United States v. Ackies, 031319 FED1, 18-1478

Docket Nº:18-1478
Opinion Judge:LYNCH, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES, Appellee, v. CAREY ACKIES, a/k/a Boyd, Defendant, Appellant.
Attorney:Jonathan I. Edelstein, with whom Edelstein & Grossman was on brief, for appellant. Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney, Appellate Chief, with whom Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.
Judge Panel:Before Lynch, Selya, and Boudin, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:March 13, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit



CAREY ACKIES, a/k/a Boyd, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 18-1478

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 13, 2019


Jonathan I. Edelstein, with whom Edelstein & Grossman was on brief, for appellant.

Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney, Appellate Chief, with whom Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Selya, and Boudin, Circuit Judges.

LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

A jury found Carey Ackies guilty of two counts of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base. Though Ackies resided in New York, he distributed the drugs through his network up to Maine, where many of the key facts take place. He was sentenced to 230 months' imprisonment.

His appeal challenges: denials of motions to suppress two warrants obtained by law enforcement and evidence obtained from his warrantless arrest, evidence rulings at his trial, and his sentence.

In affirming, we reject his arguments that there was error in the issuance of precise location information warrants ("PLI warrants") by a magistrate judge in Maine on a finding of probable cause, which allowed monitoring of the locations of Ackies's two cell phones. We hold that the PLI warrants were properly issued under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et seq. Our holding on this issue is like those of the Seventh and Third Circuits. United States

v. Berkos, 543 F.3d 392, 396-98 (7th Cir. 2008); United States v. Bansal, 663 F.3d 634, 662 (3d Cir. 2011).

We reject the argument that the cell phones were tracking devices under 18 U.S.C. § 3117, and that the PLI warrants violated Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. We also hold, in accord with our decision in United States v. Levin, 874 F.3d 316 (1st Cir. 2017), and the views of four other circuits, that the good-faith exception to suppression could apply in any event. We also approve the use of rebuttal testimony from a Pretrial Services Officer to impeach a witness.


To set up the background for the legal issues, we summarize the investigation and procedural history briefly in this section. Additional facts and statutory background are provided later where necessary. Law enforcement began investigating Ackies in the fall of 2015, beginning with information from a cooperating witness who became a cooperating defendant ("CD1") concerning his drug trafficking with a man he knew then as "Boyd" (determined at trial to be Ackies). In January 2016, the government applied for and received PLI warrants from a magistrate judge in Maine pursuant to a provision of the SCA, 18 U.S.C. § 2703, and Fed. R. Crim. P. 41 ("Rule 41") for two cell phones, Target Telephone 1 ("TT1") and Target Telephone 2 ("TT2"). This led to other confirming information. Ackies was arrested in January 2016 and charged in February 2016 with violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base.

A. Suppression Motions after the Investigation and Arrest

Ackies filed six pretrial motions in March 2017, in part to suppress evidence obtained from the issuance of the two PLI warrants and pursuant to his warrantless arrest. He alleged that both warrants were void and that one lacked probable cause.

At a two-day evidentiary hearing, the court credited the testimony of Maine State Police Sergeant Thomas Pappas, who testified that in the fall of 2015, he received information from CD1 (then under indictment for drug trafficking offenses), that CD1 had been dealing and transporting cocaine base, oxycodone, and heroin obtained from a source CD1 knew as "Boyd" in New York City. CD1 provided a cell phone number (TT1) that belonged to "Boyd," and identified "Boyd's" vehicles. CD1 told Pappas that he had exchanged drugs for cash at a bus terminal in Portland, Maine and had met "Boyd" on several occasions.

