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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 19, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TILMAN WILLIAMS, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE AND DISMISS INDICTMENT (ECF #17)

MATTHEW F. LEITMAN, District Judge.

Defendant Tilman Williams chose to decorate his apartment with sexually explicit photographs of young girls. In doing so, he assumed serious risks. One such risk: if he had a medical emergency and allowed first responders into his apartment to render aid, they might discover the photographs and notify the police. And that is exactly what happened.

The police eventually obtained a warrant to search Williams' apartment, and they seized the photographs and other evidence. A federal grand jury later indicted Williams on two counts of receipt of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2) and two counts of possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). ( See the "Indictment, " ECF #12.)

Williams has moved to suppress the evidence seized from his apartment and to dismiss the Indictment. ( See the "Motion, " ECF #17.) Williams raises two challenges to the seizure of the photographs and other evidence. First, Williams argues that the affidavit supporting the search warrant was tainted because it contained information the police unlawfully obtained during an earlier warrantless search of his apartment. Second, Williams contends that the affidavit supporting the search warrant failed to establish probable cause to believe that he committed any criminal offense.

The Court declines to suppress the evidence seized from Williams' apartment. It is far from clear that the warrantless entry about which Williams complains violated the Fourth Amendment, and, even if it did, the conduct of the police was not sufficiently culpable to warrant the exclusion of the evidence they eventually seized pursuant to the warrant. Moreover, the affidavit supporting the search warrant did establish probable cause to believe that Williams unlawfully possessed child pornography, and the police acted in good faith in relying upon the affidavit and warrant. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Williams' Motion.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Court held evidentiary hearings on Williams' Motion on October 9 and October 24, 2014.[1] Based on evidence presented at the hearings, the Court now finds the relevant facts as follows:

1. Williams lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment at the Village Park Apartments in Southgate, Michigan. ( See id. at 20-22, Pg. ID 156-58.)[2]

2. Williams suffers from several health conditions for which he takes certain prescription medications. ( See Oct. 9 Tr., ECF #23 at 25, Pg. ID 161.)

3. At all times relevant here, Williams' apartment was in an "extreme hoarding" state. (Oct. 24 Tr., ECF #22 at 9, 16; Pg. ID 98, 105.)

4. Photographs of Williams' apartment depict large piles of garbage stacked on nearly every surface. ( See Govt. Ex. 1, 2, and 4.) In the photographs, empty soda bottles and milk containers are spilling out of the sink onto the kitchen floor. Boxes of food - primarily Hot Pockets and Little Debbie snack cakes - are strewn about the kitchen. Piles of overstuffed white garbage bags in the living room reach almost to the ceiling. Throughout the entire apartment, there appears to be virtually no open space in which to walk.

5. Williams' apartment was virtually uninhabitable.

6. There was another distinguishing feature of Williams' apartment: the prominent display of child pornography and sexually-suggestive material as decor elements.

7. On the walls in the bedroom, Williams displayed photographs of girls estimated to be between the ages of 8 and 12 exposing their genitalia in a sexually suggestive manner and engaged in explicit sexual acts. ( See Oct. 9 Tr. at 27-28, 39-40, 65; Pg. ID 163-64, 175-76, 201.)

8. In plain view in the living room, Williams displayed framed photographs of young girls in various stages of undress. ( See id. at 64, Pg. ID 200. See also Oct. 24 Tr. at 16, Pg. ID 105.)

9. Early in the morning of January 4, 2013, Williams slipped and fell on soda bottles strewn about the floor of his living room. ( See Oct. 9 Tr. at 25, Pg. ID 161.)

10. Williams was injured as a result of the fall and was unable to stand up by himself. ( See id. at 22, Pg. ID 158.)

11. One of Williams' neighbors at the Village Park Apartments called 911 to report Williams' accident. ( See id. at 20, Pg. ID 156.)

12. Jason Ferrell ("Ferrell") and Matthew Sisty ("Sisty"), paramedics for Community EMS ("CEMS") - a private, non-profit organization that contracts with local governments to provide emergency medical services - responded to the 911 call. ( See id. at 14, 20; Pg. ID 150, 156.) Two members of the Southgate Fire Department ("SFD") also responded to the call. ( See id. at 20, Pg. ID 156.)

13. Ferrell, Sisty, and the SFD personnel (collectively, the "Initial Responders") arrived at Williams' apartment at approximately 5:30 a.m. on January 4, 2013. ( See id. )

14. The front door to Williams' apartment was chained, and Williams was unable to reach the door to unlock it. ( See id. at 21-22, Pg. ID 157-58.)

15. Williams gave the Initial Responders permission to cut the chain in order to enter the apartment and attend to his medical needs. ( See id. )

16. Upon entering the apartment, Ferrell found Williams lying on the floor in the living room. ( See id. at 22, Pg. ID 158.)

17. Ferrell immediately noticed that the apartment was a "hoarder house, " with "food debris, clothes, [and] other various items... all over the apartment" in piles four-to-five feet high. ( Id. at 22-23, Pg. ID 158-59.)

18. Ferrell approached Williams and began to render first aid. ( See id. at 24, Pg. ID 160.) Ferrell found that Williams' blood pressure was elevated, and Williams was having difficulty breathing. ( See id. )

19. Ferrell then asked Williams whether he took any medications. ( See id. ) Ferrell needed to know which medications Williams was taking in order to (a) properly assess Williams' condition, (b) determine an appropriate course of emergency medical treatment, and (c) provide full information to physicians in the event that he transported Williams to the hospital. ( See id. at 26-27, Pg. ID 162-63.)

20. Williams told Ferrell that he did take medications, but he could not remember their names. ( See id. at 25, Pg. ID 161.)

21. Williams told Ferrell that the medications were in his bedroom. ( See id. )

22. Ferrell then entered the bedroom for two reasons: to locate Williams' medications and to observe the living conditions so that he could file a report with the Department of Human Services detailing the hoarding ...


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