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United States of America v. James Ladeaux

May 8, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES LADEAUX, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey L. VIKEN United States District Judge

ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS, REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, AND DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS

INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 5, 2011, law enforcement entered the residence of defendant James LaDeaux without a warrant. Due to events which occurred after the entry, the government subsequently indicted Mr. LaDeaux on one count of assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111. (Docket 1). Mr. LaDeaux timely filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of law enforcement's warrantless entry into his residence. (Docket 19). Mr. LaDeaux alleges the entry violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.*fn1 Id. The government resisted the motion. (Docket 25). Pursuant to the court's standing order and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy for resolution.

On March 14, 2012, Judge Duffy held an evidentiary hearing on the motion. (Docket 26). Judge Duffy received into evidence four exhibits and the testimony of Special Agent Justin Michael Cooper of the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA") and Officer Clayton Ten Fingers of the Pine Ridge Police Department. Following the evidentiary hearing, both parties filed supplemental briefing. (Dockets 28 & 29). On March 16, 2012, Judge Duffy issued a report recommending the court deny Mr. LaDaux's motion to suppress. (Docket 30). Judge Duffy found exigent circumstances justified law enforcement's warrantless entry into Mr. LaDeaux's residence (hereinafter "the residence") and, thus, no Fourth Amendment violation occurred. (Docket 30).

Mr. LaDeaux timely filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Docket 33). The government did not file a response to Mr. LaDeaux's objections. On May 3, 2012, Mr. LaDeaux filed a second supplemental brief. (Docket 54). On May 7, 2012, Mr. LaDeaux and the government filed additional briefs. (Dockets 55 & 56). For the reasons set forth below, the court denies Mr. LaDeaux's motion to suppress.

DISCUSSION

Because Mr. LaDeaux timely filed objections to the report and recommendation, the court reviews the record de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court thoroughly reviewed the entire record in this case, including the parties' numerous submissions (Dockets 19, 20, 25, 28, 29, 33, 54, 55, & 56), the transcript of the evidentiary hearing (Docket 31), the exhibits received into evidence at the evidentiary hearing, and the report and recommendation (Docket 30).

Mr. LaDeaux asserted numerous objections to the findings of fact and conclusion of law set out in the report and recommendation. Mr. LaDeaux specifically objected to any factual finding (1) Officer Ten Fingers was responding to a domestic violence call when he entered the residence; (2) Amy Belt*fn2 was a "victim"; (3) Mr. LaDeaux was a "suspect"; and (4) Officer Ten Fingers "was justified in reacting quickly to this situation and attempting to prevent LaDeaux from retrieving a firearm or other weapon." (Docket 33 at p. 2). Mr. LaDeaux also objected to the court's use, in resolving the suppression motion, of any information obtained after Officer Ten Fingers entered the residence. Id. at p. 3.

Mr. LaDeaux objected to the legal finding "that any evidence supported Ten Fingers' speculation that the person who slammed the residence door may retrieve a weapon." Id. at p. 4. Additionally, Mr. LaDeaux objected generally to any legal finding that exigent circumstances existed to justify Officer Ten Fingers' warrantless entry into the residence.

The court views the evidence objectively, "focusing on what a reasonable, experienced police officer would believe." United States v. Ramirez, __ F.3d __, 2012 WL 1432062 at *3 (8th Cir. April 26, 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To resolve Mr. LaDeaux's objections, the court must answer two issues: (1) whether a reasonable, experienced officer would have believed a domestic violence incident occurred; and (2) whether a reasonable, experienced officer would have believed exigent circumstances were present. The court shall address each issue in turn.

A. Whether a Reasonable, Experienced Officer Would Have Believed a Domestic Violence Incident Occurred The court adduces the following facts from the testimony and exhibits received into evidence at the suppression hearing. The court considers only those facts known to Officer Ten Fingers before his entry into the residence. The court will not consider the events which transpired after Officer Ten Fingers entered the residence as that information is irrelevant.

Officer Ten Fingers' entry into the residence occurred on September 5, 2011. Some months earlier, Officer Ten Fingers took a police report from Ms. Belt. At that time, Ms. Belt expressed fear of Mr. LaDeaux and her desire to "sign charges" and to request a security check. After this encounter, Ms. Belt did not pursue the matter further.

On September 5, 2011, at approximately 2:22 a.m., dispatch for the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety called the Pine Ridge Police Department and spoke to Officer Ten Fingers. Dispatch told Officer Ten Fingers she received a "DV" call*fn3 regarding an incident involving two intoxicated individuals at Mr. LeDeaux's pink and white trailer.*fn4 Dispatch informed Officer Ten Fingers a female told a male to leave her alone and the male was yelling at her and accusing her of cheating on him. Officer Ten Fingers immediately went to Mr. LaDeaux's residence, knocked several times, identified himself as a police officer, and asked if anyone needed help, but did not receive any response or hear any disturbance.

At approximately 3:06 a.m., dispatch received an open line call, that is, the caller did not speak directly to dispatch, but dispatch reported she could hear a female crying and screaming "leave me alone. I aint [sic] fucking fighting you . . . stay away from me." Dispatch could hear a male saying "give me that phone." (Exhibit 3). It is ...


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