FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE Hon. D. Brock Hornby, U.S. District Judge
Jeffrey W. Langholtz on brief for appellant.
M. Lipez, Assistant United States Attorney, and Richard W.
Murphy, Acting United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.
Howard, Chief Judge, Kayatta and Barron, Circuit Judges.
KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.
Christian Dent appeals the district court's denial of his
motion to suppress evidence that was seized from his
apartment pursuant to a warrant. While two law enforcement
agents were seeking the warrant, other agents entered the
apartment, detained the individuals who were present, and, in
the ostensible course of securing the premises, came upon
some of the evidence that was later seized. Dent contends
that the officers exploited their presence in the apartment
in so egregious a manner as to foreclose the application of
any relevant exceptions to the Fourth Amendment's
exclusionary rule. Because it is undisputed that the warrant
was not based on information gleaned from the warrant less
seizure and sweep of Dent's apartment, and because the
officers' conduct did not rise to a level that might
arguably justify a departure from the normal rules governing
suppression, we affirm the district court's ruling.
November 11, 2014, law enforcement agents monitoring a
court-authorized wiretap determined that a cell phone
associated with an individual named Troy Jones appeared to be
moving from New York to Maine. Eventually, the phone was
traced to the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine. On November 12,
the wiretap intercepted a call from Jones--using a different
phone than the one that the agents had been tracking--to
Dent. During that call, Dent stated that "he fixed it,
he tied that shit up, gave it to [Jones's girlfriend,
later identified as Dominique Jackson, ] and told her to put
it up." Dent further noted that Jackson was "still
in the crib."
Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Patrick Clancy, who had
been overseeing the wiretap operation and monitoring the
wiretap on the days in question, testified at the suppression
hearing that he understood the conversation to mean that
Jackson was in an apartment associated with Dent and that she
possessed individually bagged allotments of crack cocaine,
which Dent had prepared from powder cocaine. Clancy also
testified that he believed that Dent was not in the apartment
at the time of the intercepted call.
on his understanding of the situation, Clancy decided not
only to apply for a warrant to search the apartment, but also
"[t]o secure the residence in advance of obtaining a
search warrant." Clancy testified that his decision was
informed by concern that the ready-to-sell drugs would be
moved, as well as concern about the safety of officers if
they first arrived to execute the warrant after Dent
returned. Clancy further testified that he considered but
decided against establishing a perimeter around the apartment
building, as Dent had previously been able to recognize and
"identif[y] some of the surveill[ing] [officers] on the
street by name"; Clancy stated that he "was
concerned that an occupant inside or somebody passing by [the
residence] might see law enforcement in the area, [and] alert
Mr. Dent or others to the presence of law enforcement, "
which might thereby lead to the disposal or relocation of the
drugs that they suspected to be in the apartment. Clancy also
acknowledged that he was "looking for a conclusion to
the investigation" of Dent, i.e., that he was
"hoping to catch somebody with a load of drugs, "
and that the authorization for the relevant wiretap was about
Clancy and another agent prepared the search warrant
application, three police officers went to Dent's
apartment for the stated purpose of "preserv[ing] any
evidence in anticipation of th[e] search warrant." One
officer stationed himself outside of the apartment building,
while the other two officers entered the building and knocked
on the door of the apartment in question. The officers were
wearing clothing and gear that indicated that they were law
enforcement agents, but they did not identify themselves as
such when they knocked on the door. When Jackson opened the
door and saw the officers, she tried to slam the door shut,
but the officers pushed their way into the residence, forced
Jackson to the ground, and placed her in handcuffs.
they were subduing Jackson, the officers heard music that had
been playing elsewhere in the apartment decrease in volume,
which led them to believe that another individual was
present. With guns drawn, the officers began to "clear
every room in the apartment." When they reached the
final room to be cleared, they opened the closed door and
observed an individual--later identified as Jonathan
Banyan--attempting to stuff something under an air mattress.
After placing Banyan in handcuffs, the officers
"searched the vicinity of where he had his hand
underneath the air mattress and saw a baggie of what [they]
believed at the time was drugs, " which they
"left" undisturbed. According to one of the
officers, they looked under the air mattress "[t]o make
sure the room was safe, " but did not "search for
any other contraband during the security sweep" because
they did not have a warrant.
the officers finished their sweep of the apartment, they
detained Jackson and Banyan in separate rooms and waited for
the warrant to be issued. During this time, the officer who
had been stationed outside of the building joined the other
officers inside, as did at least one additional officer who
had not been on site for the initial entry. Upon issuance and
execution of the search warrant several hours after the
initial entry, officers seized various pieces of evidence
from the apartment. In addition to "126.1 grams of
cocaine base . . . found in a package inside of a black bag,
" officers discovered an unloaded revolver in the
kitchen ceiling, small quantities of cocaine base scattered
throughout the master bedroom, approximately 80.3 grams of
cocaine base in the bathroom ceiling, approximately eight
grams of heroin inside a cigarette box, and a digital scale
with drug residue in a kitchen closet.
the district court denied Dent's motion to suppress the
evidence that had been seized from the apartment, Dent pled
guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to
distribute cocaine and twenty-eight grams or more of cocaine
base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and
846. Dent was subsequently sentenced to 114 months of
imprisonment and five years of supervised release. However,
Dent's guilty plea was conditional, ...