Pappas then obtained a warrant for TT1 under 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(1)(A) and Rule 41 based on his affidavit recounting this information. The January 15, 2016, PLI warrant directed AT&T to provide "specific latitude and longitude or other precise location information" for TT1 for thirty days; AT&T did so. The information showed that TT1 was in a building on 154th Street in Jamaica, New York on January 17 and 18, 2016.1 Also on January 18, Pappas intercepted incoming calls and text messages on CD1's phone from a number that would later be surveilled as TT2. Pappas recognized "the same voice of the incoming caller [as on TT1] telling [CD1] to get ready and that he would be there at 8:00." Pappas confirmed that a bus from Boston was due in Portland at 8:00 a.m. and told CD1 to meet agents there. CD1 recognized one of bus passengers as "Mike," a "runner" for and associate of "Boyd's" whom CD1 had met. Agents arrested "Mike" (who became Cooperating Defendant 2, "CD2") and seized about 100 grams of cocaine base and forty grams of heroin from him.

CD2 then cooperated with Pappas, including by providing information about "Boyd's" residence and vehicles. After Pappas passed this information to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in New York, the agents established surveillance near 107-41154th Street and identified Ackies, a potential suspect (though they did not see Ackies enter or leave this address). The DEA agents sent a booking photograph of Ackies to Pappas, and he showed the picture to CD1 and CD2. CD2 identified Ackies, the individual in the photo, as CD2's source for the heroin and cocaine base. CD1 "said that picture looked meaner than . . . Boyd in person" but did not say that the picture was not of the person he knew as "Boyd."

On January 19, 2016, Pappas and other agents conducted surveillance at 107-41154th Street. Pappas observed a Nissan Quest van that was registered to "Tyree Ackies." CD2 had told Pappas that Ackies owned a Nissan Quest.

On January 20, 2016, DEA Task Force Officer Brian Nappi obtained a PLI warrant for TT2 under SCA § 2703(c)(1)(A) and Rule 41. Nappi's application stated that CD1 had notified "Boyd" on January 19 that CD1 would be driving to New York the next day. The precise location information obtained for TT2 placed TT2's location in the same area as the 154th Street location where TT1 had been located earlier. Precise location information from the evening of January 20 showed TT2 "moving down Liberty Avenue," and government agents followed its location to a parking lot, observed the Nissan Quest van, and arrested Ackies. Ackies was questioned after his arrest and, according to Pappas, stated that he lived at 107-41154th Street, Jamaica, New York with Taylor, their children, and his nephew.

B. Denial of Motions to Suppress

In an order issued on July 26, 2017, the district court denied the three now-appealed motions to suppress, finding: (1) There was adequate probable cause for the PLI warrant for TT1, even though "the bulk of the information supporting probable cause came from an informant, CD1, who had at times misled the Government," and even without probable cause, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule discussed in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 899 (1984), would apply, United States

v. Ackies, No. 2:16-CR-20-GZS, 2017 WL 3184178, at *7-*8 (D. Me. July 26, 2017);

(2) The two PLI warrants were properly issued under 18 U.S.C. § 2703 rather than the "tracking device" provision at § 3117, and assuming arguendo a violation of Rule 41(b)'s geographic limitations had occurred, the good-faith exception applied, id. at *8-*14;

(3) Ackies's warrantless arrest was supported by probable cause, id. at *14.

The case proceeded to trial, and conviction.

C. Trial

Trial began on November 27, 2017, and lasted four days. Much of the testimony was similar to that at the suppression hearings, though the prosecution expanded on several aspects, including explaining the role of Ackies's nephew (Christopher Sampson) and an unnamed "fat guy" involved in the drug distribution. In short, the prosecution presented a case that: "Boyd" was Ackies and Ackies was a speaker on recorded phone calls with CD1 and was the person who had met and directed CD1, CD2, and others in drug trafficking and distribution; and Ackies lived at the 154th Street apartment where surveillance had led to his arrest. At trial, both CD1 and CD2 testified and identified Ackies in court and both identified a voice on the calls as belonging to Ackies.2

The defense argued that Ackies was not "Boyd" and so was not the person on TT1 communicating with CD1, nor the person who had met and directed CD1 and CD2...

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