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United States v. Coats

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

December 19, 2019




         Defendant Timothy L. Coats is facing gun and drug charges as set forth in a seven-count Indictment. On November 6, 2019, the Court granted Defendant's request to proceed pro se. Since then, Defendant has filed several motions requesting various forms of relief ranging from dismissal of the Indictment to exclusion of evidence seized during the execution of search warrants. Although Defendant has submitted separate motions, similar themes are weaved throughout each motion, leading to repetition and overlap. For the sake of clarity, the Court will address only the main theme of each motion and the relief sought therein. The Court will use a separate order to resolve any matters not ruled upon in an opinion, but that are mentioned in the motion that the opinion is intended to address.

         In this Opinion and Order, the Court will rule on Defendant's Motion for Franks Hearing [ECF No. 42], to which there has been a response [ECF No. 52] and a reply [ECF No. 59]. In his Motion, Defendant challenges the issuance of search warrants issued on April 11 and 30, 2019, during an attempted murder investigation. He argues that the search warrants were only issued because the detective deliberately or recklessly presented false, material information in the affidavits he presented to the issuing judge. The Government asserts that Defendant has not made the substantial preliminary showing necessary to obtain a hearing. The Court agrees and, for the reasons set forth below, denies Defendant's Motion.


         Defendant became the target of an investigation for distribution of drugs. During the investigation, agents used informants to make controlled drug buys of marijuana and pills from Defendant on dates ranging from January 24 through March 25, 2019. The first four counts of the Indictment charge Defendant with violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) based on these transactions. As a result of a separate investigation conducted by the Fort Wayne Police Department, evidence was discovered on April 11, 2019, that was used as the basis for Counts 5, 6, and 7 of the Indictment. Count 5 charges Defendant with possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance and Count 6 charges that he possessed a firearm in furtherance of that drug trafficking crime. The same firearm is the subject of Count 7, which charges Defendant with unlawful possession of a firearm due to his prior felony convictions.

         The Fort Wayne Police Department's investigation began on March 25, 2019, in response to a shooting that took place in Fort Wayne on that date. Although Defendant became the suspect in that shooting based on statements from the victim and other witnesses, and was arrested for attempted murder, aggravated battery, and possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, the State of Indiana moved to dismiss the charges on May 29, 2019. The State submitted that the dismissal was supported by an affidavit from the victim recanting his previous statement. Additionally, the victim informed the prosecuting attorney during a meeting on May 29 that he could not identify the shooter.

         On May 31, 2019, a Criminal Complaint, completed by Special Agent Joseph Gass of the FBI's Safe Street Gang Task Force, was filed against Defendant in this cause. It described the controlled drug transactions from January 24, March 19, March 20, and March 25, 2019. The Complaint noted that the March 25 shooting investigation had led to the warrant for Defendant's arrest and to the issuance of search warrants on April 11. During the execution of the search warrants, officers located distribution quantities of controlled substances and firearms. A grand jury thereafter indicted Defendant on June 20, 2019.


         A. Standard of Review

         Search warrant affidavits are presumed to be valid. Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171 (1978). However, a search warrant is invalid if police officers obtain it by deliberately or recklessly providing the issuing court with false, material information. United States v. McMurtrey, 704 F.3d 502, 504 (7th Cir. 2013). In Franks v. Delaware, the Supreme Court defined the procedure, evidentiary burdens, and proper remedies associated with a defendant's attack on the truthfulness of statements made in a sworn affidavit supporting the issuance of a search warrant. To obtain a Franks hearing, the defendant must make a “substantial preliminary showing” of (1) a material falsity or omission that would alter the probable cause determination, and (2) a deliberate or reckless disregard for the truth. McMurtrey, 704 F.3d at 508.

         “These elements are hard to prove, and thus Franks hearings are rarely held” because a defendant seeking a Franks hearing “bears a substantial burden to demonstrate probable falsity.” United States v. Maro, 272 F.3d 817, 821 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). “Conclusory, self-serving statements are not enough to obtain a Franks hearing.” United States v. Johnson, 580 F.3d 666, 671 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Franks, 438 U.S. at 171). Allegations of falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth must be “accompanied by an offer of proof.” Franks, 438 U.S. at 171.

         The Seventh Circuit has interpreted the holding of Franks to also apply to omissions. United States v. Williams, 737 F.2d 594, 604 (7th Cir. 1984) (internal citations omitted). Therefore, a defendant may also challenge an affidavit by showing that the affiant intentionally or recklessly omitted material information. See id.; see also Shell v. United States, 448 F.3d 951, 958 (7th Cir. 2006); United States v. Pace, 898 F.2d 1218, 1232- 33 (7th Cir. 1990).

         B. The Affidavits

         As noted by the Government, the search warrant affidavits submitted to a state court judge on April 11, 12, and 30, 2019, although directed at different places or items, are premised on substantially the same set of facts. In each instance, FWPD Detective R. ...

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