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United States v. Stachowiak

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
1. THOMAS DANIEL STACHOWIAK, Defendant.

          Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, 300 S. 4th Street, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55415, counsel for the government

          Shannon R. Elkins, Assistant Federal Defender, Office of the Federal Defender, 300 S. 4th Street, Suite 107, Minneapolis, MN 55415, counsel for Thomas Stachowiak

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KATHERINE MENENDEZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The government has charged Thomas Daniel Stachowiak with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and other related crimes. This matter is before the Court on Mr. Stachowiak's Motion to Suppress Search and Seizure. [ECF No. 51.][1] The Court held a hearing on the motion on January 31, 2019, received several items into evidence, heard testimony from Stearns County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Johnson (“Deputy Johnson”), and granted the parties' requests to submit post-hearing briefing. [Mins. of Hr'g, ECF No. 57.] For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that the motion to suppress be denied.

         Background

         The factual record relevant to Mr. Stachowiak's motion to suppress includes: (1) Minnesota State court orders from March and April 2018 authorizing, among other things, GPS tracking of the phones associated with two cellular phone numbers [Gov't Exs. 1 (“Ex. 1”) & 2 (“Ex. 2”)]; (2) a September 14, 2018 traffic stop, which involved the search of Mr. Stachowiak's vehicle and ended in his arrest [Gov't Ex. 7 (“Ex. 7”)]; and (3) the testimony provided by Deputy Johnson at the January 31, 2019 hearing regarding the September 18th traffic stop and search of Mr. Stachowiak's vehicle.[2] In general, Mr. Stachowiak argues that law enforcement failed to comply with constitutional requirements when they obtained the March 7th and the April 18th tracking orders for two cellular phone numbers. He also argues that the September 14, 2018 traffic stop was unlawful, and contends that any evidence obtained as a result of that stop must be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree.

         March 7, 2018 Tracking Order

         On March 7, 2018, Saint Paul Police Department Officer Clay Johnson (“Officer Johnson”) applied for an Order authorizing the installation and use of a pen register, trap and trace device, and an electronic tracking device (including GPS location and real-time data) on a mobile telephone number ending in 3856. [Ex. 1.] The application also sought stored voice messages, SMS and MMS data, cell site activations, numbers dialed, and other information. [Ex. 1 at 1.] With respect to the tracking device, the application requests the following: “Provide a ‘Locator Tool which uses Precision Location and GPS, based on Probable Cause.'” [Ex. 1 at 1.] Officer Johnson sought this information for a period of 60 days after the Order was issued. [Ex. 1 at 1.]

         In his affidavit supporting the application, Officer Johnson stated that he was investigating Thomas Stachowiak “for selling methamphetamine in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area.” [Ex. 1 at 2.] He certified that Mr. Stachowiak was using a cell phone with a number ending in 3856 in connection with the sale of methamphetamine and that “information likely to be obtained from a pen register, trap and trance, and electronic tracking device is relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation.” [Id. at 2.]

         Officer Johnson then indicated that he “relie[d] upon the following additional facts and circumstances for probable cause in applying for this Order....” [Ex. 1 at 3.] He indicated that he received information from a confidential reliable informant (“CRI”) in February of 2018. [Id. at 3.] The CRI told Officer Johnson that a man named “Tommy (last name starting with an S) was a multi-pound methamphetamine dealer in the St. Paul Metro area.” [Id. at 3.] The CRI linked the target to several addresses on the east side of St. Paul, but said that Tommy S. lived in a house near Stillwater, MN. [Id. at 3.] Officer Johnson set up surveillance at one of the addresses in east St. Paul and “located a vehicle that [was] listed to a female” with a Forest Street address in St. Paul. [Id. at 3.] Officer Johnson recalled that in a previous investigation in 2017, a confidential informant said that Thomas Stachowiak was trafficking narcotics and that he had once stayed at the Forest Street address. [Id. at 3.] Officer Johnson sent an unmarked 2016 photograph of Mr. Stachowiak to the CRI, who confirmed that the photo was of Tommy S. that the CRI previously identified as selling methamphetamine in St. Paul. [Ex. 1 at 3.]

         Officer Johnson ran a criminal-history check on Mr. Stachowiak, turning up two felony drug convictions from 2001 and 2017. [Ex. 1 at 3.] Near the end of February 2018, he spoke with a different confidential informant who also identified Mr. Stachowiak from an unmarked 2016 photograph. [Ex. 1 at 3-4.] This informant indicated that Mr. Stachowiak “was a multi-pound methamphetamine dealer and stated that he “stayed in Stillwater, MN.” [Ex. 1 at 4.] Sergeant Mike Meyer of the St. Paul Police Department's Narcotics Unit told Officer Johnson that Mr. Stachowiak was “a known narcotics dealer in the St. Paul area” and provided the 3856 cell phone number as one that Sgt. Meyer had “obtained from a breach of trust report taken in St. Paul” related to Mr. Stachowiak. [Ex. 1 at 4.] The 3856 number linked to Mr. Stachowiak's public Facebook profile, but no subscriber information was available for the number when Officer Johnson ran it through police databases. [Ex. 1 at 4.] Officer Johnson noted that this was consistent with “a tactic often utilized by narcotic traffickers as a means to avoid detection from law enforcement.” [Ex. 1 at 4.]

