United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT ANDRE
BUTLER'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS (DKT. 130)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge.
Andre Butler is charged with conspiracy to possess with
intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1). See First Superseding Indictment (Dkt.
79). He has filed a motion to suppress (Dkt. 130) seeking to
suppress all evidence obtained during the execution of a
search warrant at his Cavell Street home in Livonia,
Michigan. He argues that the search warrant is invalid
because the supporting affidavit does not establish probable
cause to believe that evidence of a crime would be found in
his home. The Government filed a response to the motion (Dkt.
131) and Butler filed a reply brief in support of his motion
(Dkt. 133). For the reasons discussed below, the Court
denies Butler's motion to suppress.
April 27, 2018, Drug Enforcement Administration
(“DEA”) agents obtained a search warrant to
conduct a search of Butler's home on Cavell Street in
Livonia. The application for the search warrant was supported
by the fourteen-page affidavit of Brandon Carrier, a federal
law enforcement officer. In the first three pages, Agent
Carrier, based on his training and experience, provides
boilerplate language describing the traditional behavior of
drug dealers. Brandon Carrier Aff. (“Carrier
Aff.”) in Supp. of Search Warrant, Ex. 1 to Gov't
Resp., ¶¶ 1-4 (Dkt. 131-1). For example, drug
traffickers often use their own homes to store narcotics,
often possess large amounts of money, and will use electronic
devices ranging from cell phones to police radio scanners and
so forth. Id. ¶ 1(a-m).
next six pages describes the investigation into a suspected
drug trafficking organization allegedly run by Defendant
Nicholas Medina-Liborio. In November 2017, the DEA began
investigating Medina-Liborio based on a confidential source,
who provided information that Medina-Liborio was distributing
narcotics from his residence in Detroit. Id. ¶
5. The confidential source also told DEA agents that
Medina-Liborio had multiple heroin customers, including an
older black man who drives a white Denali truck. Id.
¶ 6. Agents performed a toll analysis of
Medina-Liborio's telephone and learned that he was
communicating with someone who had a cell phone subscribed to
Butler. Id. Agents also discovered that Butler owned
a white Denali truck. Id. The agents obtained a
photograph of Butler and showed it to their confidential
source, who confirmed that he had been present when Butler
had purchased narcotics from Medina-Liborio. Id.
April 4, 2018, the DEA obtained a Title III order to
intercept communications to and from Medina-Liborio's
phone. Id. ¶ 7. The agents also had court
orders allowing the acquisition of live GPS locations of
Medina-Liborio's cell phone and they had installed a
camera outside of Medina-Liborio's Detroit residence.
Id. ¶ 9. On April 8, 2018, the agents
intercepted phone calls between Medina-Liborio and a person
whom they believed to be Butler. Id. ¶ 10.
Medina-Liborio communicated to the person through coded
language, which the argents interpreted as relating to a
narcotics delivery. Id. Medina-Liborio told the
person “to be ready tonight.” Id.
same day, Medina-Liborio and two other individuals were
observed entering a black Saturn parked at the Detroit
residence. Id. ¶ 11. Agents monitored the live
tracking information and tracked Medina-Liborio's phone
travelling from Detroit to a location somewhere near Dayton,
Ohio. Id. ¶ 12. At 7:55 p.m., Medina-Liborio
returned to Detroit in the Saturn and carried two luggage
bags into his Detroit home. Id. ¶ 13. Around
the same time, Butler was observed departing his Livonia
residence in the white Denali truck. Id. ¶ 24.
Agents immediately sought a search warrant for
Medina-Liborio's Detroit home. Id. ¶ 15. At
8:13 p.m., Medina-Liborio and two other individuals left the
Detroit residence in the Saturn. Id. ¶ 16. The
DEA detained Medina-Liborio and the other individuals away
from the residence prior to executing the search warrant.
Id. Butler never arrived at Medina-Liborio's
p.m., the DEA executed the search warrant. Id.
¶ 17. The search uncovered more than twenty kilograms of
suspected heroin. Id. ¶ 19. During this time,
agents believed that Butler was attempting to contact
Medina-Liborio with the intention of obtaining kilogram
quantities of narcotics. Id.
agreed to be interviewed by DEA agents and signed a
Miranda waiver. Id. ¶ 21. He admitted
to travelling to Ohio to purchase large amounts of narcotics.
Id. ¶ 22. During the interview, he identified
Butler as an individual who had purchased multiple kilograms
of heroin from him in the past. Id. ¶ 23. He
said that he had been planning to provide Butler with
kilogram quantities of heroin that night. Id.
Medina-Liborio also identified a phone number belonging to
Butler. Id. ¶ 23.
April 11, 2018, agents obtained a court order to track the
GPS location of the cell phone suspected to belong to Butler.
Id. ¶ 25. The GPS information showed that
Butler spent a large amount of time, including nights, at the
Cavell Street address in Livonia. Id. ¶ 26.
Public records show that Butler is listed as residing at the
Cavell Street address. Id. ¶ 29. On April 26,
2018, agents observed Butler at the Cavell Street address
taking the trash can from the front curb and placing it
behind the house. Id. Agents also saw Butler leave
the residence in the white Denali truck. Id. A
criminal records search revealed that Butler had a 1988
conviction related to controlled substances and a 1990
conviction related to a concealed weapon. Id. ¶
final four pages of the affidavit reiterate the common
practices of drug traffickers and Carrier's conclusion
that probable cause existed to search Butler's Livonia
home. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. According to Agent
Carrier, individuals involved with drug trafficking typically
store drugs, proceeds, and records at their residences,
storage facilities, and safe deposit boxes. Id.
¶ 30(a). He stated that drug traffickers commonly use
electronic equipment to aid in their endeavors, such as cell
phones, pagers, computers, and so forth. Id. ¶
30(i). Based on Carrier's experience, and the facts of
this case, he believed that the cell phone used to
communicate with Medina-Liborio would be in the Cavell Street
residence. Id. The search warrant application sought
electronic devices, firearms, and all manners of drugs and
related items. See id. Attach. B. to Search Warrant
reviewing the magistrate judge's probable-cause
determination, the Court's task is to ensure that the
magistrate had a “substantial basis” for her
conclusion. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238-239
(1983). To encourage the use of and reliance on judicially
approved warrants during law enforcement investigations,
“reviewing courts are to accord the magistrate's
determination ‘great deference, '” and a
probable-cause determination “should only be reversed
if it was arbitrarily exercised.” United States v.
Allen, 211 F.3d 970, 973 (6th Cir. 2000) (en banc)
(quoting Gates, 462 U.S. at 236). The Court's
review for sufficiency of evidence is limited to the
information contained within the four corners of the
affidavit. United States v. Coffee, 434 F.3d 887,
892 (6th Cir. 2006).
search warrant to be valid, it must be supported by probable
cause. U.S. Const. amend. IV (“[N]o Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”).
“Probable cause is defined as reasonable grounds for
belief, supported by less than prima facie proof but
more than mere ...