United States v. David Gentles ( 2016 )

  •                  United States Court of Appeals
                                 For the Eighth Circuit
                                     No. 15-2845
                                  United States of America
                            lllllllllllllllllllll Plaintiff - Appellee
                                     David Lee Gentles
                           lllllllllllllllllllll Defendant - Appellant
                         Appeal from United States District Court
                   for the Eastern District of Missouri - Cape Girardeau
                              Submitted: September 22, 2016
                                 Filed: December 6, 2016
    Before WOLLMAN, BRIGHT, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
          David Lee Gentles was convicted of receiving child pornography, using the
    Internet to distribute child pornography, and using the Internet to knowingly attempt
    to transfer obscene matter to a minor. He appeals from the district court’s1 denial of
    his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.
          In May 2012, an officer with the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children
    Task Force relayed the following information to Captain David Sutton of the Poplar
    Bluff Police Department. A federal agent had posed as a twelve-year-old girl and
    chatted with an adult male who had used the screen name “hellosweetdarlin.” During
    the chat, hellosweetdarlin provided instructions on how to masturbate and said that
    he had taught his fourteen-year-old daughter how to masturbate. Sutton received a
    copy of the chat communication, a video of an adult male masturbating that was sent
    during the chat, a copy of the administrative subpoena sent to the Internet service
    provider for information related to the Internet Protocol (IP) address associated with
    hellosweetdarlin, and the Internet service provider’s response that David Gentles was
    the subscriber of the IP address associated with hellosweetdarlin. The Internet
    service provider identified the following two addresses associated with Gentles’s
    account: P.O. Box 38, Mill Spring, Missouri; and Route 3, Box 7292, Hwy 495,
    Looper, Missouri.
           Captain Sutton went to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, where he
    spoke with Sergeant Woody Massa. Massa told Sutton that he was familiar with
    Gentles and that Gentles lived at 103 5th Street in Mill Spring. The officers also
    searched the Missouri Law Enforcement System, which confirmed that Gentles’s
    address was 103 5th Street. Massa brought Sutton to Gentles’s house, where the
    officers knocked on the door but received no answer. The officers observed a vehicle
    parked in the driveway and later determined that Gentles owned the vehicle.
           The Honorable Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., United States District Judge for the
    Eastern District of Missouri, adopting in part the report and recommendation of the
    Honorable Lewis M. Blanton, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District
    of Missouri, now retired.
          Thereafter, Sutton prepared an Affidavit/Application for Search Warrant
    (application). The application sought to search “[t]he residence of David Gentles,
    described as a white sided, single story, wood frame building located at 103 5th Street
    in Mill Spring[,] Missouri; any vehicles and buildings found at that locations [sic];
    and any computers and/or electronic media and storage devices found therein.” The
    application set forth the details of the chat between the federal agent and the suspect
    and attached screen captures of the chat, including an image of the suspect
    masturbating. The application also stated that records from the Internet service
    provider “identified David Gentles in Mill Spring[,] Missouri as the Internet service
    account holder.” The application did not list the two addresses associated with
    account, however. After Sutton prepared the application, it was reviewed and signed
    by a Wayne County prosecutor, who forwarded it to a judge, who then issued a search
    warrant. The search revealed evidence of the offenses set forth above.
           Gentles moved to suppress the evidence, arguing, as relevant to this appeal,
    that the application failed to establish probable cause because “[n]o facts [were]
    alleged in the application to support the claim that the building at 103 5th Street, Mill
    Spring, Missouri, [was] the residence of David Gentles.” During the suppression
    hearing, Captain Sutton testified that he focused the investigation on the residence
    located at 103 5th Street after Sergeant Massa told him where Gentles lived and that
    “[i]t had not occurred to [him] to include all the addresses that had come up in the
    investigation.” Sutton also testified that it was his practice to explain how he came
    to know a suspect’s address, and he described his failure to do so in this instance as
    “an oversight.” The district court denied the motion to suppress, adopting the
    magistrate judge’s recommendation that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary
    rule should apply.
          Gentles argues that the district court should have granted his motion to
    suppress evidence because the application failed to establish probable cause to search
    the residence located at 103 5th Street in Mill Spring. The Fourth Amendment
    requires a showing of probable cause before a search warrant may be issued.
