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United States v. Nyah

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 26, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff- Appellee,
v.
Meamen Jean Nyah, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted: November 12, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before COLLOTON, SHEPHERD, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

          COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Meamen Nyah entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of possession of a firearm as an unlawful user of a controlled substance. The district court[1] denied Nyah's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search of his Facebook account. Nyah appeals, and we affirm.

         I.

         On July 7, 2016, Des Moines Police Detective Jeffrey Shannon submitted an affidavit requesting a search and seizure warrant for Facebook, Inc., to disclose the contents of accounts belonging to Nyah and three other people. He sought the warrant under 18 U.S.C. § 2703, which governs the required disclosure of customer communications or records by a provider of electronic communication service or remote computing service.

         Shannon started by recounting information that was obtained during an investigation seven months earlier. He averred that on December 3, 2015, he had received a tip that members of a local gang would be filming a music video while in possession of firearms at an apartment in Des Moines. The affidavit said that police officers searched the apartment on December 3, discovered several firearms, and encountered Nyah among the people present for the filming of the video. The music video was then posted to Facebook and YouTube on approximately January 7, 2016. The affidavit stated that Nyah, along with three other people, was "clearly visible in the video," and was handling at least one of the firearms recovered during the December search.

         The affidavit explained that each of the four people identified had "utilized his Facebook account to post the music video, display photographs carrying firearms, display photographs of what appear to be marijuana, and/or proclaim his gang affiliation." The affidavit also stated that Nyah had been arrested on December 7, 2015, for carrying weapons after a police officer found a loaded gun in the glove compartment of a car in which Nyah was the front-seat passenger. The officer detected the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle and saw Nyah reach into the glove compartment and appear to dig inside frantically. The weapons charge against Nyah eventually was dropped after the driver admitted that the firearm belonged to him. Police also found marijuana in a backpack in the trunk of the car. Finally, the affidavit stated that between December 2015 and May 2016, Shannon and other law enforcement officers had observed Nyah in photographs posted to his Facebook profile "that include him posing with firearms and smoking what appears to be marijuana."

         A magistrate judge issued a warrant on July 7, 2016, authorizing law enforcement officers to search for information associated with Nyah's Facebook account that was stored at Facebook's corporate premises, for the period from November 1, 2015, to July 7, 2016. The warrant commanded the officers to execute the warrant on or before July 21. On July 8, Shannon delivered the warrant to Facebook, and the company turned over the requested material on July 22. The Facebook records seized by the government included photographs and messages that were evidence of Nyah's drug use and possession of firearms. A grand jury then charged Nyah with one count of possession of a firearm as an unlawful user of a controlled substance, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3).

         Nyah moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his Facebook account. He argued that there was insufficient probable cause to support issuance of the warrant, that the affiant made false statements in the supporting affidavit, and that the warrant was not executed within the proper time frame. The district court denied the motion, and Nyah entered a conditional guilty plea that preserved his right to appeal the denial of the motion.

         When considering the denial of a motion to suppress, we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error and its legal conclusions de novo. United States v. Stevenson, 727 F.3d 826, 829 (8th Cir. 2013). We review for abuse of discretion a district court's refusal to grant a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), concerning alleged false statements in an affidavit. United States v. Stropes, 387 F.3d 766, 771 (8th Cir. 2004).

         II.

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