United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MICHAEL JOHN ALOI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter before the undersigned is pursuant to Defendant Rocky
Douglas Idleman's “Motion to Suppress, ”
filed on November 13, 2017. (ECF No 335). The United States
of America through Assistant United States Attorney, Stephen
D. Warner, filed a response to Defendant's motion on
December 11, 2017. (ECF No. 351). A hearing on this matter
was held before the undersigned on December 20, 2017.
Rocky Douglas Idleman was indicted by a grand jury attending
the United States District Court for the Northern District of
West Virginia on September 6, 2017, charging him with
conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of
methamphetamine, and three counts of unlawful possession of a
firearm, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. §§
922(g)(1) and 924 and Title 21 U.S.C., §§
841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), 841(b)(C), and 846 . (ECF No. 6).
Defendant was subsequently arraigned and detained pending
the December 20, 2017, suppression hearing, the Court heard
testimony from the following four Government witness: Gene
Smithson, with the Mountain Region Drug Task Force
(hereinafter “MRDTF”), special agent with the
U.S. Forest Service, and deputized with the DEA; Agent Steve
Worthy from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives (ATF); Officer Dave Frasier, also from the U.S.
Forest Service and Tyler Gordon, from the Upshur County
Sherriff s Office.
evidence offered at the hearing established that on April 17,
2017, Randolph County emergency services contacted the MRDTF
informing the unit that it had received a 911 call from an
individual who expressed that the individual was scared and
that Idleman was using the individual's residence as a
“stash house”. The caller became the confidential
informant (hereinafter “CI”) in this case. MRDTF
Agent Smithson originally followed up with the CI via
telephone, thereafter ATF Agents Steve Worthy and Greg Perry
went to the CI's home, and spoke with the CI who reported
that Idleman was using CI's residence to store drugs and
firearms and that the CI scared. The CI further informed the
agents that the CI had been obtaining methamphetamine from
Idleman and agreed to make a controlled drug purchase from
him. Upon Agent Smithson's instruction, and while in his
and the ATF agents' presence, the CI called Idleman to
set up the controlled buy.
agents reviewed the pre-buy procedures with the CI, giving
the CI $300 of marked bills, and equipping the CI with a
recording device. Prior to Idleman's arrival, the
agents conducted a searched of the CI, the CI's vehicle
and the CI's residence. No illegal drugs or drug
paraphernalia was found. However, three firearms were found,
two the CI had previously disclosed as allegedly belonging to
Idleman and the other belonging to the CI. The agents
continued to conduct surveillance on the CI's home and
ultimately witnessed Idleman arrive, enter the CI's home,
and eventually leave. Within minutes of Idleman's
departure, Agent Smithson entered the CI's home and
retrieved from the CI, methamphetamine and other drug
paraphernalia. The CI informed Agent Smithson that the CI had
purchased methamphetamine from Idleman and that he was
carrying a handgun.
local police officers that were conducting surveillance for
Idleman's vehicle sighted the vehicle and conducted a
traffic stop and a K-9 sniff. The K-9 sniff resulted in a
hit. Officers subsequently searched the vehicle and found
marijuana, methamphetamine, three firearms and the $300
marked purchase money.
of the Parties
asserts that the evidence seized from Defendant and the
vehicle in which he was traveling on April 17, 2017, should
be suppressed, arguing that the officers (1) did not have
probable cause to stop the vehicle and (2) were not
authorized to detain Defendant's vehicle for a K-9
search. (ECF No. 335 at 2). During the suppression hearing,
Defendant further argued that the CI had not given prior
reliable information to law enforcement and therefore the
information the CI provided to the officers would be
insufficient to establish probable cause to start in motion
the string of events that lead to stopping Defendant and
searching his vehicle.
in its response, the Government contends that Defendant's
Motion to Suppress should be denied, arguing the traffic stop
was based on reasonable suspicion and probable cause that
defendant (1) had just committed a felony drug offense, (2)
was in the process of committing a felony gun offense, and
(3) was fleeing while he was in possession of evidence of
both felony offenses. (ECF No. 351 at 1). During the
suppression hearing, the Government further argued the
evidence discovered from the search of Idleman's vehicle
would have been inevitably discovered by Officer Frasier, who
testified he would have conducted a traffic stop on Idleman
had the other officers not done so for Idleman's failure
to use his turning signal.
officer may stop and briefly detain a person for
investigative purposes when there is reasonable suspicion,
based on articulable facts, that criminal activity is afoot.
Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124 (2000). When
determining whether reasonable suspicion exists, courts must
look at the totality of the circumstances, including the
information known to the officer and any reasonable
inferences to be drawn at the time of the stop. United
States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266 (2002). Tips from
informants can form the basis for reasonable suspicion if
accompanied by “specific indicia of reliability,
” which can be established through face-to-face
encounters with informants. Florida v. J.L, 529 U.S.
266, 269 (2000); U.S. v. Lawing, 703 F.3d 229, 237
(4th Cir. 2012).
it is well established that officers may search a vehicle
without a warrant if the officers have probable cause.
Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925).
“Probable cause exists where 'the facts and
circumstances within . . . the arresting officers'
knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy
information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of
reasonable caution in the belief that' an ...