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United States v. Weaver

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

April 28, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
STEPHEN EDWARD WEAVER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF COURT

KIM R. GIBSON JUDGE

I. SYNOPSIS

Pending before the Court is Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and statement (ECF No. 32). Defendant asserts that the police unlawfully searched his home and unlawfully obtained his statement in violation of the United States Constitution. For the reasons explained below, the Court will DENY Defendant’s motion.

II. BACKGROUND

This matter arises from a search of Defendant’s garage conducted without a warrant on June 5, 2011, and a statement given by Defendant to police on June 7, 2011. During the search, police seized evidence related to several pipe bombs found in Defendant’s garage. In the statement he gave to the police, Defendant acknowledged ownership of the bombs and explained that he had constructed them to use for fishing.

On July 9, 2013, Defendant was indicted on one count of possession of unregistered destructive devices, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 5861(d). (See ECF No. 1). The Indictment charges that on or about June 5, 2011, Defendant knowingly and unlawfully possessed destructive devices, as defined in 26 U.S.C. §§ 5845(a)(8) and 5845(f), which were not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, specifically, two (2) pipe bombs. (Id. at 1). On August 15, 2013, Defendant was arraigned and pled not guilty. (See ECF Nos. 12, 13).

On October 24, 2013, Defendant filed a motion to suppress both the evidence seized from his garage during the search and the statement he gave to police. (ECF No. 32). The Government filed a response on December 9, 2013. (ECF No. 39).

Regarding the search and seizure of evidence from his garage, Defendant claims that the police did not obtain a warrant authorizing the search, did not have probable cause to search, and did not have Defendant’s consent to search. (ECF No. 32, at 1). In response, the Government argues that Defendant’s wife, who was a lawful owner of the garage, consented to the search in Defendant’s absence. Alternatively, the Government argues that exigent circumstances justified the search, given the danger to the public posed by the bombs. (ECF No. 39, at 4-5). Regarding the statement, Defendant claims that the police coerced the statement. (ECF No. 32, at 2). The Government counters that Defendant waived his rights and voluntarily gave his statement. (ECF No. 39, at 7-9).

On April 15, 2014, the Court held a suppression hearing on Defendant’s motion. At the hearing, the Government introduced the following into evidence: (1) the testimony of Donna Weaver; (2) the testimony of Trooper Cameron Craig; (3) the testimony of Corporal Matthew Strange; (4) the testimony of ATF Special Agent Kelley Hoover; and (5) the statement of rights and waiver form signed by Defendant (Gov’t Ex. No. 1). Defendant’s counsel cross-examined Mrs. Weaver and Agent Hoover, and offered into evidence the testimony of Trooper Terry Summers.

III. FINDINGS OF FACT

The Court makes the following findings of fact based on the evidence and testimony presented at the suppression hearing.

1. The Indictment in this case charges Defendant with the unlawful possession of a destructive device on or about June 5, 2011.

2. At that time, Defendant and his wife, Donna Weaver, were estranged.[1]

3. Defendant resided at the marital home, while Mrs. Weaver resided elsewhere.

4. However, the martial home was still jointly owned by Mrs. Weaver and Defendant, and Mrs. Weaver was named on the mortgage, the deed, the utility bills, and the home insurance, although she did not pay any of the bills.

5. On June 2, 2011, Defendant was arrested and detained on state criminal charges unrelated to this case.

6. On June 5, 2011, because of Defendant’s incarceration, Mrs. Weaver went to the marital home, along with Carl Burkheimer, to secure the home[2] and to retrieve pets that were living in the home.

7. While at the home on June 5, 2011, Mr. Burkheimer and Mrs. Weaver discovered what they believed were pipe bombs in the garage.

8. Mrs. Weaver immediately contacted the Pennsylvania State Police to report that she had found suspected pipe bombs ...


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