    “Probable cause exists when the affidavit sets forth sufficient facts to lead a prudent
    person to believe that there is a ‘fair probability that contraband or evidence of a
    crime will be found in a particular place.’” United States v. Warford, 
    439 F.3d 836
    841 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 
    462 U.S. 213
    , 238 (1983)). In
    reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we review the district court’s
    factual determinations for clear error and its legal determinations de novo. Id.
           As an initial matter, we conclude that the application established probable
    cause to search Gentles’s home, even if it did not establish probable cause to search
    a particular address. The application described the illicit information exchanged
    during the online chat between a federal agent and an adult male. Attached to the
    application were screen captures of the chat, including an image of an adult male
    masturbating. Moreover, the application explained that records obtained from the
    Internet provider identified Gentles as the Internet service account holder. From this
    information, the issuing judge could reasonably infer that the federal agent
    subpoenaed information related to the suspect’s IP address and that Gentles, as the
    account holder, probably was the adult male engaged in the unlawful online activity
    described in the application.          Because the items listed in the search
    warrant—computers, webcams, and other electronic media and storage
    devices—generally are kept in one’s home, it follows that probable cause existed to
    search Gentles’s home. See United States v. Cowling, 
    648 F.3d 690
    , 696 (8th Cir.
    2011) (holding that probable cause existed to search the defendant’s residence
    because the warrant affidavit established probable cause that the defendant possessed
    stolen firearms and because people generally keep firearms at home or on their
    persons); United States v. McArthur, 
    573 F.3d 608
    , 613-14 (8th Cir. 2009) (“The
    observation that images of child pornography are likely to be hoarded by persons
    interested in those materials in the privacy of their homes is supported by common
    sense and the cases.” (alteration omitted) (quoting United States v. Riccardi, 
    405 F.3d 852
    , 861 (10th Cir. 2005))).
           Gentles argues that the application did not set forth any “evidentiary
    support . . . that anything illegal would be found at 103 5th Street, Mill Spring,
    Missouri.” Assuming without deciding that the application was insufficient to
    establish probable cause to search that particular address, we hold that the good-faith
    exception to the exclusionary rule applies in this case. See Warford, 439 F.3d at 841
    (“In reviewing a district court’s denial of a motion to suppress, we may consider the
    applicability of the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule before reviewing the
    existence of probable cause.”).
           “Under the Leon good-faith exception, disputed evidence will be admitted if
    it was objectively reasonable for the officer executing a search warrant to have relied
    in good faith on the judge’s determination that there was probable cause to issue the
    warrant.” United States v. Grant, 
    490 F.3d 627
    , 632 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing United
    States v. Leon, 
    468 U.S. 897
    , 922 (1984)). In determining whether the officer relied
    in good faith on the validity of a warrant, we consider the totality of the
    circumstances, including any information known to the officer but not included in the
    search warrant application. Id.
          Considering the information known to Sutton, but not included in the
    application, we conclude that Sutton’s investigation established that Gentles lived at
    the 103 5th Street address and that Sutton acted in good faith when he relied on the
    warrant to search that address. As set forth above, Sergeant Massa told Sutton that
    Gentles lived at 103 5th Street; the officers went to that address and found a car
    owned by Gentles parked in the driveway; and the officers confirmed the address by
    searching the Missouri Law Enforcement System.
          Gentles argues that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule should not
    apply, however, because the application did not explain how Sutton determined that
    Gentles lived at 103 5th Street and because it omitted the two addresses that were on
    file with the Internet provider. According to Gentles, the omitted information
    rendered the application misleading. An officer’s reliance on a search warrant is
    considered objectively unreasonable when the affidavit in support of the warrant
    includes “a false statement made knowingly and intentionally or with reckless
    disregard for its truth, thus misleading the issuing judge.” Grant, 490 F.3d at 632; see
    Leon, 468 U.S. at 923 (“Suppression therefore remains an appropriate remedy if the
    magistrate or judge in issuing a warrant was misled by information in an affidavit that
    the affiant knew was false or would have known was false except for his reckless
    disregard of the truth.” (citing Franks v. Delaware, 
    438 U.S. 154
           Gentles contends that Sutton’s omissions were reckless, in light of the fact that
    “[w]ith two or three simple sentences, Capt. Sutton could have informed the court that
    the internet service provider gave a different address, but that he had a factual basis
    to believe that what he was searching for would be found at a different location.”
    Gentles has not identified any false statement, however, and thus his argument must
    fail. As set forth above, Sutton’s investigation fully supported the application’s
    request to search “[t]he residence of David Gentles . . . located at 103 5th St in Mill
          The judgment is affirmed.