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State v. Keefer

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Hocking

June 13, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CHRISTOPHER KEEFER, Defendant-Appellee.

          Benjamin E. Fickel, Hocking County Prosecutor, Logan, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Timothy P. Gleeson, Logan, Ohio, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          Matthew W. McFarland, Judge

         {¶1} This is an appeal from a Hocking County Court of Common Pleas judgment entry granting Christopher Keefer's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search warrant. Pursuant to the evidence discovered from the search warrant, the State charged Appellee with seven drug-related offenses. The State appeals the trial court's judgment that granted Appellee's motion to suppress contending that 1) the trial court erred when it found the affidavit for the search warrant did not sufficiently support a finding of probable cause, and (2) the trial court erred when it found that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply to prevent exclusion of the evidence recovered pursuant to the search warrant. Because we sustain the State's second assignment of error, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the cause for proceedings consistent with this decision.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶2} On March 28, 2017, Detective Dustin Robison, seeking a search warrant, filed an affidavit alleging that he had good cause to believe numerous drug-related offenses were occurring at 18692 Laurel Run Road in Nelsonville, Ohio. The following is a summary of the averments made in Robison's affidavit:

1. Robison was a detective with the Hocking County Sheriffs Office with fifteen years of experience and eight years of narcotics experience, which familiarized him with the methods used by drug traffickers.
2. On July 27, 2016, law enforcement received an anonymous tip that drug trafficking was occurring at 18692 Laurel Run Road, Nelsonville, Ohio 45764.
3. On August 8, 2016, the Hocking County Sheriffs Office executed, and attempted to serve, an arrest warrant on Appellee at the Laurel Run Road address, but Jessica Gilmore, Appellee's girlfriend, said that she had not seen Appellee for some time and did not know where he was. Upon executing a consent search of the premises, officers found $2, 080.00 and three firearms. Gilmore stated that the money was from illicit drug sales. The money and firearms were confiscated.
4. On March 25, 2017, a "reliable confidential informant" told detective Downs that Appellee and Randy Loring were going to drive to Columbus in a white Chevy Malibu to buy drugs to bring back to Keefer's residence, which he shares with Robin Zuransky, Denver Hutchinson, and Jessica Gilmore.
5. Detectives unsuccessfully attempted to intercept Appellee and Loring upon their return.
6. The informant stated that Hutchinson, Zuransky, and Appellee all had outstanding warrants in other counties. Detective Downs verified that the named individuals in fact did have outstanding warrants, including Appellee for drug trafficking in Franklin County.
7. On March 27, 2017, the informant contacted the affiant and stated that Appellee was again going to Columbus in the White Malibu to purchase drugs, but officials decided not to act at that time.
8. On March 28, 2017, the informant stated that Appellee, Gilmore, Zuransky and Hutchinson were at the residence along with drugs, money, and firearms.
9. The informant asserted that on March 28, 2017 Keefer was shooting guns.

         {¶3} Pursuant to the affidavit, a municipal judge signed the warrant. In executing the warrant, the State alleges that law enforcement officers recovered 60 grams of heroin, 10 grams of cocaine, 32 grams of methamphetamines, 2 firearms, 2 cell phones, and $3, 000.00 at the Laurel Run Road address.

         {¶4} On May 4, 2018, the State charged Appellee with possession of heroin in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A)(C)(6)(E), trafficking in heroine in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(1)(C)(6)(F), possession of cocaine in violation of RC. 2925.11(A)(C)(4)(B), trafficking in cocaine in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(1)(C)(4)(C), two counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs in violation of RC. 2925.03(A)(1)(C)(1)(D), and having weapons while under a disability in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(2), all with forfeiture specifications in violation of R.C. 2941.1417.

         {¶5} On October 2, 2018, Appellee filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to a March 28, 2017 search warrant because it was defective and the evidence recovered from the warrant should be suppressed. The State filed a motion in opposition.

         {¶6} In a January 2, 2019 judgment entry, the trial court addressed whether Detective Robison's affidavit provided sufficient probable cause to support the search warrant that had been issued. Generally, the trial court determined the overall reliability of the confidential information, as well as his or her assertions in paragraphs 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the affidavit were not sufficiently corroborated, and the information regarding the issuance and execution of the arrest warrant for Appellee made in paragraphs 3 and 4 was stale.

         {¶7} The court determined that "[t]he information in paragraphs 3 and 4, while stale, does provide some corroboration as to the CI's tip. Some further corroboration is provided in paragraph 4 as to a relationship between [Appellee] and Ms. Gilmore." But, ultimately, the court concluded that it was not enough, under the totality of the circumstances, to find that there was probable cause to support the warrant.

         {¶8} The court then set a hearing to determine if the evidence should be suppressed under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The court indicated that this judgment was not a final order.

         {¶9} At that hearing, on direct examination, Detective Robison testified that he had been employed with the Hocking County Sheriffs Office for 19 years. He testified that he received peace officer training, a college education, as well as ongoing police training. Detective Robison testified that he was part of the Sheriffs interdiction unit for narcotics and was investigating Appellee and others. He testified that he "worked on well over a hundred [search warrants]."

         {¶10} Detective Robison testified that met with the Hocking County Prosecutor and obtained a search warrant pertaining to Appellee at the Laurel Run Road address. Detective Robison testified that both the prosecutor and the judge reviewed the ...


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