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United States v. Starks

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

August 2, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
GORDON BOND STARKS, JR., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CLAIRE V. EAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court is defendant Gordon Bond Starks, Jr.'s motion to suppress evidence (Dkt. # 10). On June 6, 2019, a grand jury returned an indictment (Dkt. # 2) charging defendant with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(viii). Defendant seeks to suppress evidence of illegal drugs recovered during the search of a black Chevrolet SUV parked in the driveway of 2103 East Tecumseh Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 26, 2019, arguing that Tulsa Police Department (TPD) Officer Chris Turner padded the warrant affidavit with facts that were “made up on the spur of the moment.” Dkt. # 10, at 8. Plaintiff filed a response (Dkt. # 12) to defendant's motion. On July 23, 2019, the Court issued an order (Dkt. # 14), finding that a suppression hearing is not necessary.

         I.

         Contrary to the assertions of both parties, three separate search warrants were issued by three separate magistrates on three separate days.[1] The Court reviews the facts related to each search warrant.

         A. Search Warrant for 2033 East Tecumseh Street (Dkt. # 10-5)

         On April 24, 2019, Officer Turner presented a search warrant affidavit to Tulsa County Special Judge Deborah Ludi Leitch, seeking to obtain a search warrant for 2033 East Tecumseh Street. Dkt. # 10-5. The affidavit asserts the following information.

         Officer Turner has training and experience in the recognition of controlled dangerous substances. Id. at 1. Further, Officer Turner has interviewed numerous individuals involved in the use, manufacture, transportation, and sale of controlled dangerous substances, through which he has learned how such individuals maintain records and secret monies. Id. at 1-2.

         In October 2017, a tipster contacted the TPD narcotics unit to inform officers that defendant was trafficking methamphetamine out of his residence at 2102 East Tecumseh Street, and that defendant and his wife Brenda routinely sell/traffic large amounts of methamphetamine and firearms from the residence. Id. at 2. In November 2017, Officer Shane Pryce conducted a utilities search for 2102 East Tecumseh Street, which revealed up-to-date utilities in defendant's name. Id. In May 2018, Officer Pryce conducted a trash pull on 2102 East Tecumseh Street, which produced a vacuum sealed bag, a clear plastic bag with corners cut, and mail addressed to Brenda Starks. Id. Officer David Wamsley and his K-9 partner Loki, a state-certified K-9 team, conducted a free air sniff on several items recovered from the trash pull, resulting in a positive alert for the odor of narcotics coming from the vacuum sealed bag. Id.

         In April 2019, a reliable confidential informant (RCI) contacted Officer Turner and told him about a person named “Gordon” living at 2102 East Tecumseh Street who was involved in trafficking methamphetamine. Id. Officer Turner asserts that the RCI is familiar with the appearance and sale of methamphetamine, and, on multiple occasions, has provided Officer Turner with information that led to methamphetamine-related charges being brought against the subjects. Id. Further, Officer Turner states that the “RCI has never provided false or misleading information to [Officer Turner] and all information provided in the past has been confirmed during warrant service.” Id. In the week preceding the preparation of the warrant affidavit, Officer Turner conducted a controlled buy by giving the RCI money to purchase methamphetamine from defendant. Id. During the controlled buy, officers watched as the RCI met with a woman at a separate location. Id. After the meet, officers met with the RCI and recovered an amount of crystal substance, which later tested positive for methamphetamine. Id. Meanwhile, assisting officers maintained constant surveillance on the woman as she drove to, parked in front of, and entered the residence at 2102 East Tecumseh Street. Id. In the days prior to preparing the warrant affidavit, the RCI again spoke to defendant and/or the same woman from whom he or she had purchased the methamphetamine during the controlled buy, and was prompted to purchase more methamphetamine from the woman and/or defendant at 2102 East Tecumseh Street. Id.

         In his affidavit, Officer Turner asserts that the “RCI stated Gordon Starks secrets [sic] /stashes his methamphetamine, cash, and/or firearms in the lot located at 2033 [East] Tecumseh Street, - across the street from Starks' residence at 2102 [East] Tecumseh Street.” Id. (emphasis added). Officer Turner conducted a records check within the 72 hours prior to preparing the affidavit, and discovered that the property located at 2033 East Tecumseh Street is owned by defendant. Id. Also within the 72 hours prior to preparing the warrant affidavit, Officer Turner conducted surveillance and observed the same vehicle observed/involved in the controlled buy, which was parked at 2102 East Tecumseh Street following the buy, parked at 2033 East Tecumseh Street. Id. Officer Turner conducted a records search and discovered that defendant has multiple felony convictions for possession of controlled drugs and possession with intent to distribute controlled drugs.

         Judge Leitch issued the search warrant for 2033 East Tecumseh Street on April 24, 2019. Id. at 3. According to defendant, officers executed the warrant for 2033 East Tecumseh Street on April 26, 2019. Dkt. # 10, at 6. Plaintiff asserts that no evidence was recovered during the search of 2033 East Tecumseh Street. Dkt. # 12, at 17 n.1.

         B. Search Warrant for 2102 East Tecumseh Street (Dkt. # 10-1)

         On April 25, 2019, Officer Turner presented a search warrant affidavit to Tulsa County Special Judge April Seibert, seeking to obtain a search warrant for 2102 East Tecumseh Street. Dkt. # 10-1. The search warrant affidavit includes the same information as the affidavit for 2033 East Tecumseh Street, but it omits any information relating to 2033 East Tecumseh Street. Specifically, the affidavit for 2102 East Tecumseh Street does not assert that the “RCI stated Gordon Starks secrets [sic] /stashes his methamphetamine, cash, and/or firearms in the lot located at 2033 [East] Tecumseh Street, ” that a records check revealed that defendant owns the property located at 2033 East Tecumseh Street, or that Officer Turner observed the same vehicle observed/involved in the controlled buy parked at 2033 East Tecumseh Street.

         Moreover, the affidavit for 2102 East Tecumseh Street adds that, in the 72 hours prior to preparing the affidavit, Officer Turner conducted another utilities search for 2102 East Tecumseh Street, and learned that up-to-date utilities for that residence are still in defendant's name. Id. ...


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