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United States v. Piper

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

July 30, 2019

DUSTIN S. PIPER, Defendant.



         Before the Court is Defendant Dustin S. Piper's Motion to Suppress Evidence (Doc. 39), which has been referred to the undersigned for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Defendant Piper moves to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the search warrant issued on March 1, 2017 and executed by the Polk County Sheriff's Office (“PCSO”) on March 9, 2017. The undersigned held an evidentiary hearing on the Motion on March 19, 2019. (See Doc. 55.) Defendant Piper was present with his attorney, Donald R. Cooley, and the United States Government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Abram McGull, II. (Id.) The Court heard testimony from Ken Minica, a detective with the PCSO. (Id.) For the reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED that Defendant's Motion (Doc. 39) be DENIED.

         I. Findings of Fact [1]

         On March 1, 2017, Detective Ken Minica with the PCSO prepared an affidavit to obtain a warrant for the search of Dustin Piper's residence, outbuilding, and person for methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and other equipment commonly related to the use and distribution of methamphetamine or other controlled substances. In addition to writing the affidavit, Minica prepared the actual search warrant himself. A Polk County prosecuting attorney reviewed the affidavit and then delivered both the affidavit and warrant together to Polk County Circuit Judge John Porter who signed the warrant the same day, March 1, 2017.

         In support of the warrant, Minica's affidavit outlines information gathered from five total informants: two past “reliable informants” who are unnamed, Courtney Smith, Aaron Rhoads, and another unnamed informant who was arrested on undisclosed charges the day before the warrant application. The affidavit provides, in relevant part, the following:

In the past Polk County Detectives worked with Comet Drug Task Force Officers who used two informants who were proven reliable by conducting controlled buys from David[2] Pipper [sic]. This information resulted in the service of search warrants and the seizure of controlled substances, in particular, methamphetamine, and prosecutable felony arrests. Both of these informants had conducted controlled buys from David Piper. They told Detectives of the Polk County Sheriff's Office that David Piper gets his methamphetamine from Texas, concealed in fire extinguisher tanks. Both reliable informants also said that David Piper's son, Dustin Piper, did most of the local methamphetamine sells [sic].[3]
On 05-03-16 the Polk County Sheriff's Office along with the COMET Drug Task Force served a search warrant on David Piper's residence located at 4172 South 140th Road in Bolivar, Polk County, Missouri. Detectives found several fire extinguisher tanks cut open but were unable to locate any sizeable amount of methamphetamine. Detectives were told again that the methamphetamine was stored at Dustin Piper's residence.
In November of 2016 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) intercepted three pounds of methamphetamine intended for David Piper. David Piper was arrested and is currently out of jail on a federal bond.
Recently[4] several interviews to include Courtney Smith and Aaron Rhoads have stated that Dustin Piper sell[s] methamphetamine and is the “Big Dog” in this area. Courtney Smith advised that she waiting [sic] in the vehicle on one occasion when another subject with her brought [sic] methamphetamine from Dusty Piper.[5]
On 02-28-17, a person was arrested who wishes to remain anonymous for his/her safety. The informant said he/she had been to Dustin Pipers [sic] house within the last four days and observed a canister which contained over an estimated three pounds of methamphetamine. The informant stated he/she observed several different sizes of plastic baggies, a large digital scale and other paraphernalia items at the residence. The informant advised that he/she was at Dustin Piper's residence approximately four weeks ago and he/she observed and what he/she estimated to be over ten pounds of methamphetamine. The informant advised that he/she has been to Dustin Piper's residence over thirty times in the last year and had never been there when methamphetamine wasn't present at the residence. The informant stated that several people are in and out of the residence on a daily basis. The informant advised that Dustin Piper has lookouts and has at least two surveillance camera's [sic] along with police scanners at the residence. The informant stated that Dustin Piper has a chemical acid that is kept inside the residence to destroy methamphetamine if law enforcement show [sic] up at his residence. The informant also stated that there are guns inside the residence and Dustin Piper carries a Keltic pistol on his person at all times.
Based on several interviews of recent arrested people or potential informants, the information on proven reliable past informants, and the new information received on 02-28-17 I believe there is evidence of possession of controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia, and evidence of a public nuisance drug house at the residence of Dustin Piper. Therefore I request the issuance of a No. Knock search warrant for the residence commonly known as 4213 South 140th Road in Bolivar, Polk County Missouri to search for the above listed items.

(See Doc. 54, Gov. Ex. 1.)

         At the time of the application, Minica had been a police officer for approximately ten years and had attended “numerous schools and seminars for hundreds of hours of training” related to various fields of law enforcement, including “narcotics recognition and investigations.” (Id.) Minica stated he had “been involved in several search warrants” and that one of his duties as an investigator is “developing probable cause for cases.” (Id.) He stated that he “[has] the knowledge, understanding and experience to work crime scenes and search warrant scenes to process, recover, and seize stolen property, controlled substances, [and] drug paraphernalia . . . .” (Id.)

         Between the affidavit and the warrant, the only place the full address of Dustin Piper's residence, 4213 South 140th Road, Bolivar, Missouri, appears is the previously-quoted probable cause section of the affidavit. Because this section of the affidavit was not incorporated into the warrant, the full address is omitted from the actual warrant. Detective Minica admitted at the hearing that this was an oversight on his part. (Doc. 55 at 33-34.) Similarly, Judge Porter simply signed the warrant as prepared by Minica, without the full address. The following description of the property, however, was included in both the affidavit and warrant:

A single trailer white in color positioned east to west on the property. The front door is located on the south side of the trailer with a wood ramp leading to the doorway. There is a large window on the east end of the trailer. The residence has an outbuilding located next to the trailer on the north side with a tin roof. The numbers 4213 are displayed on a black mailbox in black letters with a white back ground. The mail box is located on the east side of the trailer where the white chat driveway begins at the road.

(See Doc. 54, Gov. Ex. 1.)

         Minica testified that he knew Dustin Piper lived at 4213 South 140th Road in Bolivar because officers had talked with Dustin at “his residence” just two months prior in January regarding a separate investigation. (Doc. 55 at 5-6.) PCSO officers had also observed Dustin Piper at the same location ...

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