderator of one of the suspected chat rooms was a user called “kummer22.” (Tr. 9:6- 20). Responding to administrative subpoenas, chatango provided the IP address for “kummer22, ” which ultimately traced back to a residence in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. (Tr. 9:6-20). The FBI learned that Defendant Justin Thomas Chapman and his parents lived at the Brooklyn Center home. (Tr. 9:21-10:1). On August 2, 2018, law enforcement obtained a warrant to search the Brooklyn Center home. (Tr. 10:2-8; Gov't Ex. A).

         2. The Entry and Search of Chapman's Residence

         At 7:28 a.m. on August 10, 2018, law enforcement executed the search warrant. (Tr. 10:9-12). The law enforcement team comprised of eight FBI agents, a uniformed Brooklyn Center Police Department sergeant, [1] and four or five FBI administrative personnel. (Tr. 12:21-14:14, 36:20-37:3, 37:23-38:2). SA Blackmore was wearing body armor underneath a shirt, with a vest over top that had law enforcement markings. (Tr. 19:19-20:4). The accompanying sworn agents were similarly dressed in bulletproof vests with law enforcement markings and badges. (Tr. 37:4-22).

         Law enforcement approached the front entrance of the Chapman residence and opened the screen door. (Tr. 11:1-16; see Gov't Ex. 1). Law enforcement then knocked on the front door “several times for approximately two to three minutes, ” announcing their presence. (Tr. 11:1-16). There was no answer. (Tr. 11:1-16). SA Blackmore ordered the front door breached. (Tr. 11:1-16). A law enforcement member used a ram to hit the front door. (Tr. 11:1-16, 36:4-15). One of the door panels gave way, revealing a person's arm holding the door shut. (Tr. 11:1-16). Law enforcement continued to announce their presence. (Tr. 11:1-16). The person inside “backed off” and law enforcement gained entry into the home. (Tr. 11:1-16).

         Once inside, law enforcement encountered Chapman's mother. (Tr. 11:17-12:4, 36:4-15). SA Blackmore asked her if Chapman was present. (Tr. 11:17-12:4, 36:4-15). She indicated Chapman was downstairs in his bedroom. (Tr. 11:17-12:4). Law enforcement conducted a security sweep of the residence, with SA Blackmore and several other officers going downstairs for Chapman. (Tr. 11:17-12:4; see Gov't Ex. 2). Once downstairs, law enforcement called for Chapman to exit his room. (Tr. 11:17-12:4, 15:11-16; see Gov't Ex. 3). Law enforcement directed Chapman to exit his bedroom, walk backwards towards them, and put his hands behind his back. (Tr. 39:20-40:15). Chapman complied and was handcuffed. (Tr. 11:17-12:4, 15:17-16:2, 39:20-40:15).

         During the time approaching the residence through completing the security sweep, law enforcement's weapons were drawn. (Tr. 12:5-20, 37:8-9, 39:14-19). While Chapman was called out of his bedroom, law enforcement pointed their weapons at him. (Tr. 12:5-20, 39:14-19). The FBI administrative personnel, unlike the FBI agents and Brooklyn Center police, were unarmed. (Tr. 13:10-17). Once the security sweep was completed, law enforcement holstered their weapons. (Tr. 14:16-21).

         3. The Interview of Chapman

         Before the interview began, SA Blackmore told Chapman he was not under arrest, that law enforcement wanted to speak with him, and that “as soon as the premises was secure, the handcuffs would come off.” (Tr. 17:23-18:2). Chapman appeared nervous, but stated that he understood. (Tr. 18:3-5). This unrecorded portion of the conversation lasted “a couple of minutes.” (Tr. 18:6-8). Chapman's handcuffs were removed. (Tr. 19:13-15).

         SA Blackmore, accompanied by FBI Special Agent Amanda Knez, conducted a recorded interview of Chapman. (Tr. 17:4-22, 18:9-17; Gov't Ex. 8). The interview occurred in the basement. (Tr. 18:18-23; Gov't Exs. 4-7). Chapman was on a dark- colored couch next to its left-side armrest, SA Blackmore was to Chapman's left in a brown chair, and SA Knez was in a rolling office chair across from Chapman. (Tr. 18:24- 19:9, 41:18-22; Gov't Exs. 4-6). SA Blackmore and SA Knez were seated such that they did not block Chapman's access to the stairway leading upstairs from the basement. (Tr. 19:10-12; see Gov't Exs. 4-7). SA Blackmore was wearing body armor underneath a shirt, having removed his vest with law enforcement markings. (Tr. 19:19-20:4, 41:23- 42:10). SA Blackmore untucked his shirt to conceal his weapon. (Tr. 19:19-20:13).

         As soon as SA Blackmore turned on the audio recorder, Chapman asked to grab a drink out of a nearby refrigerator. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:06-00:24).[2] There is no audible response to Chapman's request, but the audio recording contains sounds of footsteps followed by a door closing, then SA Blackmore says “there you go” with Chapman responding “thank you” and a can being opened. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:06-00:24). SA Blackmore testified Chapman was not permitted to retrieve the drink himself and someone else grabbed it for him. (Tr. 45:7-46:2; see Tr. 22:3-6, 34:14-16, 45:7-46:2).

         SA Blackmore identified himself and showed his FBI identification. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:24-00:32). SA Blackmore stated law enforcement had a search warrant and, “like [he] said a few minutes ago, ” Chapman was not under arrest and the handcuffs were for safety purposes. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:28-00:45). Chapman stated he understood. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:28-00:45). SA Blackmore stated he had no intention to arrest Chapman or anyone in the residence. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:45-00:57).

         SA Blackmore told Chapman he would like to ask some questions but he did not have to answer if he did not want to, and it was “completely up to [him].” (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:57-01:07; Tr. 20:14-21:7, 33:4-34:24). Chapman responded that he did not “know what this is about.” (Gov't Ex. 8, at 00:57-01:07). SA Blackmore repeated that Chapman was free to leave, noting law enforcement had a search warrant for the house, a truck, and Chapman's person. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 01:07-01:35; Tr. 20:14-21:7, 33:4-34:24). Chapman again suggested he did not understand what was going on, with SA Blackmore saying “we'll get in to everything.” (Gov't Ex. 8, at 01:23-01:33). SA Blackmore again stated that law enforcement would like to ask Chapman questions, but that Chapman did not have to talk. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 01:33-01:35; Tr. 20:14-21:7, 33:4-34:24).

         SA Blackmore asked Chapman if he was willing to answer some questions, indicating Chapman could pick and choose the questions he answered. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 01:35-01:45; Tr. 20:14-21:7, 33:4-34:24). Chapman responded that “it depends on the questions, ” which was “fine” with SA Blackmore. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 01:35-01:45; Tr. 20:14-21:7, 33:4-34:24). After going through some biographical information, SA Blackmore told Chapman “what we're here for has to do with computers.” (Gov't Ex. 8, at 02:20-02:32). SA Blackmore asked Chapman to describe who used which computers or internet devices in the home. (Gov't Ex. 8, at 02:20-02:32). Chapman responded: “I don't want to say right now.” (Gov't Ex. 8, at 02:20-02:32; Tr. 22:7-13). SA Blackmore asked Chapman what email addresses he uses, with ...

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