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United States v. Reuer

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

March 4, 2019

NATHAN REUER, Defendant.




         Defendant Nathan Reuer was brought into federal custody on a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum on January 24, 2019. (Docket 5). The writ was supported by a criminal complaint and affidavit, alleging defendant imported methamphetamine, fentanyl and heroin. (Docket 1). Defendant made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann on January 25, where she temporarily ordered him detained. (Dockets 7 & 10). The magistrate judge held a detention hearing on February 4 pursuant to the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3141 et seq. (Docket 20). At the conclusion of the hearing, the magistrate judge found a serious risk defendant would endanger the safety of the community and ordered him detained pending trial. (Docket 22). On February 5, a grand jury indicted defendant on three counts of importing controlled substances (methamphetamine, fentanyl, and a mixture of heroin and fentanyl) and one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin. (Docket 23). Defendant now appeals the magistrate judge's detention order to this court. For the reasons given below, the court denies defendant's appeal.[1]


         I. Facts

         The factual recitation given here is based on the allegations in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint and the evidence presented before the magistrate judge at defendant's detention hearing. The court well understands that new evidence may emerge as the case progresses. This factual recitation is necessarily incomplete because of the early stage of the case. It does not bind the magistrate judge or the court in any factfinding endeavors that may be undertaken in response to future motions.

         Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Nicholas Saroff (“SA Saroff”) was informed by Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) in Detroit, Michigan, that numerous small packages from Canada and China were being shipped to defendant at his home in Rapid City, South Dakota. (Docket 1-1 at p. 2). The packages raised suspicion because they appeared to fit into a larger trend of small, unobtrusive packages containing controlled substances, including methamphetamine and fentanyl, being shipped from fictitious addresses in Canada and China. Id. In late December of 2018 and early January of 2019, four packages addressed to defendant were intercepted. Id. at pp. 3-6. Three of the four packages contained substances which tested positive for fentanyl. Id. The fourth contained a substance which tested positive for methamphetamine. Id. at p. 4.

         SA Saroff obtained a search warrant for defendant's person, vehicle, and common areas of his residence, along with his bedroom or personal spaces. Id. at p. 6; Docket 27 at p. 4. Defendant lived with his parents and the search warrant did not permit officers to search portions of the home primarily used by defendant's parents. Officers executed the search on January 23 and recovered at least 800 grams of synthetic substances similar to MDMA (also known as ecstasy) and bath salts. (Docket 27 at pp. 6-8). At the detention hearing, SA Saroff testified the chemist testing these synthetic substances found “they had the markers of . . . illicit and illegal substances.” Id. at p. 25. Officers also recovered a scale, unknown pills, steroid-like substances, needles, droppers containing unknown liquids, tubes for snorting substances, mailing boxes, and labels. Id. at pp. 6-9. Finally, they observed five one-kilogram packages of kratom, a legal substance that defendant's mother believed defendant used as a bodybuilding supplement.[2] Id. at pp. 25-26. The urine sample taken from defendant tested positive for methamphetamine, opiates and THC. SA Saroff did not specify if the test showed use of a particular opioid.

         In one of defendant's rooms, officers found an active computer with a Tor browser open. SA Saroff described a Tor browser as a “gateway to the dark web” that “allows a user to anonymously utilize the internet to obtain goods or services . . . for nefarious purposes.”[3] Id. at p. 11; Docket 1-1 at p. 6. Officers also discovered evidence of four Bitcoin accounts on the computer.[4] (Docket 27 at p. 11). Following the search, officers continued to intercept packages sent to defendant. Id. at p. 13. The latest item intercepted prior to the detention hearing was a letter from Canada containing heroin laced with fentanyl seized on February 1. Id. at p. 10.

         The United States Probation Office recommended defendant be released on his own recognizance with conditions of release. (Docket 6 at pp. 3-4). The proposed conditions of release largely concerned substance use and treatment. Id. at p. 4. The conditions did not concern computer or mail use. Defendant asks the court to vacate the detention order and adopt the Probation Office's recommended conditions of release. (Docket 28 at pp. 8-9). He also notes the court can fashion conditions of release involving a ban on internet use or the use of an internet monitoring program. (Docket 31 at pp. 4-5). Defendant proposes to reside with his parents. (Docket 25 at p. 2). His parents submitted affidavits stating they would allow defendant to reside with them, had no criminal history and would report violations of any release conditions. (Dockets 18 & 19).

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal standards

          “If a person is ordered detained by a magistrate judge . . . . the person may file, with the court having original jurisdiction over the offense, a motion for revocation or amendment of the order. The motion shall be determined promptly.” 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). A district court's review of a detention order entered by a magistrate judge “should proceed de novo.” United States v. Maull, 773 F.2d 1479, 1481 (8th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

To engage in a meaningful de novo review, the district court must have available the options open to the magistrate. . . . Only after determining that release upon personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond will not reasonably assure appearance or will endanger the safety of others ...

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