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United States v. Ahlers

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 18, 2013



KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.


Defendant, Marlene Marie Ahlers, is charged with possession of firearms by a prohibited person in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3). Ahlers moves to suppress "all things seized" pursuant to a search warrant executed on her residence on November 27, 2012. The motion was referred to United States Magistrate Judge John Simko for a report and recommendation.

A hearing on Ahlers' motion to suppress was held before Magistrate Judge Simko on November 1, 2013. Nick Cook, a narcotics detective with the Sioux Falls Police Department and the officer whose affidavit served as the basis for the search warrant, testified. Detective Cook's affidavit and the search warrant were received in evidence. Based upon the testimony and exhibits received at the hearing, Magistrate Judge Simko issued a report and recommendation recommending that Ahlers' motion to suppress be denied because (1) there was probable cause to issue a search warrant because the informants corroborated each other and the information was confirmed by independent law enforcement investigation; and (2) alternatively, the Leon good faith exception applies. Ahlers objects to the report and recommendation's conclusion that probable cause existed. For the following reasons, the court adopts the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Simko and denies Ahlers' motion to suppress.


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the court should make a de novo review "of those portions of the [magistrate judge's] report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Accord United States v. Benitez , 244 F.App'x 64, 66 (8th Cir. 2007) ("If a party objects to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation with respect to a dispositive matter, the district court judge must conduct a de novo review of the disputed portion of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation."). Similarly, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 59 classifies a motion to suppress evidence as a dispositive motion that requires de novo review. Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(1), (3). De novo review in the context of reviewing a magistrate judge's report and recommendation does not require a new evidentiary hearing and only means a district court "give[s] fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made by a party." United States v. Raddatz , 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980) (internal quotations and citations omitted). The court has conducted a de novo review.


The pertinent facts are as follows:

On May 9, 2012, Sioux Falls police received an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers that a man named Troy Sorensen was in possession of methamphetamine. The caller provided Sorensen's address. On August 18, 2012, Crime Stoppers received a second anonymous call. This caller reported that Scott Howlett and a man named Leroy were involved in burglary activity, that Howlett is friends with Ahlers, that Howlett, Leroy, and Ahlers are all heavy methamphetamine users, and that Ahlers' current methamphetamine supplier was named Troy. The second caller also noted that Ahlers had previously been arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine on her property. Crime Stoppers received a third anonymous call on September 9, 2012, in which the caller reported that Sorensen was dealing methamphetamine and that Ahlers was an associate of Sorensen.

On October 2, 2012, Detective Cook and others conducted surveillance of a home belonging to Wayne Taylor that had been linked to drug activity. That night, officers stopped Taylor after he left his residence for an equipment violation. During the stop, police seized a syringe which was later found to contain methamphetamine. On October 3, 2012, police again conducted surveillance of Taylor's residence and saw two vehicles leave. One of the vehicles traveled towards Ahlers' residence. Although Detective Cook testified at the evidentiary hearing that he did not personally see the vehicle pull into the driveway at Ahlers' residence due to the darkness and the fact that police had to follow at a substantial distance in such a rural setting, the vehicle traveling from Taylor's residence slowed as it approached Ahlers' residence before disappearing behind a hill, and afterward the only vehicle in Ahlers' driveway was a red truck registered to Ahlers.

On October 11, 2012, a vehicle was stopped after leaving Taylor's residence. Police found drug paraphernalia and two stolen firearms. Detective Cook assisted in an interview of the occupant of the vehicle. The occupant described the drug activity taking place at Taylor's residence. Additionally, the occupant identified an unmarked photograph of Sorensen as a man named Troy, and an unmarked photograph of Ahlers as a woman whose name began with "M." The occupant stated that the two individuals he identified in the photos brought methamphetamine to Taylor's residence and that he had seen them there with methamphetamine in the past. In a separate traffic stop that same day, Sorensen was pulled over after he left Taylor's residence, but nothing was found during that stop.

Detective Cook and another officer conducted surveillance of Ahlers' residence on November 14, 2012. While police stopped a vehicle leaving the residence for an equipment violation, one of the occupants threw an object from the vehicle's window. Detective Cook retrieved the object, which turned out to be a small bag of methamphetamine. Detective Cook observed an interview with the front-seat passenger who had thrown the methamphetamine from the vehicle. The passenger reported using methamphetamine with Ahlers at Ahlers' residence on November 14, 2012, that Sorensen had provided methamphetamine to Ahlers and other at Ahlers' residence, and that Ahlers had provided methamphetamine in the past in exchange for work done at her house. The passenger also described Sorensen's truck.

Based on that information, Detective Cook applied for a search warrant for Ahlers' residence. Judge William Srstka, a circuit court judge for the Second Judicial District of South Dakota, ...

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