United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
ENTRY ON SECOND MOTION TO SUPPRESS
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE United States District Court, Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant Ronald Tingle's
(“Tingle”) second Motion to Suppress (Filing
No. 121). Tingle is charged with Count One: Possession
of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, Counts Two,
Three and Four: Distribution of Methamphetamine, and Count
Five: Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug
Trafficking Crime, in violation of federal statutes. In this
motion, Tingle alleges the judicial officer that issued the
search warrant for his residence was not neutral and
detached. On this basis, he petitions the Court to suppress
any and all items seized from his residence on September 8,
2015. Tingle did not request an evidentiary hearing, nor is
one warranted, as there are no significant disputed factual
issues. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d),
the Court now states its findings of fact and conclusions of
law and DENIES the Motion to Suppress.
FINDINGS OF FACT
findings of fact were previously stated in the November 15,
2016 Entry on Tingle's first Motion to Suppress
(Filing No. 117). The Court adopts those findings
and adds additional facts relevant to the pending motion.
2015, a confidential informant informed Indiana State Police
officers that Tingle was distributing methamphetamine in
Switzerland County, Indiana. (Filing No. 108-1.) The
informant advised that he/she had known Tingle for many years
and had previously purchased methamphetamine from him.
Thereafter, in August 2015, the informant conducted three
controlled buys of methamphetamine from Tingle at
Tingle's residence in Switzerland County, Indiana.
(Filing No. 96 at 17.) The informant used money
he/she received from Indiana State Police to purchase the
methamphetamine from Tingle. Id. at 19. The
informant allegedly purchased approximately two grams of
methamphetamine on August 7, 2015, four grams of
methamphetamine on August 18, 2015, and seven grams of
methamphetamine on August 31, 2015. Police officers audio
recorded and surveilled each transaction. Id. at
17-18. They also searched the informant before and after each
transaction to ensure that no contraband was on his/her
person. (Filing No. 108-1 at 3.)
the third transaction, on September 1, 2015, Switzerland
County Circuit Court Judge W. Gregory Coy found probable
cause to issue a search warrant, authorizing law enforcement
to search Tingle's residence based on information
provided by the informant, the three controlled buys, and
surveillance by law enforcement. (Filing No. 108-1 at
7-8.) The next day, September 2, 2015, law enforcement
officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by
Tingle. (Filing No. 96 at 18.) During the traffic
stop, the officers recovered approximately $1, 100.00 in U.S.
currency, some of which included the serial numbers of money
used in the controlled buys. Id. at 18-19. That same
day, Indiana State Police officers executed the search
warrant and searched Tingle's home. (Filing No.
108-2.) During the search, the officers recovered a
large amount of methamphetamine (approximately 165 grams),
marijuana, scales, over $6, 000.00 in cash, and eight
firearms. Id. at 20. Those firearms included: 1) a
loaded Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun; 2) a Ruger 10/20 .22
caliber rifle; 3) a Remington 870 pump 12 gauge shotgun with
sling attached; 4) two New England 20 gauge single shot
shotguns; 5) a Ruger .22 caliber Mark II target pistol; 6) a
Harrington & Richardson 12 gauge single shot shotgun; and
7) a loaded Taurus .38 caliber special model 85 revolver
containing five bullets. (Filing No. 108-2 at 16.)
On October 15, 2015, Tingle was indicted by a federal grand
jury and charged with one count of Possession of
Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, three counts of
Distribution of Methamphetamine, and one count of Possession
of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime.
March 27, 1992, felony charges were filed against Tingle
involving cocaine dealing and marijuana possession in
Switzerland Superior Court, Case Number 78D01-9203-CF-0072.
The Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in that action was W. Gregory
Coy, the same person as the judicial officer that signed the
subject search warrant. (Filing No. 121-2.) Tingle
successfully attacked the search warrant in the 1992 case as
that action was dismissed with prejudice. Deputy Prosecuting
Attorney Coy filed a notice of appeal on December 20, 1993.
