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United States v. Cureton

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 6, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MARCUS CURETON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         For the reasons stated on the record at this Court's February 28, 2017 hearing, and further explained in the Memorandum Order dated March 1, 2017 (ECF No. 139), Counts 14, 15 & 16 of the Indictment as to Defendant Marcus Cureton (“Cureton”) have now been severed from the remaining counts in this case. Cureton will proceed to trial on Counts 14, 15 & 16 alone on March 20, 2017.[1] Currently pending before this Court is Cureton's Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized Pursuant to Search Warrants (ECF No. 108). At this Court's hearing, Defense counsel verified on the record that, with respect to Count 14, 15 & 16[2], Cureton seeks only to suppress evidence seized pursuant to the following five warrants:

1. A December 10, 2015 Search Warrant for Information Associated with Cellular Telephone Number 443-416-0378, a Number Attributed to Cureton (ECF No. 114-26), Issued by United States Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan of this Court;
2. A December 18, 2015 Search & Tracking Warrant for Cellular Telephone Number 443-416-0378 (ECF No. 114-22), Issued by United States Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner of this Court;
3. A December 22, 2015 Search Warrant to Search Cureton's Home at 1420 Pennsylvania Avenue, Apartment 102, Baltimore, Maryland 21217 (ECF No. 114-27), Issued by United States Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner of this Court;
4. A Series of December 30, 2015 Search Warrants for Six Cellular Telephones Seized During the Search of Cureton's Home (ECF No. 114-28), Issued by United States Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson of this Court; and
5. A February 9, 2016 Search Warrant Authorizing Collection of a DNA Sample from Cureton (ECF No. 114-29), Issued by United States Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan of this Court.[3]

         Specifically, Cureton contends that “the warrants fail to allege sufficient probable cause that evidence of a crime would be found within the apartment and cell phone or sufficient probable cause that his person or his whereabouts should have been tracked and searched.” Mot., p. 2, ECF No. 108. He further claims that the “warrants also fail to establish a sufficient nexus between alleged criminal conduct and the place to be searched.” Id. At the February 28, 2017 hearing, counsel indicted to this Court the Defendant's intent to rest on the pleadings with respect to this Motion. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, this Court finds that no further hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant Marcus Cureton's Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized Pursuant to Search Warrants (ECF No. 108) is DENIED as to all five warrants. All five warrants challenged by Cureton were constitutionally valid and supported by probable cause. Cureton's Motion remains pending as to any additional warrants he may seek to challenge in connection with Counts 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 & 17 of the Indictment, the remaining counts against Cureton that shall be scheduled for a separate trial.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. The Supreme Court of the United States “has required that the existence of probable cause be decided by a neutral and detached magistrate whenever possible.” Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 112 (1975) (citing Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14 (1948)). “An affidavit supporting a warrant that authorizes a search or seizure ‘must provide the magistrate with a substantial basis for determining the existence of probable cause' in light of the totality of the circumstances.” United States v. Marion, 547 F. App'x 283, 286 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 239 (1983)). To establish probable cause, “ ‘the facts presented to the magistrate need only ‘warrant a [person] of reasonable caution' to believe that evidence of a crime will be found.' ” Id. (quoting United States v. Williams, 974 F.2d 480, 481 (4th Cir. 1992) (per curiam)).

         The Fourth Amendment further “requires a sufficient nexus between the criminal conduct, items to be seized, and the place to be searched.” United States v. Abraham, 213 F. App'x 240, 247 (4th Cir. 2007) (citing United States v. Anderson, 851 F.2d 727, 729 (4th Cir. 1988)). The Fourth Circuit has held “that a sufficient nexus can exist between a defendant's criminal conduct and his residence even when the affidavit supporting the warrant ‘contains no factual assertions directly linking the items sought to the defendant's residence.' ” United States v. Grossman, 400 F.3d 212, 217 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v. Servance, 394 F.3d 222, 230 (4th Cir. 2005)). “[T]he nexus between the place to be searched and the items to be seized may be established by the nature of the item and the normal inferences of where one would likely keep such evidence.” Anderson, 851 F.2d at 729. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that “ ‘a magistrate's assessment of the facts when making a determination of probable cause” should be afforded “ ‘great deference.' ” Id.

         ANALYSIS

         I. This Court will Not Conduct a Franks Hearing as to the Challenged Warrants

         Under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), a defendant “may obtain an evidentiary hearing concerning the veracity of the statements in an affidavit in support of a search warrant.” United States v. Wilford, 961 F.Supp.2d 740, 773 (D. Md. 2013). Counsel for Cureton indicated to this Court on the record at the February 28, 2017 hearing that Cureton does not seek a Franks hearing with respect to the affidavits supporting the five challenged warrants. As some of the defendants in this case had requested a Franks hearing, this Court notes that there is no basis to conduct a Franks hearing in this case. A criminal defendant is only entitled to a Franks hearing if he can both make a “substantial preliminary showing” that the affiant made a false statement in the affidavit “knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, ” and also show that the false statement itself was necessary to the determination of probable cause. Franks, 438 U.S. at 155-56. “The defendant carries a heavy burden in showing that a Franks hearing is necessary.” United States v. Tyson, 462 F. App'x. 402, 408 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). This showing must be “more than conclusory” and must be accompanied by a detailed offer of proof. United States v. Colkley, 899 F.2d ...


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