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United States v. Smith

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

September 17, 2019

SAMUEL SMITH, JR., Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court following a hearing on Defendant's Motions to Suppress Statements [ECF No. 73] and Physical Evidence [ECF No. 75]. Defendant contends that his statements were: (1) obtained following his improper seizure; (2) involuntary; (3) elicited without “full and effective” Miranda warnings; and (4) the product of an illegal search of his home.[1] With respect to the physical evidence, Defendant asserts that the search warrant: (1) lacked probable cause to search Defendant's residence because the affidavit in support was insufficient; and (2) was overbroad and not sufficiently particularized with respect to the search of seized electronic devices. The Government counters that Defendant was properly detained and his statements were voluntary. Regarding the physical evidence, the Government argues that the search warrant was supported by probable cause and was proper in scope.

         Factual Background

         At the hearing, an FBI Special Agent based in Detroit, Michigan, Raymond Nichols, testified. Agent Nichols stated that he was assigned to the Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes Task Force (SEMTEL). SEMTEL investigates human trafficking, juvenile sex trafficking and child pornography.

         In May 2018, Agent Nichols was “assigned a lead” regarding Defendant from the St. Louis Division of the FBI. Agent Nichols initially spoke with a St. Louis FBI agent, Nikki Badolato, about what “she actually wanted to accomplish.” Agent Badolato advised Agent Nichols that the St. Louis Division was investigating Defendant along with co-defendant Lisa Baumann. Two minor victims, both children of Lisa Baumann, alleged she and Defendant sexually abused them. The St. Louis FBI had photographs relevant to the investigation from a cellphone obtained from one of the minor victims. One of the cellphone photographs depicted a white semi-truck with a visible trucking company name. In some of the truck pictures, two juvenile males, identified as Baumann's minor children, were depicted with an adult male, identified as Defendant.

         Agent Nichols learned that the trucking company name was Red D Transport in Ida, Michigan. Agent Nichols contacted Red D Transport and obtained fuel logs for a truck driven by Defendant. Agent Nichols was able to approximate the truck's route in July 2017 based on fuel logs as well as pick-up and drop-off points for loads Defendant transported.

         From the information Agent Nichols developed, as well as the information he obtained from the St. Louis FBI, Agent Nichols applied for a search warrant on May 24, 2018 [ECF No. 82-1]. His affidavit accompanying the application [ECF No. 82-1 at 2-33] requested a warrant to search 348 Yorkshire, Newport, Michigan, including the “residential dwelling” and any computer and/or electronic storage devices located there. The affidavit also sought a warrant to search a “detached storage building” and motor vehicles at 348 Yorkshire. In addition the affidavit, through attachment B [ECF No. 82-1 at 35-38], identified the items to be seized including, among other things: photographs, video or other depictions of Lisa Baumann and the two minor victims; cell phones, tablets, computer and electronic devices; visual depictions, including still images, video and films of minors engaged in “explicit conduct as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2256”; mechanisms for storage; documents, records, emails and internet history pertaining to minors engaged in explicit conduct or to the “enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sex acts;” and records related to the ownership or use of the electronic devices and equipment found in the subject residence.

         The affidavit in support of the warrant application detailed the information obtained from the St. Louis Division of the FBI regarding allegations that co-defendant Lisa Baumann and Defendant sexually assaulted a minor victim (“the first minor victim”) in July 2017. That minor victim provided a cellphone to law enforcement that contained pictures of, among other things, the minor victim's penis in an adult hand and two male children in a semi-truck with an adult male and the name Red D Transport on the door of the truck.

         The affidavit further detailed interviews with Baumann regarding allegations of child sexual abuse as well as with a second minor victim, the brother of the first minor victim. The second minor victim reported that he had seen on a cellphone multiple videos of Baumann, the first minor victim and Defendant. Among the images were Baumann and the first minor victim engaged in sexual intercourse and Defendant instructing the first minor victim to perform sexual acts on Baumann.

         The interview with Baumann disclosed that she transported the first minor victim to meet Defendant in Pevely, Missouri for the purpose of having sex. Baumann also admitted the image on the first minor victim's cellphone was her hand on his penis. She further advised law enforcement that the image of a naked adult male contained on the first minor victim's cellphone was Defendant, whom she identified as “a registered sex offender in the state of Michigan.”

         In May 2018, both minor victims were interviewed by the Children's Advocacy Center in Missouri and reiterated allegations of sexual abuse. The second minor victim disclosed that he had seen multiple videos of sexual activity between Baumann and the first minor victim and that Baumann sent videos of sexual activity between herself and the first minor victim to Defendant.

         The affidavit described Agent Nichols' investigation of Defendant's employment and his trucking route on certain days in July 2017. The affidavit disclosed that Agent Nichols mapped Defendant's trucking route and established that Defendant would likely travel through Pevely, Missouri during that route.

         The affidavit further detailed surveillance that Agent Nichols conducted of the subject residence in May 2018. Agent Nichols observed two vehicles registered to Defendant on the subject premises. Agent Nichols also noted Defendant departing the premises in one of the vehicles as well as returning to the subject premises.

         Agents executed the search warrant on May 31, 2018, around 6:45 a.m. Agent Nichols knocked on the door of the residence, announced FBI search warrant, and within seconds, Defendant appeared at the door. The agents evacuated several dogs, several children and Defendant's wife from the house. An FBI agent escorted Defendant from the residence. Approximately five to ten minutes elapsed before Agent Nichols again encountered Defendant. At the second encounter, Defendant was handcuffed and standing near the end of his driveway. Agent Nichols explained that the FBI was executing a search warrant and that he wanted to speak with Defendant. Defendant agreed to speak with Agent Nichols and he was placed in the back of an SUV parked in proximity to the residence. Agent Nichols sat in the SUV with Defendant.

         Agent Nichols recorded the interview with Defendant. Agent Nichols first explained that the FBI obtained a search warrant for Defendant's house. Before allowing Defendant to answer any questions, Agent Nichols stated the following:

Right. Right. And we'll get into that. The first things I want to do though, is I want to make sure you're aware, aware of your rights, right. So, you, you got the right to remain silent. Uh, you're not under arrest. Um, anything you [ ] could be used against you. You got the right to talk to a lawyer. Um, and you can have a lawyer with you during questioning if you wanted. If you can't afford one, one could be appointed for you. You understand those?

Defendant replied, “Yes I do.”

         Approximately mid-way through the recorded interview, Defendant advised that he was an epileptic requiring medicine. In response, agents immediately arranged to provide Defendant his epilepsy medicine. Defendant took his epilepsy medicine shortly after receiving it - - mere moments after advising of his condition. During the interview, Defendant admitted knowing both Baumann and her sons as well as meeting Baumann's sons at least once in Missouri. Defendant further admitted to a relationship with Baumann. Defendant denied any sexual contact with Baumann's sons. Finally, Defendant agreed to take a polygraph test.

         To facilitate the polygraph examination, Agent Nichols and another agent drove Defendant from his residence to the Michigan State Police Department in Monroe and arrived at approximately 7:50 a.m. Agent Nichols was present as the polygraph examiner, Michael Fitzgerald, administered Miranda[2] rights. Defendant signed a consent form that contained a written statement of his Miranda rights and also the following language directly above his signature: “I have read this ...

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