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United States v. Simpson

United States District Court, D. Vermont

December 10, 2019




         Defendant Everett A. Simpson is charged with two counts of kidnapping, one of which involved a minor, and two counts of interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle. Simpson filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained as the result of a March 21, 2019 search warrant authorizing the collection of buccal DNA samples. He also moved to compel discovery of the contents of the alleged victim's cellphone. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to suppress evidence is denied and his motion to compel discovery is withdrawn without prejudice.


         The following facts are taken from the affidavits supporting the search warrant at issue in this case and the warrant itself. According to the affidavits, Simpson escaped from Valley Vista in Bradford, Vermont on January 2, 2019. ECF 20-2, at ¶ 17. The State of Vermont placed him there for residential drug treatment as a part of the conditions of his release regarding a separate charge. Id. After leaving Valley Vista, Simpson stole a van and fled the city. Id.

         On January 5, 2019, Simpson abandoned the stolen van and approached another vehicle in the parking lot of a mall in Manchester, New Hampshire. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 8. The owner of the vehicle Celia Roessler had just secured her four-year-old-child in the backseat of the car. Id. at ¶ 8. As Roessler was getting into the driver's seat, Simpson shoved her into the passenger area and took control of the vehicle. Id. Simpson then drove out of New Hampshire and into Vermont with Roessler and her child still in the car. Id.

         In Thetford, Vermont, Simpson pulled to the side of the road and attempted to sexually assault Roessler. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. She tried to get out of the vehicle and yelled to nearby joggers for help. Id. at ¶ 10. The joggers indicated that Simpson was attempting to hold Roessler down and drove off as they approached the car. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. Roessler then told Simpson that if he was going to sexually assault her that he should take her to a hotel room. Id. at ¶ 12. Roessler later told police that she asked Simpson “to bring her to a hotel because she was afraid that if he raped her beside the road he would kill both her and her son and leave them and because at least most hotels had cameras.” Id. Simpson eventually drove Roessler to the Comfort Inn in White River Junction and forced her to rent a room with her credit card. Id. Once inside the room, Simpson allegedly raped Roessler. Id. He then left Roessler and her son in the room and drove off with her car. Id. The next day, police officers in Pennsylvania located Roessler's vehicle with “an individual presumed to be Simpson driving it.” Id. at ¶ 18. Following a pursuit, Simpson abandoned the vehicle on foot and eventually stole another vehicle. Id. Law enforcement apprehended him after he crashed the vehicle during a pursuit. Id.

         On January 7, 2019, United States Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy issued an arrest warrant for Simpson and signed a complaint charging him with kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201. Id. at ¶ 6. FBI Special Agent Jennie Emmons conducted the investigation of Simpson's alleged crimes and authored the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint. Id. On February 21, 2019, a grand jury issued a four-count indictment charging Simpson with two counts of kidnapping under 18 U.S.C. § 1201 and two counts of interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle under 18 U.S.C. § 2312. Id. at ¶ 5.

         On March 21, 2019 the FBI applied for a search warrant to obtain samples of Simpson's DNA. ECF 20. FBI Special Agent Colin Simons stated in the affidavit in support of the search warrant that the FBI collected items from the crime scene that had “DNA deposits from which partial DNA profiles could be produced for comparison purposes.” ECF 20-1, at ¶ 9. These items included cigarettes from the hotel room. Id. Agent Simons explained that comparing Simpson's DNA with the DNA deposits found at the crime scene would likely produce probative evidence. Id. at ¶ 11. “[A] match . . . would tend to show that Simpson was present at the crime scene or scenes, while a discrepancy . . . could constitute exculpatory evidence.” Id. Agent Simons also incorporated Agent Emmons' affidavit in the application for the search warrant. Id. at ¶ 6.

         Judge Conroy issued the search warrant on March 21, 2019 (the Warrant). ECF 21, at 1. The caption of the Warrant states: “In the Matter of the Search of . . . Buccal DNA samples from Everett A. Simpson.” Id. To the right of this statement, the caption displays this case's docket number. Id. Below the caption, Judge Conroy identified Everett A. Simpson as the person to be searched and stated that he was in the District of Vermont. Id. In addition, Judge Conroy indicated that the search would reveal “DNA for a profile standard, to be compared to DNA profiles recovered from various locations, as evidence of violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201 and 2312.” Id. Agent Simons executed the search on March 25, 2019. ECF 22, at 2.



         In his motion to suppress, Simpson challenges the evidence obtained pursuant to the Warrant on several grounds. First, he claims that the Warrant “was facially invalid for failing to describe the person or place to be searched with particularity and for failing to specify what the authorities were permitted to seize.” ECF 31, at 3. Second, Simpson argues that the Warrant “fail[ed] to establish probable cause for the seizure of a DNA sample.” Id. at 7. Third, Simpson contends that the good-faith exception does not apply because the Warrant lacked any indicia of probable cause and because the Warrant was facially deficient. Id. at 11. After reviewing the Warrant, the Court finds these arguments unavailing.

         A. The Warrant described the person to be searched and what the authorities were permitted to seize with sufficient particularity

         Simpson claims that the Warrant failed to fulfill the Fourth Amendment's particularity requirement. The Fourth Amendment demands that warrants “particularly describ[e] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. This requirement aims to “ensure[] that the search will be carefully tailored to its justifications, and will not take on the character of the wide-ranging exploratory searches the Framers intended to prohibit.” Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 84 (1987). To achieve this goal, warrants must “describe the place to be searched with sufficient particularity to direct the searcher, to confine his examination to the place described, and to advise those being searched of his authority.” United States v. Burke,784 F.2d 1090, 1092 (11th Cir. 1986); see also United States v. George, 975 F.2d 72, 75 (2d Cir. 1991) (“In order to prevent a wide-ranging exploratory search, the warrant must enable the executing officer to ascertain and identify with reasonable certainty those items that the ...

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