         Within the three days prior to Officer Johnson's phone tracking application, he spoke with the first CRI who stated that Mr. Stachowiak had recently rented a vehicle and traveled to Las Vegas to pick up a large quantity of methamphetamine to transport back to St. Paul. [Ex. 1 at 4.] The CRI stated that the vehicle had been rented from Alamo Car Rental. [Ex. 1 at 4.] Officer Johnson corroborated that Mr. Stachowiak had rented a vehicle “from the Alamo Car Rental in Blaine MN, on a day to day rental....” [Ex. 1 at 4.] Mr. Stachowiak provided the 3856 phone number to Alamo for the vehicle rental. [Ex. 1 at 4.]

         Based on this information, Officer Johnson stated that he believed that the 3856 phone number was “being used as a means to communicate in an effort to traffic large amounts of narcotics.” [Ex. 1 at 4.] On March 7, 2018, a Ramsey County District Court Judge[3] signed the application and the requested Order. [Ex. 1 at 6, 9.] In the Order, the issuing judge found:

on the basis of the information submitted by [Officer Johnson] that there is probable cause to believe that the information likely to be obtained by [installation of a pen register, trap and trace device, and electronic tracking device] is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation and possible violation(s) by Thomas Danie Stachowiak ... for facilitating the distribution of methamphetamine in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

[Ex. 1 at 7.] The Order authorized the installation of these investigative tools on the cell phone with the number ending in 3856 for a period of 60 days. [Id.]

         April 18, 2018 Tracking Order

         Officer Johnson applied for a similar Order authorizing the installation of a pen register, trap and trace device, and electronic tracking device on another cellular phone on April 18, 2018. [Ex. 2.] This application concerned a phone number ending in 1231, and it too asked that the Order “[p]rovide a ‘Locator Tool which uses Precision Location and GPS, based on Probable Cause.'” [Ex. 2 at 1.] Like the March 7th Application, Officer Johnson indicated that the “facts and circumstances” described in his affidavit were being relied upon for a showing of “probable cause.” [Ex. 2 at 3.]

         Officer Johnson's April 18th application for the 1231 number includes much of the same information presented in the March 7th application. For example, Officer Johnson repeats the CRI's information regarding a man named Tommy S., and explains how the CRI identified this individual as Mr. Stachowiak from an unmarked photograph. [Ex. 2 at 3.] Officer Johnson also repeated information about checking Mr. Stachowiak's criminal history and his recollection of Mr. Stachowiak's relationship to a previous narcotics investigation that corroborated details of the information obtained from the CRI. [Ex. 2 at 3.]

         The application further states that Officer Johnson spoke to a confidential informant at the end of February 2018. [Ex. 2 at 3-4.] Officer Johnson identifies the confidential informant as “CI #1” and states this individual was shown an unmarked 2016 photograph of Mr. Stachowiak, identified him, and stated that he was a multi-pound methamphetamine dealer. [Ex. 2 at 3-4.] “CI #1 also said that Stachowiak stayed in Stillwater MN and utilized the phone number [ending in]1231.” [Ex. 2 at 4.] Following up on this information, Officer Johnson spoke with the original CRI, who said that Mr. Stachowiak was then using the phone number ending in 1231 to conduct his narcotics business. [Ex. 2 at 4.] This phone number was listed to “Tomm Johnson” in police databases. [Ex. 2 at 4.] Officer Johnson stated that based on his training and experience, “it is common for narcotic traffickers to utilize a fictitious name in an effort to avoid detection from law enforcement.” [Ex. 2 at 4.] The CRI also told Officer Johnson that Mr. Stachowiak had been using a “‘Latin King' drug connection to obtain his methamphetamine.” [Ex. 2 at 4.]

         Officer Johnson spoke to Officer S. Longen of the St. Paul Police Department's Narcotics Unit in the middle of April 2018. [Ex. 2 at 4.] Officer Longen told Officer Johnson that he spoke with a confidential informant (“CI #2”) who knew Mr. Stachowiak and knew he used the number ending in 1231. [Ex. 2 at 4.] CI #2 also said that Mr. Stachowiak was a “high level methamphetamine dealer” and that Mr. Stachowiak used a Latin King drug connection to obtain methamphetamine. [Ex. 2 at 4.] This same informant identified Mr. Stachowiak from a photograph. [Ex. 2 at 4.]

         Based on the information in Officer Johnson's second application, Ramsey County District Judge Richard Kyle signed the application and the Order for the 1231 phone on April 18, 2018. [Ex. 2 at 6, 9.] In the April 18th Order, Judge Kyle found:

that there is probable cause to believe that the information likely to be obtained by [installation of a pen register, trap and trace device, and electronic tracking device] is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation and possible violation(s) by Thomas Danie Stachowiak ... for facilitating the distribution of methamphetamine in the Twin Cities metropolitan area

[Ex. 2 at 7.] The April 18th Order also authorized the installation of these investigative tools for a period of 60 days. [Ex. 2 at 7.]

         September 14, 2018 Traffic Stop

         On September 14, 2018, Deputy Adam Johnson was on patrol in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. [Tr. of Jan. 31, 2019 Hr'g (“Tr.”) 14:9-10, ECF No. 64.] Deputy Johnson is a K-9 officer, and with him that day was his canine partner, Jax. [Tr. 13:12-25, 14:24- 25.] Deputy Johnson was in a marked Sheriff's Department vehicle and he was in uniform. [Tr. 15:7-17.] While on patrol just after midnight, he saw a black Dodge pickup truck parked near the front door at a Holiday gas station. [Tr. 15:19-16:4, 16:21-23.] Deputy Johnson ran the plate number of the Dodge pickup and the registered owner's status came back as “revoked, ” meaning that the registered owner's license was not ...


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