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United States v. Guthrie

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

August 20, 2019




         This matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Pending[1] before the undersigned is the Defendant James Leon Guthrie's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained as a Result of Search or Seizure (Doc. 38) and Motion to Dismiss or Require Election of Counts (Doc. 47).

         Guthrie is charged with possession (Count I) and distribution (Count II) of pseudoephedrine knowing or having reasonable cause to believe it would be used to manufacture methamphetamine for events occurring on August 17, 2018. He's also charged with possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime (Count III).

         The evidence Guthrie seeks to suppress was seized from his home on October 19, 2018, pursuant to a Search Warrant that authorized the seizure of: 1) items associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine, 2) items related to an ongoing child sexual abuse investigation involving Guthrie, and 3) items officers observed in plain view during the execution of the Search Warrant and believed to be evidence of other criminal conduct. The Government responded that it does not intend to use the evidence related to the ongoing child sexual abuse investigation, or items perceived as being related to other criminal conduct, because it is not relevant to the charges pending against Guthrie in this Court. Therefore, Guthrie's requests for the suppression of items related to the ongoing child sexual abuse investigation, or other criminal conduct are moot; and those arguments will not be discussed.

         As for the evidence that was related to the manufacture of methamphetamine, Guthrie argues that the Search Warrant was not supported by probable cause because the information relied upon in the Affidavit was stale. He contends that because he was arrested for the pseudoephedrine charges on August 17, 2018 and the Search Warrant was not secured until October 19, 2018, “[i]t is fair to infer from these facts that it is not probable that additional evidence of pseudoephedrine or other drug trafficking materials remained in his home.” (Doc. 38 at 3.) Guthrie also argues that the timing of these events was not sufficiently stated by the affiant, in particular, the search occurred two months after charges were filed making him aware of the investigation. He further claims that Guthrie had not lived at the residence since the time of his arrest. The Government responded that the totality of the circumstances supported the issuing judge's determination that there was probable cause to believe items related to the manufacture of methamphetamine would be found in Guthrie's residence.

         In a separate Motion, Guthrie argues that the Government should be required to make an election between Counts I and II, because “they charge the same offense... result[ing] in a multiplicitous indictment.” (Doc. 47 at 1.) The Government responded that while the charges in Count I and II are based on the same facts, it is entitled to use multiple theories of guilt to prove Guthrie's liability for committing a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 841(c)(2). If Guthrie is found guilty of both offenses, the Government will move for the dismissal of one count at sentencing to avoid a double jeopardy violation.

         Both parties filed post-hearing briefs. (Docs. 56, 59.)

         In consideration of the pleadings identified above, the testimony of witnesses, and the exhibits admitted into evidence, the undersigned recommends that the following findings of fact and conclusions of law be adopted and that Guthrie's pretrial motions be denied.

         I. Findings of Fact

         On August 17, 2018, the Defendant, James Leon Guthrie, was arrested for distributing pseudoephedrine to an undercover officer. He was also found to be in possession of a firearm. Guthrie was arrested on State charges; and released from custody that same month. (Doc. 38 at 3.)

         Two months later, on October 18, 2018, Guthrie was arrested on Federal charges. On the same day, Acting Sheriff Branden Caid received information from Guthrie's son. Sheriff Caid used the information to apply for a Search Warrant to search Guthrie's residence. The son reported that while Guthrie was in custody, he had been watching over his father's residence and caring for his father's cat. The son explained that on October 18, 2018, he observed items in the residence which he believed may be evidence related to his father's pending drug case. The son believed that pills, batteries, and chemicals he observed in his father's house might be evidence of the offenses for which Guthrie was facing charges.

         Based on the son's report, Sheriff Caid applied for a Search Warrant to seize “Boxes of Sudafed tablets, Lithium batteries, along with [ ] additional chemicals used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.” See Gov't. Ex. #2 at p. 3. Sheriff Caid explained he had probable cause to believe those items would be found in Guthrie's residence, 606 B Street, East Prairie, Missouri, based on the following facts:

2. On 10/18/2018, I was contacted by an agent from the SEMO Drug Task Force advising me that James Guthrie had been federally initiated[2] for selling methamphetamine pre-cursers.
3. Later that evening on 10/18/2018, I received a call from Guthrie's son stating that he located several additional boxes of pills, batteries, chemicals, ...inside his father's residence and felt they were evidence of…his crimes.
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5. On 10/19/2018, a deputy responded and met with Thomas Guthrie at James Guthrie's residence and verified the items were inside the home. Thomas Guthrie was overseeing the residence and feeding a cat while his father was in custody.
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7. Based on the information obtained I believe there is additional evidence located inside ...

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