United States District Court, D. Nebraska
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Michael D. Nelson, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Suppress Evidence
(Filing No. 17) filed by Defendant, Liane Ellsworth.
Defendant filed a brief (Filing No. 18) in support of the
motion and the government filed a brief (Filing No. 23) in
Court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on June 27,
2018. Defendant was present with her attorney, Mary Gryva.
The government was represented by Assistant United States
Attorney, Patrick McGee. Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Eric
Olson (“Deputy Olson”) testified on behalf of the
government. A copy of Deputy Olson's cruiser audio-video
recording of the traffic stop was offered by the government
as Exhibit 1 and received by the Court without
objection. (TR. 12:22-13:2). A transcript (TR.) of the
hearing was prepared and filed on July 6, 2018. (Filing No.
29). The matter is now fully submitted to the Court. For the
following reasons, the undersigned magistrate judge
recommends that the motion be denied.
March 7, 2018, Deputy Olson initiated a traffic stop of a
Chrysler 300 vehicle for following another vehicle too
closely while travelling eastbound on Interstate 80 in Omaha.
(TR. 11:10-25). Deputy Olson ran the Chrysler's plates
and determined it was a rental vehicle. (TR. 15). When Deputy
Olson approached the vehicle, he observed numerous food and
drink containers, blankets and pillows, clothing items, and
an air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror. (TR.
Olson made contact with the occupants of the vehicle from the
passenger side. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at 27:29). Michael Snyder was
the driver and Defendant was the passenger. (TR. 12:11-24;
16:21-24). Deputy Olson informed Snyder he needed to pass
sooner and requested Snyder's driver's license,
vehicle information, and rental agreement. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at
27:28-40; TR. 15:20-16:24). Snyder provided Deputy Olson with
a Washington operator's license but did not produce the
rental agreement. (TR. 15:20-16:8). Snyder stated that he
could not rent a vehicle in Indiana because he was not a
resident of Indiana or a surrounding state, so his brother
had rented the vehicle for him. (TR. 16:23-17:5; 18:1-9).
Deputy Olson asked Snyder to come back to Deputy Olson's
cruiser and left Defendant in the Chrysler. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at
28:10-13; TR. 18).
Olson began to ask Snyder about his travel
itinerary. Snyder told Deputy Olson that he and
Defendant, who is his girlfriend, were travelling from
California where they had been for about a week and went to a
Six Flags amusement park. Snyder stated that he is medically
retired and lives in Washington, and that he was considering
moving back to Indiana where Defendant lives because he was
going through a divorce. Deputy Olson asked Defendant how he
got to Indiana and he said he “traveled” (then
clarified he flew). Snyder denied having ever been arrested.
(Ex. 1, clip 3 at 28:51-30:00).
Olson returned to the Chrysler to talk to Defendant.
Defendant told Deputy Olson that she and Snyder were coming
from California where they had been for a “couple days,
” having left on Thursday or Friday for “two
nights, three days, ” and had stayed with her uncle.
When asked where Snyder lives, Defendant stated that Snyder
is from Washington but had been “staying” in
South Bend, Indiana with his brother. (Id. at
30:19-31:58; 32:21-30). When Deputy Olson asked Defendant how
Snyder got to Indiana, Defendant said that Snyder has a car.
(Id. at 31:59-32:20).
Olson returned to his cruiser and asked Snyder more questions
about their trip. Snyder stated they stayed in California for
three or four days, having left on Thursday (March 1) or
Friday (March 2), and stayed with Defendant's uncle.
(Id. at 32:48-33:19, 34:19-27). When Deputy Olson
asked Snyder why they did not stay in California longer,
Snyder said they only had the rental car for one week.
(Id. at 34:29-42). Snyder denied having anything
illegal in the vehicle, including narcotics, and stated they
were traveling with only one duffel bag. Snyder also stated
he and the Defendant had only been dating for about a week
and a half to two weeks. (Id. at 34:48-35:31). At
this point, Deputy Olson contacted the El Paso Intelligence
Center, or “EPIC” to begin the record check of
the Defendant and Snyder. (Id. at 35:56; TR. 21).
the record check was being completed, a back-up officer,
Deputy Woodward, arrived at the scene and began speaking with
Defendant. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at 42:09; TR. 25). Deputy Olson
received the results of the criminal history, noted it was
“all good, ” and began asking Snyder about the
details of the rental vehicle dates. Snyder stated they had
the rental vehicle from the 1stthrough the
7th, took two days to drive to California, and
that they rented a hotel room for three days, although
earlier both Snyder and Defendant stated they had stayed with
Defendant's uncle. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at 42:40-43:31).
Olson returned to the Chrysler to speak to Defendant.
Defendant again stated that they stayed with her uncle in
California, but then changed her account when Deputy Olson
told her that Snyder said they stayed at a hotel.
(Id. at 43:47-50-44:00). Defendant confirmed that
they shared one duffle bag, denied having anything illegal,
and consented to a search of her property if Snyder agreed to
a search of the Chrysler. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at 44:04-30; TR.
25:17-27:6). Deputy Olson returned to his cruiser and
consulted with his back-up officer, Deputy Woodward, who
commented on Defendant's nervousness. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at
44:42-50; TR. 27:7-12).
Olson returned to his cruiser, told Snyder that he would be
given a verbal warning, and explained the two car-length
rule. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at 45:02-40; TR. 27:13-19). Deputy Olson
then asked Snyder if he would answer some other questions,
and Snyder replied “yeah, sure.” (Ex. 1, clip 3
at 45:46-50). Deputy Olson asked Snyder about the discrepancy
in stories regarding where they stayed in California, and
Snyder explained that they visited Defendant's uncle and
that Defendant must have been confused. (Id. at
45:50-46:03). Snyder denied having anything illegal in the
vehicle, including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or
marijuana. (Id. at 46:03-12). Deputy Olson testified
that Snyder paused before denying having
methamphetamine. (TR. 28:2- 7). Deputy Olson requested
Snyder's consent to search the Chrysler, which Snyder
denied. (Ex. 1, clip 3 at 46:16-20). Deputy Olson stated that
he was going to walk his narcotics dog around the vehicle,
and Snyder stated, “ok.” (Id. at
46:20-23). Deputy Woodward returned to the Chrysler where
Defendant volunteered that officers “could search [her]
purse if [they] want.” (Id. at 47:11-15).
Defendant was placed in Deputy Woodward's cruiser, Deputy
Olson deployed his canine, which alerted and indicated to the
odor of narcotics emanating from within the Chrysler. (TR.
29:14-25). Deputy Olson conducted a search of the Chrysler
starting with the trunk and the duffle bag. Officers observed
an M&M box adjacent to the duffle bag that appeared to
have been opened and resealed with new glue. Officers
searched the M&M box and found three large zip-lock
baggies containing approximately three pounds of
methamphetamine. (TR. 29-30).
has filed the instant motion to suppress all evidence
obtained from the traffic stop of the Chrysler, arguing that
the initial stop was unsupported by probable cause and that
her subsequent detention was ...