United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. WATTERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Jerome Lawrence Wigmore's motion
to suppress evidence seized inside his hotel room. (Doc. 28).
A hearing was held on October 5, 2018. The Court heard
testimony from Deputy United States Marshal David
Wollschlager, Deputy United States Marshal Patrick Schally,
Montana Probation Officer Laura McKee, Montana Probation
Officer Jayson Baxter, and Gigi Guzman. After considering the
facts and relevant law, the Court denies the motion.
August 2011, in Rosebud County, Wigmore was convicted and
sentenced to prison for assaulting someone with a weapon.
(Doc. 31-1 at 1-9). Due to the nature of his offense, Wigmore
was required to register as a violent offender. (Doc. 31-1 at
7). Upon his release from prison in 2015, Wigmore began
serving a term of probation. (Doc. 33-3 at 6). As a condition
of probation, Wigmore was subject to the following provision:
Search of Person or Property: 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, ISP
Officer). Any illegal property or contraband will be seized
and may be destroyed.
(Doc. 33-2 at 1). On June 6, 2017, the Rosebud County
Attorney filed a petition to revoke Wigmore's suspended
suspense. (Doc. 33-3). The petition was based on his
probation officer's report, which stated Wigmore (1) was
arrested for driving without a license and fleeing from
police after a traffic stop, (2) was being investigated for
theft of a motor bike and possession and distribution of
dangerous drugs, (3) tested positive for methamphetamine use,
(4) failed to attend substance abuse treatment, (5) failed to
attend mental health treatment, and (6) failed to take
medication as prescribed. (Doc. 33-3 at 6-8). Wigmore
subsequently stopped reporting to his probation officer and
was placed on absconder status.
November 13, 2017, Wigmore failed to appear for his hearing
on the petition to revoke his probation. (Doc. 33-4 at 1). A
bench warrant was issued for Wigmore's arrest. (Doc. 33-4
at 1). A few days later, Wigmore was charged with bail
jumping and another arrest warrant was issued. Due to
Wigmore's violent conviction, the warrants were referred
to Montana's Violent Offender Task Force, which is
comprised of United States Marshals, local law enforcement,
and probation officers.
United States Marshal David Wollschlager was assigned
Wigmore's case. On January 3, 2018, Wollschlager received
information through a tip line that Wigmore was residing in
Billings, Montana, at the Big 5 Motel in Unit 103 G with his
girlfriend, Gigi Guzman, who managed the motel. The tipster
stated Wigmore possessed firearms and installed a
surveillance system around the outside of Unit 103 G with a
live feed inside the room. The tipster revealed herself to be
the daughter of Guzman and provided contact information. She
did not state how she knew the information.
on January 3, 2018, Wollschlager called the daughter. The
daughter reiterated what she said in the initial tip.
Wollschlager then called Guzman's other daughter.
Guzman's other daughter corroborated what her sister
said, but added that she had personally observed firearms in
Unit 103 G.
January 4, 2018, Wollschlager and his team conducted
surveillance of the Big 5 Motel. Wollschlager observed
Wigmore entering and exiting Unit 103 G. Because he'd
been informed Wigmore may be armed and the unit may have
surveillance cameras around it, Wollschlager thought it best
to arrest Wigmore outside of the unit. Wollschlager and his
team approached Wigmore while he was near a staircase, but
before they could reach him, Wigmore entered Unit 103 G and
closed the door behind him. Wollschlager did not know if
Wigmore had seen him or not. Wollschlager and his team
approached Unit 103 G, knocked on the door, and stated
"police with a warrant." Wollschlager spent about a
minute knocking on the door.
observed a hidden surveillance camera pointed at his location
and determined the team needed to breach the door quickly for
safety purposes. The team tried repeatedly to breach the door
with a battering ram but were unsuccessful because the door
was fortified. Shortly thereafter, Wigmore could be heard
yelling he was coming out. Wigmore exited Unit 103 G through
a side door connected to the lobby, wearing only his
underwear and a t-shirt. Wigmore was immediately handcuffed.
Because it was winter, Wollschlager entered Unit 103 G to
retrieve pants, shoes, and a jacket for Wigmore. Wollschlager
conducted a protective sweep of the residence before locating
Wigmore's clothes. Wollschlager did not observe any
contraband during the protective sweep.
Wollschlager emerged from Unit 103 G, Montana probation
officer Jayson Baxter authorized a probation search of the
unit. During the probation search, the team located two
firearms inside a black case hidden from sight.
searches inside a home are presumptively unreasonable.
Payton v. New York,445 U.S. 573, 586 (1980). An
exception to the warrant requirement exists in cases
involving a probationer subject to a search condition. A
warrantless search of a probationer's home does not
violate the Fourth Amendment if, after evaluating the
circumstances of the particular case, the Court determines
the search was "reasonable." United States v.
Lara,815 F.3d 605, 610 (9th Cir. 2016). In doing so,
the Court balances, "on the one hand, the degree to
which [the search] intrudes upon an individual's privacy,
and, on the other, the degree to which [the search] is needed
for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests."
United States v. King,736 F.3d 805, 808 (9th Cir.
2013) (quoting United States v. Knights, 534 U.S.
112, 119 (2001)). The probation search condition is "a
salient circumstance" in the balancing of interests.
King, 736 F.3d at 808 (citing Knights, 534