Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Thompson

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 29, 2019



          B. Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge.


         On the evening of December 8, 2018, a magistrate judge signed a warrant authorizing police to search Defendant Steven Thompson's home. They found a little under an ounce of meth, a scale, a shotgun shell, and a few gun magazines. Thompson moves to suppress this evidence. (Dkt. 150). He says the affidavit supporting the search warrant did not establish probable cause to conclude he was a drug dealer or that drugs would be found in his home. Alternatively, Thompson says he is entitled to a Franks hearing because the ATF agent who swore out the affidavit intentionally or recklessly misled the magistrate by omitting facts and by including other false and misleading facts. For the reasons explained below, the Court disagrees and will deny the motion.


         1. Facial Validity of the Warrant

         The Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment generally requires police to obtain a warrant from a neutral magistrate before searching private property. See U.S. Const. amend. IV. The amendment provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, . . . .” Id. Probable cause is established when there is “a fair probability that contraband or evidence is located in a particular place. Whether there is a fair probability depends upon the totality of the circumstances, including reasonable inferences, and is a commonsense, practical question. Neither certainty nor a preponderance of the evidence is required.” United States v. Kelley, 482 F.3d 1047, 1050-51 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In other words, probable cause “is not a high bar: It requires only the kind of ‘fair probability' on which ‘reasonable and prudent [people, ] not legal technicians, act.'” Kaley v. United States, 571 U.S. 320, 337 (2014) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         In determining whether a search warrant was based upon probable cause, the district court is “limited to the information and circumstances contained within the four corners of the underlying affidavit.” United States v. Stanert, 762 F.2d 775, 778 (9th Cir. 1985), amended by 769 F.2d 1410 (9th Cir. 1985). Further, review of a magistrate judge's determination that probable cause existed is deferential; “the duty of a reviewing court is simply to ensure that the magistrate had a ‘substantial basis for ... conclud[ing]' that probable cause existed.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 238-39 (1983). As the Ninth Circuit has explained, “[n]ormally, we do not ‘flyspeck' the affidavit supporting a search warrant through de novo review; rather, the magistrate judge's determination should be paid great deference.” Kelley, 482 F.3d at 1050. Also, “[i]n borderline cases, preference will be accorded to warrants and to the decision of the magistrate issuing it.” United States v. Martinez, 588 F.2d 1227, 1234 (9th Cir. 1987).

         A. The Affidavit

         ATF Agent Janeece Gonzales swore out the probable-cause affidavit, which focuses primarily on David Roberts and his girlfriend Echo Dalos. In April 2018, an informant[1] told law enforcement that Roberts “and others” were distributing large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin. Gonzales Aff. ¶¶ 11-12. The informant said she and her boyfriend had accompanied Roberts to Las Vegas and Los Angeles on drug runs. Id. ¶ 12. Investigators also looked at location data for Roberts' cell phone, which indicated Roberts had traveled to Nevada eleven times between April and December 2018, and that on five of those trips his cell phone went on to southern California. Id. ¶ 24.

         During the summer of 2018, police searched trash from Roberts' and Dalos' homes. They found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in Roberts' trash and marijuana in Dalos'. See Id. ¶¶ 15-17. Later that summer, another informant told law enforcement he had obtained “significant quantities” of meth from Roberts within the last year or so and that Dalos sold meth for Roberts. Id. ¶ 13. Additionally, Agent Gonzales reported that investigators had made controlled buys from both Roberts and Dalos at their homes. Id. ¶¶ 18-23.

         In late September 2018, law enforcement officers used cell phone location data to track down Roberts on a “return trip.” Id. ¶ 25. They saw Roberts stop at a casino in Jackpot, Nevada. A person driving a Mitsubishi Galant stopped with Roberts. At the time, investigators believed the second person was Kyle Pherigo. Pherigo and Roberts went into the casino together and later left together, travelling in tandem northbound toward Twin Falls, Idaho. Investigators lost sight of the vehicles at some point but later saw the Galant parked at 280 Harrison Street, which is Thompson's home. Id.

         Thompson points out that the warrant affidavit does not contain the sort of detailed information about him that it does about Roberts and Dalos. There is no mention of any informants implicating Thompson in drug-trafficking activities; there is no mention of a positive hit on a trash search at his residence; and there is no mention of any controlled buys involving Thompson or his residence.

         Rather, it appears that agents did not begin focusing on Thompson until mid-November 2018, when a wire went up and investigators began listening to Roberts' telephone calls and reading his texts.[2] The affidavit states:

• “Roberts frequently communicates with Steven Thompson who uses telephone number 208-297-9870. Investigators initially believed the user of this telephone was Kyle Pherigo who lives with Thompson at 280 Harrison Street but investigators later confirmed the user of the telephone as Thompson through visual surveillance while he was speaking to Roberts.” Id. ¶ 31.
• “Since investigators began to intercept the communications, Thompson frequently communicates to Roberts that he has ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.