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Unitted States v. Cuthbert

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 26, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
EUGENE CUTHBERT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Defendant Eugene Cuthbert's Motion to Suppress (Dkt. 49). The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on August 21, 2019, and considered the Affidavit of Paul Sorenson (Dkt. 69) which was submitted jointly by the parties following the hearing. The Court now issues its written decision. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The Defendant, Eugene Cuthbert, was the subject of an ongoing and long-term investigation into drug trafficking in southeastern Idaho. On August 28, 2017, Mr. Cuthbert was convicted on charges of felony possession of a controlled substance, and was placed on probation for a term of 5 years. One of the conditions of probation, which the defendant agreed to comply with, required that he “submit to a search of [his] person, residence, vehicle, and/or property at any time by any police officer or probation officer, without a search warrant, to determine whether [he was] in compliance with [his] probation terms and conditions.”

         While on probation, the government alleges that he continued to traffic in methamphetamine. Without going into detail, the government alleges that law enforcement, utilizing a confidential informant, purchased substantial quantities of methamphetamine from Mr. Cuthbert on several occasions in July and August, 2018. In addition, both of Mr. Cuthbert's co-defendants, George Simmons and Richard Schuyler, sold or were found in possession of large quantities of a variety of controlled substances. They identified Mr. Cuthbert as their source of supply for methamphetamine.

         Based upon this information, law enforcement obtained a number of search warrants for Simmons' room at the Thunderbird Motel, two of Mr. Cuthbert's residences in Pocatello, and various vehicles and storage units associated with the defendants. On August 23, 2018, the members of the joint law enforcement task force investigating the defendants met to discuss how the warrants would be executed. During that meeting it was discussed that Mr. Cuthbert was on probation and had, as a condition of probation, waived any objection to a warrantless search of his belongings, vehicles and residences.

         A surveillance team was organized to watch Cuthbert. He was observed leaving his residence and going to a room at the Thunderbird Motel. The Motel was already under surveillance because it was occupied by co-defendant Simmons, but Cuthbert entered a room on the second floor of a building different from the one which contained Simmons' room. Cuthbert and his wife were seen to leave the second floor room, but the officers lost sight of the couple after they reached the bottom of the stairs.

         Stacy Fisher was observed walking out of a room in the same building on the first floor. Lieutenant Clint Skinner of the Idaho State Police approached Fisher, and she admitted that Mr. Cuthbert and his wife were in her room. Officer Skinner went to the door of Fisher's room and ordered Cuthbert to come out. After a brief delay, Cuthbert complied and was told that he was being detained while the premises were searched.

         After Cuthbert was ordered out of the room, Detective Theo Vanderschaaf contacted Julie Daggerson from State Probation and described what had occurred. Daggerson left Vanderschaaf on the phone and walked over to talk to Cuthbert's probation officer, Paul Sorenson. It is not clear whether Sorenson spoke directly to Vanderschaaf or used Daggerson as an intermediary. In any event, Sorenson confirmed that Cuthbert was on felony probation, and authorized them to search Cuthbert and his belongings.

         The officers took Fischer into the room and asked her to identify any items not belonging to her. She pointed out a purse, a black bag and a blue bag that were not hers and indicated that she wanted them out of her room. Officer Skinner then took the bags out and placed them on the sidewalk outside the room. The Officers then asked Mr. Cuthbert if the bags belonged to him, and he denied ownership of the bags. The bags were subsequently searched. Methamphetamine and marijuana were found in the black bag and eight bags of methamphetamine were found in the blue suitcase.

         ANALYSIS

         Mr. Cuthbert has moved to suppress the evidence seized in the black bag and blue suitcase during the search conducted on August 23, 2018, along with any additional evidence obtained from any search warrants which relied in whole or in part upon the evidence found in those bags. For the reasons described below, the motion will be denied.

         1.The Defendant Abandoned the Suitcase and Bag by Denying Ownershipand Therefore Lacks Standing to Assert a Fourth ...


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