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United States v. Williams

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

November 14, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
DERRICK LUCIUS WILLIAMS, JR., Defendant-Appellant. ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION, Amicus Curiae.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (D.C. No. 1:16-CR-00249-WJM-1)

          Josh Lee, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Virginia L. Grady, Federal Public Defender, with him on the brief), Denver, Colorado, for Defendant - Appellant.

          Marissa R. Miller, Assistant U.S. Attorney (Jason R. Dunn, United States Attorney, with her on the brief), Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff - Appellee.

          Sophia Cope and Adam Schwartz, Electronic Frontier Foundation, San Francisco, California, filed an Amicus Curiae brief, in support Defendant - Appellant.

          Before BACHARACH, KELLY, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.

          KELLY, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Defendant-Appellant Derrick Williams pled guilty to transportation of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(1) and (b)(1), and possession of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B) and (b)(2), reserving his right to appeal the denial of a motion to suppress. He was sentenced to 84 months' imprisonment and five years of supervised release. Our jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we affirm.

         Background

         On November 24, 2015, Mr. Williams, an American citizen, boarded an international flight bound for Denver International Airport (DIA). Once on the ground, he proceeded to customs where his passport triggered multiple "lookout" alerts in the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) enforcement system. The alerts instructed CBP officers to escort Mr. Williams to DIA's secondary screening area where he was met by Homeland Security Special Agent Kyle Allen.

         Agent Allen became aware of Mr. Williams in August 2015 when he received a letter stating that Mr. Williams had been arrested in Germany for violating weapons laws. According to the letter, someone reported seeing Mr. Williams and another man brandishing weapons in a suburban neighborhood. Officers found a crossbow, multiple pistols, and an airsoft gun that resembled an automatic rifle in their possession.

         The letter additionally stated that it was unclear how Mr. Williams entered Germany as he was banned from the country in 2011 after being discovered living there on an expired visa. The ban extended throughout the Schengen Area for a five-year period. However, Mr. Williams admitted to German law enforcement that in 2015 he had already traveled through Belgium, France, Iceland, and the Netherlands - all Schengen member states - and that he would go to Morocco next.

         Prompted by this letter, Agent Allen began investigating Mr. Williams and discovered that he had domestic felony convictions for trespass, unlawful use of a financial instrument, fraud, and escape. The escape charge arose when Mr. Williams fled the United States in 2007 while serving a community corrections sentence. Mr. Williams was convicted in 2011 after being deported from Germany to the United States.

         On November 13, 2015, terrorist cells operating in France and Belgium launched a large-scale attack in Paris. The terrorists, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic state, were of Moroccan descent. Agent Allen's supervisors asked that he review his open investigations. Agent Allen then reviewed Mr. Williams's file and, though he did not have specific information linking Mr. Williams to terrorist activity, placed a lookout on Mr. Williams in the CBP enforcement system.

         Less than two weeks after the attacks, Agent Allen learned that Mr. Williams had boarded a flight from Paris to Denver with a stopover in Reykjavik. He met Mr. Williams at DIA to interview him. Prior to conducting the interview, however, Agent Allen reviewed Mr. Williams's customs declaration form and noticed that he had not ...


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