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United States v. Way

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT A. WAY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant Scott A. Way's motion to suppress evidence (Doc. 28) and motion to suppress statements (Doc. 29). The Government filed a timely response to the motions. (Doc. 38.) The Court held a motion hearing on September 6, 2017. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court reserved ruling on the matter in order to give the defendant time to file a supplemental brief. The Court gave the defendant 14 days to file the brief after receiving the transcript from the hearing. The defendant received the transcript on October 17, 2017, but has not filed another brief.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case focus on two people: defendant Scott Way and his alleged co-conspirator, Natasha Mann. There is a lengthy backstory regarding the purported drug activities of the two, but the relevant facts for the purposes of this motion start on March 17 and 18, 2016: when a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent notified the Southern Illinois Enforcement Group (SIEG) that ICE had intercepted two packages of MDMA pills at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Both packages were addressed to Mann.

         Following the tip, SIEG agents obtained an anticipatory search warrant of Mann's house. On the morning of March 22, 2016-while the agents were in the final preparation stages to execute the warrant-they learned that the post office had intercepted two more packages of MDMA addressed to Mann. At 10:45 AM that morning, the postal inspector delivered all four of the packages to Mann's mailbox. The agents set up a surveillance perimeter around her residence and waited for Mann to retrieve the packages.

         Later that day, Way arrived at Mann's residence in his vehicle. The two left without checking the mailbox. They returned several hours later-around the same time that a school bus dropped off Mann's children-and Way dropped Mann off at her home. Way then departed alone. Four of the surveillance agents-Dill, Kelly, Halliday, and Sneed-followed Way. Agent Dill radioed and asked an Illinois State Police Trooper-Jeremy Wynn-to travel behind the surveillance units in case a traffic stop became necessary and possible.

         Three more agents-Blake, Cunningham, and Thompson-remained behind to observe Mann. Mann subsequently removed all four packages from her mailbox, placed them inside her vehicle, and drove away with her children in tow. Curiously, she stopped abruptly in the roadway, and this prompted one of the agents to approach the vehicle and attempt to arrest her. When Mann saw the agent, however, she threw three of the packages out of her car. In a reckless attempt to flee, she then rammed her car directly into the driver's side door of a nearby police cruiser (with her children still in her vehicle) and sped away. The agents lost sight of Mann after attempting to follow her for less than a mile.

         Shifting gears: when the agents tailing Way heard about what happened with Mann, they “focused intently on Way's vehicle, hoping that he would commit a traffic violation so that they could stop Way and seek his assistance in apprehending Mann.” (Gov.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. 8.)

         The Government next claims that Agent Dill observed Way make an illegal lane change without activating his turn signal. This prompted Agent Dill to ask Trooper Wynn to stop Way. Once Trooper Wynn initiated the traffic stop, Agent Dill left his car and approached the scene.

         At the suppression hearing, Agent Dill testified that when he approached Way's vehicle, he could smell the odor of “burnt cannabis” from several feet away. (Tr. 37:19-21.) Agent Dill then asked Way to get out of the car. Agent Dill also testified that he asked Way if he had recently possessed or consumed cannabis. (Tr. 39:4-10.) Way answered “yes”-four hours prior to the traffic stop. Id. Agent Dill also claimed that he asked Way whether he had a valid prescription for medical cannabis. (Tr. 39:17-21.) Way replied that he did not. Agent Dill then asked Trooper Wynn to search the vehicle.

         In the vehicle, Wynn found a large heat-sealed bag which appeared to contain marijuana wax. (Tr. 39:22-40:6.) The agents also seized an iPhone, a digital scale, a black Samsung cellphone, and $612 in U.S. currency. (Tr. 40:8-18.) Dill then explained to Way that the agents knew of Way's activities with Mann, that they needed his help to set up a meeting with her at the local Dollar General, and that the agents wanted to discuss Way's prior MDMA activities with Mann. (Tr. 40:19-41:9.) After a delay to consider the request, Way agreed to help set up the Dollar General rendezvous and called Mann. Following the call, officers transported Way to the Marion Police Department.

         Law enforcement officers interviewed Way twice while he was in custody. The first occurred the day that the agents took Way to the station: March 22, 2017. The Government claims that SIEG Agent Chris Kelly and DEA Special Agent Jeff Konvalinka provided Way with notice of his Miranda rights prior to this interrogation, but the defense contests this: in fact, the Government has been unable to provide a copy of the Miranda warnings and waiver that the defendant allegedly initialed on this occasion. The second interrogation occurred on March 23 at the Williamson County Jail. The Government did give Way his Miranda rights prior to this interrogation, and the waiver is attached as an exhibit to the Government's response.

         During the second interrogation, the agents asked Way to consent to a search of his apartment in Carbondale. He consented. That document is also attached as an exhibit to the Government's response. The Government later seized ten items from the apartment: (1) six heat-sealed bags containing approximately 985.7 grams of marihuana; (2) one plastic bag containing approximately 12.3 grams of suspected “meth/molly”; (3) two bags containing approximately 12.4 grams of suspected cocaine; (4) one $5 bill containing approximately 0.l gram of suspected cocaine residue; (5) 12 new half-pint mason jars; (6) miscellaneous drug paraphernalia; (7) one new box of FoodSaver brand heat-seal vacuum bags; (8) a FoodSaver brand vacuum-sealer; (9) a Volcano Vaporizer machine in black case; and (10) miscellaneous receipts. (Gov.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. 14.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. The ...


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