JACKSONVILLE – U.S. Attorneys handling the case of a man charged with a fentanyl overdose death of an Orange Park woman say law enforcement who handled the investigation acted in good faith and did not violate the suspect’s Constitutional rights.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyson Duva asked the U.S. District Court to throw out suspect Trumaine Muller’s motion to suppress records of his cell phone calls and text messages. Muller faces four federal counts in the November 10, 2016 death of 18-year-old Ariel Jade Brundige who died of a drug overdose in an apartment in the 1400 block of Berrier Street in Orange Park.
An autopsy conducted by the Jacksonville Medical Examiner’s Office found Brundige died of an overdose of fentanyl that the Clay County Sheriff’s Office would later trace back to Muller, who was known by Brundige and her friends as “Lucky Jolly.”
In the motion to suppress Muller’s cell phone records, defense attorney Jeremy Lasnetski of Jacksonville claimed Muller’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
“No probable cause determination, whether appropriate or faulty, was made. In the present case, law enforcement could have sought a warrant based on probable cause, which required less than probable cause,” according to Lasnetski’s motion filed Nov. 2 in the Middle District of U.S. District Court in Jacksonville.
U.S. Attorneys responded with a Nov. 7 motion and argue that Muller has no standing in the case to demand his cell records not be used as evidence.
According to the investigation, Brundige’s friend, then 32-year-old Christopher Allen Williams, used then 26-year-old Tyler William Hamilton’s cell phone to call and later text Muller at the Cedar Bend Apartments where Muller lived near Orange Park. The call was made “early in the 10:00 p.m. hour on November 9, 2016.”
“Muller was Christopher Williams’ heroine supplier,” states Duva’s Nov. 7 response to Muller’s motion to suppress.
Hamilton, who was Brundige’s boyfriend, and Williams pled guilty in state court to manslaughter, according to court records. Initially, a Clay County Grand Jury indicted Muller on first-degree murder on May 15, 2017. In the ensuing months, the case was turned over to federal court.
“On May 10, 2018, the federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment. On September 13, 2018, the federal grand jury returned the Superseding Indictment. Count One is the overdose death count,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s motion.
Duva stated that, weeks after Brundige’s death, on November 22, 2016, Clay County Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Calhoun “applied for and obtained” a court order from Fourth Circuit Court Judge Don Lester. Calhoun’s court order asked Metro PCS to relinquish Muller’s cell phone call and text message records from October 10, 2016 to November 11, 2016.
While Metro PCS did not disclose text message content, it did provide information showing that Muller’s cell phone had been in contact with Brundige’s and Hamilton’s cell phones prior to the woman’s overdose death.
“The historical cell site records, among other things, reveal that early in the 10:00 pm hour on November 9, 2016, all three phones (Muller’s phone, Hamilton’s phone, and A.B.’s phone) interfaced with the same cell tower that is approximately two-tenths of a mile from Muller’s apartment,” states the Nov. 7 motion.
According to Duva’s motion, on January 31, 2017, a confidential informant bought heroin and furanylfentanyl from Muller at his Cedar Bend apartment, a purchase that was captured on audio and video.
“Muller’s likeness is clearly captured in the video recording. This controlled purchase forms the basis of the charges in Count Two of the Superseding Indictment,” according to the motion.
A week later, on February 8, 2017, Clay County Detectives used a search warrant at Muller’s apartment where they seized cocaine, furanylfentanyl and a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver.
“The results of the search warrant form the basis of Counts Three and Four in the Superseding Indictment,” states Duva’s Nov. 7 motion.
Lasnetski argues that the Fourth Amendment-centric ruling Carpenter v. United States, which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 22, 2018, should apply to Muller’s motion to suppress. The Carpenter ruling found that cell phone record searches of seven days or more are Fourth Amendment searches because they violate a person’s “legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements.”
However, Duva argues that Muller’s attorney’s argument is not valid because Muller’s cell phone records were obtained under Florida’s Stored Communications Act. Under this state law, law enforcement can provide “reasonable grounds” to believe the contents of a suspect’s cell phone records are relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.