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United States v. Hamlett

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 27, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHRISTOPHER HAMLETT.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE

          Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

         The second superseding indictment in this case charges Christopher Hamlett (“Defendant”) with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 1591(a)(1), (b)(2), and (c), five counts of using a facility in interstate and foreign commerce with intent to facilitate prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 1952(a)(3)(A) and (b)(1)(i), and two counts of production of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a).

         Mr. Hamlett has filed two motions to suppress evidence addressing three distinct issues: (1) that evidence must be suppressed that was obtained, while law enforcement officers unlawfully and without a warrant seized his cellphone, manipulated the phone, and revealed evidentiary information that the officers later relied on in seeking a warrant for its contents; (2) that the pretrial and trial identifications of Mr. Hamlett “must be suppressed because the pretrial identification procedures employed were unduly suggestive and the proposed trial identifications cannot be attributed to a reliable source independent of the unduly suggestive pretrial identification procedures, ” and (3) that all evidence obtained under a warrant to search two Facebook accounts allegedly associated with Hamlett should be suppressed. ECF Nos. 35, 46.

         For the following reasons, Mr. Hamlett's motions to suppress evidence are DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Based on the indictment, and the filings and arguments of the parties, the underlying factual circumstances are alleged to be as follows[1]:

         In June 2017, the Complainant, then seventeen years old, ran away from her placement with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (hereinafter “DCF”). On October 23, 2017, the Complainant called a social worker at an organization dedicated to helping sex trafficking victims. She reported to the social worker that she had been homeless for four months, and that a man named “Chris” a.k.a. “Cadi” had been having her perform sexual acts in exchange for money since August of 2017.

         The Complainant provided the social worker with screen shots of conversations she had had with “Cadi” using her cellular telephone, which appeared to have occurred in October 2017 and included discussions of prices and the scheduling of clients for sexual acts with the Complainant. The social worker notified DCF of the Complainant's disclosures, and DCF then notified Detective Josh Lewis of the Hartford Police Department. Detective Lewis then began to investigate the Complainant's allegations.

         Detective Lewis conducted a search of publicly-available information on Facebook and found a Facebook page under the name “Cadillac Black, ” which was associated with the phone number that was displayed in the text message screenshots. The Facebook page under the name “Cadillac Black” stated that he studied at “Pimp Academy.” Detective Lewis recognized Mr. Hamlett in the photographs on the Facebook page. Detective Lewis also noted that Cadillac Black and the Complainant were “friends” on Facebook.

         On November 8, 2017, Hartford police officers brought the Complainant to the Hartford Police Department where Detective Lewis showed her a printed color photograph from the public Facebook profile of “Cadillac Black, ” whom Detective Lewis believed to be Mr. Hamlett, as well as Mr. Hamlett's booking photograph. The Complainant identified the person depicted in the photographs as “Cadi.”

         On February 8, 2018, Hartford police officers and Federal Bureau of Investigations (“FBI”) agents arrested Mr. Hamlett at a residence in Hartford, Connecticut, based upon a criminal complaint signed by the Honorable Donna F. Martinez on February 7, 2018. A person opened the door to the residence in response to police announcing their presence, and police immediately identified Mr. Hamlett standing inside the residence and arrested him without incident. The officers did not have a warrant to search Mr. Hamlett or the residence, but performed a search incident to his arrest. The police report prepared on February 26, 2018, in connection with the arrest stated:

A search of Christopher ‘Cadi' hamlet incident to arrest located a cellular telephone in his front right pants pocket. Christopher ‘Cadi' Hamlett stated the phone was not his, stating it belonged to his aunt. As the phone was in his possession and based on the undersigned's training and experience, knew that ‘pimps' utilize numerous cellular telephones, many not in their name in order to avoid detection from law enforcement, this cellular telephone was seized as evidence.

Hartford Police Report, Mot. to Suppress Ex. 1, ECF No. 30-1.

         The officers brought Mr. Hamlett to the United States Marshal's Office, and, Special Agent Sharp touched the screen of the phone to determine whether it had a passcode. At that point:

[Special Agent] Sharp noticed the front of the cellular telephone which had been seized from Christopher ‘Cadi' Hamlett was displaying a photo of Jane Doe and her father. The undersigned called the phone number which was now known to be the last number for Jane Doe. The phone which was now in possession of SA Sharp began to vibrate. It was now evidence that Christopher ‘Cadi' Hamlett was in possession of Jane Doe's cellular phone.

Id. Special Agent Sharp submitted a report to the FBI on February 16, 2018, which did not mention noticing the display screen of the phone or the subsequent phone call.

         Approximately one month later, Special Agent Sharp submitted an affidavit for a warrant to search the phone recovered during ...


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