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United States v. Kappler

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

December 8, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES ALLEN KAPPLER, JR., Defendant.

AMENDED MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LAURIE SMITH CAMP, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Findings and Recommendation (the "F&R") (Filing No. 62) issued by Magistrate Judge F.A. Gossett recommending that the Motion to Suppress (Filing No. 55) filed by Defendant James Allen Kappler, Jr. ("Kappler") be denied. Kappler filed Objections to the F&R (Filing No. 63), and a supporting brief (Filing No. 64) as allowed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and NECrimR 59.2(a). The government did not respond to Kappler's objections. For the reasons stated below, Kappler's objections to the F&R are overruled, the F&R is adopted, and Kappler's Motion to Suppress will be denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Indictment (Filing No. 1) charges Kappler and Defendant Alicia Weir with three counts of executing a scheme of wire fraud. The Indictment alleges that Kappler represented to family members that he was diagnosed with MRSA, a contagious staph bacteria, and that he was a participant in a study for MRSA patients conducted by Pfizer Pharmaceutical, Inc. ("Pfizer"). According to the Indictment, Kappler told family members that if he paid for his own medication and treatments, Pfizer would pay him approximately $7, 000, 000 when he recovered. Family members wired money to Kappler relying upon these representations.

Other family members became suspicious of Kappler and contacted an attorney. As part of the attorney's investigation, the attorney hired a private investigator, Paul Sheckler ("Sheckler"). On March 16, 2012, Sheckler went to Kappler's residence in Topeka, Kansas, to investigate. While at Kappler's residence, Sheckler asked Kappler several questions about MRSA and the money his family members had wired to him. Sheckler videotaped his conversation with Kappler without Kappler's knowledge.

The family members' attorney referred this matter to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on April 18, 2013. The matter was also reported to the Valley, Nebraska, Police Department who reported the matter to the United States Secret Service Agency. Kappler seeks to suppress Sheckler's video recording and any other evidence Sheckler obtained. Kappler argues that Sheckler was not licensed to conduct private detective activities in Kansas. As a result, Kappler argues, Sheckler violated Kansas Law and federal wiretapping laws when he secretly recorded his conversation with Kappler.

The F&R concluded that even if Sheckler unlawfully conducted private investigation activities in Kansas, Kappler failed to allege that Sheckler made the recording for purposes of furthering an unlawful act or scheme. Accordingly, the F&R recommends that the Motion to Suppress be denied.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the findings and recommendation to which the Defendants have objected. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendation. The Court may also receive further evidence or remand the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions.

DISCUSSION

The interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications is prohibited by 18 U.S.C. § 2511, and any intercepted communications are inadmissible at trial under 18 U.S.C. § 2515. The applicable exception to this rule states:

It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for a person not acting under color of law to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication where such person is a party to the communication or where one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception unless such communication is intercepted for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States or of any State.

18 U.S.C.A. § 2511(2)(d) (emphasis added).

Kappler argues that the exception is not applicable to this case because Sheckler's video recording was made for the purpose of unlawfully conducting private investigator activities in Kansas. Judge Gossett concluded that Kappler's arguments were inapposite, because he failed to allege that Sheckler's purpose or intent in making the recording was to further an unlawful act or scheme. This Court concludes that Sheckler's violation of Kansas law ...


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