Id. at 7. The dismissal was later affirmed on appeal
before the Indiana Court of Appeals.
moves this Court to suppress all evidence seized from his
residence, asserting that a neutral and detached judicial
party did not issue the search warrant. The United States
Supreme Court insists that an issuing judge be: 1) neutral
and detached, and 2) capable of determining whether probable
cause exists for the requested arrest or search. Shadwick
v. City of Tampa, 407 U.S. 345, 350 (1972). Neutrality
and detachment “require severance and disengagement
from activities of law enforcement” that “would
distort the independent judgment the Fourth Amendment
requires.” Id. at 350-51.
does not challenge the existence of probable cause, but
contends only that Judge Coy was not neutral and detached
when issuing the search warrant. Tingle contends that because
then-deputy prosecutor Coy filed and prosecuted a criminal
action against Tingle in Switzerland Superior Court, alleging
felony drug charges in 1992, any reasonable person would
question now-Judge Coy's ability to be impartial due to
his prior intimate contact with Tingle.
response, the Government argues that Tingle has failed to
provide any evidence that Judge Coy was not neutral and
detached at the time of issuing the search warrant. The
Government notes that the warrant is valid because this Court
previously determined probable cause, and Tingle does not
dispute that substantial evidence exists in the record
supporting Judge Coy's finding of probable cause. In the
alternative, the Government asserts that even if the warrant
was invalid, suppression is inappropriate because the
officers relied in good faith on Judge Coy's finding of
probable cause. United States v. Bell, 585 F.3d
1045, 1052 (7th Cir. 2009); Leon, 468 U.S. 897,
920-24 (1984) (where an officer objectively relies in
“good faith” on a “magistrate's
determination of probable cause…, an application of
the extreme sanction of exclusion is inappropriate.”).
The Court agrees.
Judge Coy's previous prosecution of Tingle, the Court
determines that Judge Coy was neutral and detached because
the record does not establish that Judge Coy had a direct,
personal, substantial, pecuniary interest in reaching a
conclusion against Tingle when issuing the search warrant.
See Del Vecchio v. Illinois Dep't of Corr., 31
F.3d 1363, 1375 (7th Cir. 1994) (holding that a judge who
presided over a defendant's trial was not required by due
process to disqualify himself despite being involved in
prosecuting the defendant fourteen years prior); United
States v. Harris, 566 F.3d 422, 434 (5th Cir. 2009)
(holding that an issuing judge was neutral and detached, even
though the judge previously represented the defendant in two
felony drug cases ten years prior); United States v.
Barry-Scott, 251 F.App'x 983, 986 (6th Cir. 2007)
(holding that an issuing judge was neutral and detached
despite previously representing defendant in a similar drug
case); United States v. Heffington, 952 F.2d 275,
278-279 (9th Cir. 1991); United States v. Outler,
659 F.2d 1306, 1312 (5th Cir. 1981) (holding that an issuing
judge was not required to disqualify himself despite
previously representing the government in an unrelated
probation revocation hearing against the defendant).
as the Government persuasively argued, even if the record
established that Judge Coy was not neutral and detached, this
Court has independently reviewed the search warrant and
determined that probable cause exists. (Filing No.
117.) Where a judge fails to act in a neutral and
detached manner, “the evidence seized pursuant to a
defective warrant may still be admissible if it fits within
the requirements of the good faith exception to the
exclusionary rule.” Barry-Scott, 251
F.App'x at 992-93 (citing United States v.
Caldwell, No. 99-5465, 2000 WL 1277011, at *6 (6th Cir.
Aug.30, 2000); Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984)). Tingle
has not shown that the officers were dishonest or reckless in
preparing the supporting affidavit or that the affidavit was
so lacking in probable cause that no officer could have
relied on it. Accordingly, Tingle's Motion is denied.