Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Dec. 15

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

United States v. Patterson

On June 22, 2019, Matt Youngblood, a McIntosh County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was dispatched to a home in Checotah, Oklahoma, to investigate a sexual assault report. There, a 14-year-old told him earlier in the day, she used a friend’s phone to communicate with Demarco Patterson, who promised her a cell phone. When they met, he drove her to a secluded road and sexually assaulted her. 

After taking the minor’s statement, Youngblood accompanied her to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health for a sexual assault nurse examination. The SANE report recorded the results of an examination and contained details from the minor and a written statement from her about the encounter. 

On June 27, 2019, based on information gathered through an investigation, Youngblood prepared an affidavit supporting a search warrant to collect DNA from Patterson, where he said collecting Patterson’s DNA would aid in verifying the juvenile’s information. The same day, a state judge issued a search warrant to gather swabs from Patterson. 

On July 1, 2019, Patterson consented to meet with Youngblood at the Checotah Police Department. Youngblood read him his Miranda rights, and Patterson agreed to speak. Patterson denied the first sexual encounter, then admitted to engaging in sexual acts with the 14-year-old and corroborated her account. Patterson provided a written statement where he, again, admitted to engaging in sexual acts with the victim. Patterson indicated he was Black on the form’s race designation. Although Patterson is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, he didn’t indicate he was a member of an Indian tribe. 

After getting advice from a supervisor that Patterson’s statements provided probable cause, Youngblood collected a cheek swab from Patterson, then placed Patterson under arrest and transported him to jail. 

Patterson was charged with second-degree rape by the State of Oklahoma. After the U.S. Supreme Court decided McGirt v. Oklahoma, the state dismissed the case because Patterson is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Tribe, the alleged crime was committed in Indian country, so the federal government had jurisdiction. 

A federal grand jury indicted Patterson for sexual abuse of a minor. Patterson moved to suppress Youngblood’s evidence because the search and arrest violated his Fourth Amendment rights because the alleged offense occurred in Indian country and was out of the state’s jurisdiction. After a federal magistrate judge recommended the district court denied in part and granted in part the motion to suppress, the district court ruled the warrant and arrest violated the Fourth Amendment but denied the motion to suppress because Youngblood acted in good faith and the good-faith exception applied to evidence from the search warrant and arrest.

Patterson pleaded guilty as charged to sexual abuse of a minor in Indian country. As a condition of his plea, he preserved the right to challenge the court’s denial of his motion to suppress. At sentencing, the court applied an enhancement finding that Patterson exercised undue influence over a minor and sentenced Patterson to 38 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. 

Patterson appealed on the grounds the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence derived from a search warrant and his arrest and the district court erred in imposing a sentencing enhancement. 

A 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel out of Muskogee, Oklahoma, ruled the district court didn’t err in applying a good-faith exception because Youngblood reasonably believed he had probable cause. The court also ruled the district court didn’t err in applying the enhancement and affirmed Patterson’s sentence. 

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