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United States v. Chambers

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

February 27, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER COLMAN CHAMBERS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (No. 16-CR-118-JHP-2)

          Stephen J. Greubel, Senior Litigator (Julia L. O'Connell, Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender, with him on the briefs), Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendant - Appellant.

          Leena Alam, Assistant United States Attorney (Loretta F. Radford, Acting United States Attorney, and Janet S. Reincke, Assistant United States Attorney, with her on the brief), Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff - Appellee.

          Before MATHESON, BALDOCK, and EID, Circuit Judges.

          MATHESON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Christopher Chambers was indicted on one count of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Law enforcement officers from Rogers County, Oklahoma discovered the firearms after searching his home pursuant to a search warrant. They had been investigating Kevin Chambers (Christopher's brother) and Charity Drozd (collectively, "the Pair"), who were suspected of selling methamphetamine and were residing at Christopher Chambers's home.[1]

         After he was indicted, Mr. Chambers moved to suppress the firearms evidence. He argued the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant application failed to establish probable cause and that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply. The district court rejected these arguments and denied the motion. Mr. Chambers pled guilty, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion, which he has done here.

         Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm. The affidavit established a minimally sufficient nexus between the place to be searched and the suspected criminal activity to make the officers' reliance on the warrant reasonable.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Investigation and Search

         1. Officers' Investigation of the Pair

         On August 1, 2016, Rogers County officers monitored communication between the Pair and a confidential police informant (the "CI"). The Pair told the CI they were returning to Rogers County from Tulsa with methamphetamine. Ms. Drozd said they could not deliver drugs to him that night because they needed to make other customer deliveries. Officers arranged with the CI to make a controlled buy from the Pair on the next day.

         The next morning, the Pair texted and called the CI, stating they had awakened and would meet him soon. The three met and the CI bought one gram of methamphetamine from the Pair for $100. Law enforcement officers also monitored their communication before and during the transaction. At the meeting, the Pair bragged to the CI about how much methamphetamine they had. After the transaction, officers met the CI to debrief him and to secure the drugs, which tested positive as methamphetamine.

         The CI gave directions to where the Pair lived. The officers in turn confirmed that the location belonged to Kevin Chambers's brother, Mr. Chambers, based on their previous encounters with him.

         2. The Search of Mr. Chambers's Home

         On August 6, 2016, Rogers County Deputy Sheriff Quaint Tucker prepared an affidavit to search 11470 S. 4210 Road ("the Address"), Mr. Chambers's residence. A Rogers County District Judge signed the search warrant, which authorized officers to seize methamphetamine and other items related to drug dealing. On August 8, 2016, officers searched Mr. Chambers's home. They encountered the Pair and Mr. Chambers and detained them outside. In the home, they discovered seven firearms loaded with ammunition. They also recovered marijuana, methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia. Mr. Chambers was indicted for being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). He had nine prior felonies.

         B. The Affidavit

         Deputy Tucker's nine-page affidavit listed the Address on the first page and contained aerial photos of the property on the first two pages, including a label stating "Residence to be searched" and an arrow pointing to the location. The affidavit addressed four subjects: (1) a description of the property and items to be seized, (2) Deputy Tucker's training and experience, (3) drug traffickers' common practices, and (4) facts to establish probable cause.[2] The fourth part was based mostly on information from two sources: Deputy Tucker and the CI.

         First, based on "his training and experience both formal and informal, " ROA, Vol. I at 85, and information from the investigation, Deputy Tucker said the Pair likely:

• are"career criminal [sic] involved in the possession of narcotics." Id.
• "will keep and store items, like those sought in this affidavit, at their residence." Id.
• "will store evidence, such as that sought in this affidavit, throughout their property." Id.
• "will have in their residence and surrounding property items used to ingest methamphetamine" and items for methamphetamine distribution. Id. at 85-86.

         Second, the affidavit included facts about the CI's interactions with the Pair on August 1 and 2, 2016. It also included:

• Kevin Chambers's statement to the CI about encountering the police in July 2016 at a bank drive-thru when he ...

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