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United States v. Housholder

United States District Court, District of Kansas

November 25, 2014




This matter comes before the Court on Kim Todd Housholder’s Motion to Suppress Silencer (Doc. 9). Householder considers the search of his home unlawful. He challenges the adequacy of the warrant affidavit. Alternatively, he denies that plain view, inevitable discovery, or the Leon good faith exception excuse the search. Because the Court finds the warrant affidavit adequate and the plain view exception applicable, the Court denies Housholder’s motion to suppress.

I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

On April 4, 2014, dispatch contacted Undersheriff Jessica McDaniel to respond to a woman who claimed that men she knew were trying to kill her. McDaniel traveled to the woman’s location, a Greeley County convenience store. A man approached McDaniel when she arrived. The man identified himself as Christopher Fox, the traveling companion of the woman responsible for the 911 call, Diane Druda. Fox stated that Druda “had gone crazy” and he was unsure what was happening. McDaniel asked Fox to remain outside with another responding officer.

McDaniel entered the convenience store to speak with Druda. Druda identified herself to McDaniel and claimed that her life was in danger. Druda told McDaniel that she and Fox were recently at Todd Housholder’s home. McDaniel observed that Druda “kept looking around and acting paranoid.” To calm Druda, McDaniel offered to interview her at a safer location, the sheriff’s office. Druda accepted.

At the sheriff’s office, Druda discussed visiting Housholder’s home. Druda disclosed that, while recently at Housholder’s home, “Todd [Housholder] had a small baggie of meth and put some in a pipe.” Druda, Fox, and Housholder smoked the meth. But Druda felt like “they may have put something else in the meth because she wasn’t feeling right.” After smoking, Druda became scared. Druda told Fox they needed to leave Housholder’s home. Druda and Fox began to argue on the drive into town. When they stopped at a convenience store, Druda contacted the sheriff’s office.

During the interview, Druda also elaborated her concern for her safety. Druda explained that she was afraid that her ex-boyfriend, Fox, and Housholder “might be serial killers” plotting her murder. Druda stated that her ex-boyfriend, Fox, and Housholder have “fake cops and other people working with [them].” Druda indicated that “they” control her phone and prevent her from reaching the person she actually intends to call.

After receiving these statements, McDaniel returned the conversation to Druda’s drug use. Druda admitted that she had smoked meth before. But she denied that meth had ever caused her to feel the way she did after smoking at Housholder’s home. McDaniel asked Druda if she or Fox had any meth or drugs with them. After answering that “they” may have placed drugs in her bag to frame her, Druda permitted McDaniel to search her bag. McDaniel found no drugs or related contraband. Druda also consented to a urinalysis test to determine whether she consumed any other drug with the meth. Druda tested positive for meth and negative for marijuana or heroin.

While McDaniel interviewed Druda, Fox willingly accompanied Sheriff Mark Rine, another responding officer, to the sheriff’s office. Rine searched Fox and his vehicle. Rine found no drugs, paraphernalia, or firearms. After the search, Rine interviewed Fox about Druda’s statements. Fox told Rine that he and Druda were traveling to Oklahoma, but had stopped to visit Housholder’s home. There, “a pipe with meth or crank was passed around and [Fox] took a puff off of it.” Fox then left Housholder’s home to get some food. When Fox returned, Druda was alone in a spare bedroom “acting strange.” Fox and Druda left Housholder’s home and traveled to the convenience store where Fox eventually encountered the sheriffs. Fox also volunteered that Druda had some mental health issues and previously had been hospitalized.

Using the above information from Druda and Fox, McDaniel obtained a search warrant for Housholder’s home. The warrant found probable cause to believe that Housholder’s home contained evidence of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia possession. Among other items, the warrant particularly described “weapons” as “evidence, contraband, fruits, and/or instrumentalities” of the alleged drug possession crimes.

Officers, including Rine, executed the warrant the following evening. Officers ultimately found and seized several items of drug paraphernalia and a Ruger SR-22 rifle. Rine immediately noticed the rifle after entering the east door to the home. Rine saw the weapon propped against the west wall of the living room. After more closely inspecting the rifle, Rine determined that a homemade silencer was attached to the rifle’s barrel. Rine testified that he made this determination based on his military training with silencers; silencer identification instruction from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”); review of bulletins from intelligence associations describing items that can be adapted to make silencers; and his observation that the attachment lacked the customary slits or holes that would allow it to function as a flash suppressor or muzzle brake. Knowing that it is unlawful both to possess an unregistered silencer and for a user of a controlled substance to possess a firearm, Rine seized the weapon. Subsequently, Rine submitted the suspected silencer to the ATF for evaluation. The ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch confirmed that the attachment reduced the sound of a test weapon similar to the seized rifle from 154.52 decibels to 144.82 decibels.

In July 2014, a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Housholder with unlawful possession of a firearm silencer.[2] Housholder filed a motion to suppress the silencer and other contraband found at his home. The Court held a hearing in November 2014, and the matter is now before this Court.

III. Analysis

Housholder contends that the Fourth Amendment obligates this Court to suppress evidence seized from his home because the warrant affidavit lacked probable cause to authorize a warrant to search his home and, alternatively, to search his home specifically for weapons.[3] The Government responds that probable cause supported the entire search and, even if the warrant affidavit provided no probable cause, the Leon good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies. Additionally, the Government argues that, even absent probable cause to search ...

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