United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
OPINION & ORDER
P. WATTERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Christian Nava is charged with Possession with Intent to
Distribute Methamphetamine, Possession of Stolen Firearm, and
Felon in Possession of a Firearm. (Doc. 2). Nava has moved to
suppress evidence obtained from his arrest and government
search on December 7, 2016. (Doc. 19).
August 22, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing. The
Court heard testimony from Montana Department of Corrections
Probation and Parole Officer Jayson Baxter, and former
Montana Violent Offender Task Force Officer Micky Eckart.
Having read and reviewed the parties' submissions and
having heard the testimony of the witnesses noted above, the
Court DENIES Nava's motion.
Statement of Facts
fall of 2016, Nava was out on parole. In October, Nava's
parole officer, Officer Pisk, issued a warrant for Nava's
arrest. In November, Pisk requested assistance from the
Montana Violent Offender Task Force (Task Force) in locating
Nava. Nava's warrant was assigned to Task Force Officer
Eckart. In an effort to locate Nava, Eckart conducted
surveillance at Nava's residence for a couple of days. He
did not see Nava. Eckart also called Nava's employer and
determined that Nava had not been employed for approximately
December, Eckart received an email from Montana Probation and
Parole Officer Reede. In the email, Reede told Eckart that
she supervised state probationer Brooke Brown. Reede said
that Brown's landlord, Lindsey Bell, had reported often
seeing Nava at Brown's apartment and suspected Nava lived
there. Eckart testified that he saw a picture of Brown and
Nava together on social media. His impression from the
photograph was that they were in a relationship.
talked to Bell the next day. Bell reported that she had seen
Nava and his clothing in Brown's apartment. She told
Eckart she believed that Nava had been living with Brown for
several weeks. She also stated that although Brown had
previously been a model tenant, recently Brown had been late
on rent and Brown's neighbors complained about increased
foot traffic within the last month. Bell gave Eckart keys to
Brown's apartment. Eckart called Officer Baxter and
discussed entering Brown's apartment to find Nava. Baxter
authorized the probationary search of Brown's apartment
and agreed to assist. Baxter was made aware, from Officer
Reede, in a phone conversation either before or after he
talked to Eckart, that Officer Reede had instructed Brown in
late November 2016 not to have contact with Nava.
around seven a.m. the next morning, Eckart met Baxter and
numerous other Task Force officers at Brown's apartment
complex. Eckart told Baxter that Bell had texted him that
morning. Bell reported that she had received several
complaints from neighbors that morning about the noise and
traffic at Brown's apartment. Baxter authorized the
search of Brown's apartment. Eckart provided assignments
to the officers and advised them that the last time the Task
Force was involved with Nava, it was rumored he was armed.
Task Force officers entered Brown's apartment building,
knocked on her apartment door, and announced themselves three
times. When Brown did not answer, Eckart opened the door
using the keys from Bell. Once inside, Task Force officers
saw Brown standing at the top of the stairwell. Officers
ordered her down the stairs and handcuffed her. She told the
officers that Nava was upstairs and that he did not have a
gun. While they were talking with Brown, Eckart testified
that he heard thumping noises that sounded like furniture
moving upstairs. Officers went upstairs, which consisted of a
bedroom and a closet. In the bedroom was a mattress sitting
on box springs which were sitting on the floor. Nava was
nowhere to be seen. Officers found a .40 caliber handgun
under the mattress and Nava under the box springs.
was arrested and taken to a patrol car. Because officers
found a gun, Baxter requested a probationary search of
Brown's apartment. During the search, officers found a
ball of plastic containing methamphetamine when they pulled
the bed away from the wall. Officers secured the drugs and
gun. After running the gun through NCIC, officers discovered
it had been stolen out of Mesa, Arizona. Brown was arrested
for her probation violations based on Nava being in her
apartment and finding the gun and drugs there.
testified that, at the time, Nava and Brown were subject to
the following 'search' condition due to their
respective parolee and probationer status:
Upon reasonable suspicion, as ascertained by a
Probation/Parole Officer, my person, vehicle, and/or
residence may be searched at any time, day or night.
Including my place of employment, without a warrant by a
Probation/Parole Officer, ISP Officer or Law Enforcement
Officer (at the direction of the Probation/Parole Officer).
Any illegal property or contraband will be seized and may be
(Doc. 21-1, Conditions of Probation and Parole)