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United States v. Eden

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

July 11, 2013

Y D. EDEN, Defendant.,



Defendant Casey Eden is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Eden filed several motions seeking to quash his arrest and suppress evidence due to alleged violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Because the Court finds that (1) Eden’s arrest was lawful, (2) contraband items were in plain view during Eden’s arrest, and (3) any information omitted from the warrant application was harmless error, the Court denies Eden’s motions in their entirety.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On September 21, 2012, Wichita police officers responded to a disturbance call at 338 North Volutsia, a residence located in Wichita. The residents of the home rented individual bedrooms from the homeowner. The complaining party, Amber Arrington, was an employee of the homeowner who was doing some remodeling within the house. Arrington stated that an individual inside the home, Paul Klestinez, was present without owner’s permission and refused to leave the premises.

Sergeant Bruce Watts and Officer Greg Robinson responded to the call. Sergeant Watts spoke with Klestinez, asking whether anyone else was present in the home. Klestinez responded that two other men were inside the house, but appeared to Sgt. Watts to be reluctant to name the individuals. Klestinez eventually identified one of the individuals as “Casey.” Arrington, who was listening to the conversation from the street, further supplied that the man’s name was Casey Eden and that he was wanted on a warrant from the Kansas Department of Corrections. Watts and Robinson confirmed that Casey Eden was wanted on a KDOC warrant that had been issued on September 6, 2012.

After returning briefly to the house, Klestinez informed Sgt. Watts that Eden’s bedroom door was locked and he did not know whether Eden was present in the room. Sgt. Watts asked Klestinez if he would take the officers inside and point out Eden’s bedroom door. Arrington did not object to the officers’ entrance into the house.

Eden’s allotted space within the house consisted of two rooms separated by French doors. In testimony, Eden referred to the room immediately off the hallway as a den and the room behind the French doors as his bedroom. The Court received conflicting testimony from Eden as to whether the den was a common room or one private to Eden.

When Sgt. Watts reached the door to Eden’s rooms, he knocked for several minutes and identified himself as a police officer. Sgt. Watts testified that he heard movement from within the room and sent Officer Robinson outside to ensure that no one exited through the room’s windows. Sgt. Watts then threatened to kick down the door if the occupant did not answer the door. The defendant opened the door and identified himself as Josh or Joshua. Believing that he was lying, Sgt. Watts handcuffed Eden, first turning Eden so that his back faced Sgt. Watts and both were looking towards the interior of the room. As he was taking Eden into custody, Sgt. Watts allegedly saw a gun sitting in plain view on the bottom shelf of an entertainment unit and a baggie of what appeared to be drugs sitting on the couch. After handing Eden over to Officer Robinson on the front porch of the house, Sgt. Watts returned to Eden’s bedroom, seized the firearm, and took it out to the front porch. Sgt. Watts then called for additional officers to assist in securing the residence because Sgt. Watts was unsure whether the third individual whom Klestinez had referenced was still present in the house.

After the officers secured the residence, Sgt. Watts took the handgun back into Eden’s room and returned it to its previous location so that the officers could photograph the room and document the gun’s original location. Because he was about to go off shift, Sgt. Watts discussed the case with Officer Christopher Hornberger, who would be the affiant when the police applied for a search warrant for the residence. Sgt. Watts described the events of the night, taking Officer Hornberger through the house as he spoke. The police did not have a search warrant at the time Sgt. Watts walked Officer Hornberger through the house, and Sgt. Watts did not specify whether he had seen the particular contraband items in plain view at the time of Eden’s arrest or later during Sgt. Watts’s protective sweep.

Using the information relayed from Sgt. Watts, Officer Hornberger completed an application for a search warrant. A warrant was subsequently issued by a state court judge. Nothing in the warrant application indicated that Sgt. Watts had moved the firearm before replacing it on the entertainment center to be photographed. Officer Hornberger’s affidavit also failed to mention that Sgt. Watts had also done a protective sweep of the room and had not conveyed to Officer Hornberger whether the contraband items were seen during Eden’s arrest or during the protective sweep.

After the officers had secured the residence, they placed Eden in the back seat of a patrol vehicle. Officer Adam Vandermolen approached Eden and moved him to the front passenger seat of the car so that the two were sitting side by side. Eden was handcuffed in front of his body. Officer Vandermolen introduced himself and asked for Eden’s personal information before reading Eden his Miranda rights from a laminated card issued by the police department. After informing Eden of his rights, Officer Vandermolen asked whether he understood those rights and whether he wanted to talk at that time. Eden answered in the affirmative.[1] Officer Vandermolen then asked Eden cursory questions about the house on Volutsia and the contraband items discovered inside.

Officer Robert Thatcher followed up with Eden shortly after Officer Vandermolen finished his questions. Officer Thatcher did not re-Mirandize Eden before talking with him. Eden had been returned to the back seat of the patrol car, still in handcuffs, and Officer Thatcher opened the car door and leaned down beside Eden to speak with him. At that time, Officer Thatcher asked Eden background questions similar to those asked by Officer Vandermolen. While transporting Eden to jail, Officer Thatcher told Eden that the officers had found ammunition that matched the bullets found in the firearm in Eden’s clothing. In truth, Officer Thatcher did not know where the ammunition was discovered. Eden replied that he was aware of the ammunition and had gotten it for Klestinez and must have left some of it in a jacket pocket. Officer Thatcher’s partner was present during this conversation, but did not testify. The conversation was not recorded.

Eden testified that he made no statement to Officer Thatcher about the ammunition, which was actually discovered in a box on a dresser in Eden’s room. Eden further testified to a different version of his arrest. According to Eden, when Sgt. Watts knocked on his door, Eden exited the room and immediately closed his bedroom door behind him, preventing Sgt. Watts from seeing inside the room. As support for this assertion, Eden points to Sgt. Watts’s report, which indicates that Eden was handcuffed once he “cleared the doorway.” Eden also testified that even if the door was open at the time Sgt. Watts handcuffed Eden, it was impossible to see the bottom shelf of the entertainment unit where the firearm was located from the doorway. On cross-examination, Eden denied any knowledge or ownership of any of the contraband material discovered in the residence.

Presently before the Court are two motions to quash Eden’s arrest and suppress evidence. In those motions, Eden makes five claims. First, Eden contends that his arrest was unlawful because it was not supported by reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Second, Eden argues that the KDOC warrant was insufficient to support Eden’s arrest because it was not signed by a judicial officer, but an officer of the executive branch. Third, Eden argues that the police erred in seizing evidence from Eden’s residence because the items seized were not in plain view, rendering the affidavit in support of the warrant false. Fourth, Eden claims that the police violated the Fourth Amendment by removing the firearm from Eden’s residence and then replacing it to be discovered later after obtaining a search warrant. Fifth, Eden alleges that any statements made to the police must be suppressed because his Miranda warning was defective in that it failed to spell out ...

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