FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE [Hon. George Z. Singal, U.S. District Judge]
S. Hewes for appellant.
Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney,
with whom Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, was
on brief, for appellee.
Lynch, Selya and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
Christopher Coombs strives to persuade us that the district
court erred both in denying his multiple motions to suppress
incriminating evidence and in fashioning his sentence. We are
not convinced and, therefore, affirm.
rehearse the facts as supportably found by the district court
following an omnibus hearing on the appellant's several
motions to suppress. See United States v. Gamache,
792 F.3d 194, 196 (1st Cir. 2015); United States v.
Paneto, 661 F.3d 709, 711-12 (1st Cir. 2011).
wake of his 2009 conviction on drug-trafficking charges, the
appellant was sentenced to a fifteen-month term of immurement
to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release. He
served his prison sentence but, during his final six months
under supervision, he again found himself on the wrong side
of the law.
October of 2014, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents
intercepted a package at John F. Kennedy International
Airport in New York. An air waybill - a document completed by
the sender that includes the package's origin,
destination, and a description of its contents - accompanied
the package. The air waybill indicated that the package was
from "Marry" in Shanghai and was to be delivered at
the appellant's residence in Westbrook, Maine. The
contents were described as "[p]olycarbonate."
of the contents revealed an amber-colored crystal (a
rock-like substance). The agents conducted a chemical field
test and received a reading that was positive for
methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly known as
ecstasy. A second analysis, conducted in Portland, Maine, at
a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facility, detected
alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP), a type of
synthetic cathinone. Synthetic cathinones are colloquially
known as bath salts.
October 31, DHS agents and local police, in conjunction with
the U.S. Postal Service, executed a controlled delivery of
the package (with the contents safely removed) to the
appellant at his Westbrook address.
the controlled delivery was underway, the officers sought an
anticipatory search warrant for the appellant's
residence. In support of probable cause, they represented,
inter alia, that the substance in the package had tested
positive for MDMA and alpha-PVP. A state magistrate issued
the search warrant, with the caveat that it should be
executed only if the appellant took the parcel inside his
matters turned out, the appellant accepted the parcel while
standing outside the building, and the officers promptly took
him to the ground. He was arrested on the spot and never
brought the package into his home. The officers described the
appellant's manner at the time of the detention as
"nerved up" but cooperative. By the time that news
of the warrant arrived at the scene, the appellant already
had consented to a search of his residence and had signed a
form to that effect.
the appellant's arrest, officers transported him to the
police station and read him his Miranda rights.
See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478-79 (1966).
The appellant stated that he had ordered the package and some
other shipments from China on behalf of a third party. When
packages arrived, the appellant would deliver them to the
requesting individual and would be paid for his trouble. The
intercepted parcel, he said, represented the largest order
that he had placed. When asked if alpha-PVP "sounded
familiar, " he responded in the affirmative.
a search of the appellant's residence, officers seized a
computer, a tablet, and five cell phones. Thereafter, the
appellant - still in custody - exchanged telephone calls with
his wife. A standard recording at the beginning of each call
warned him that the conversations would be recorded and
monitored. When his wife noted that the authorities had taken
his electronic gear, he asked her to delete receipts from two
e-mail accounts and supplied her with the passwords. In a
subsequent conversation, the appellant sought to confirm that
his wife had not only deleted the receipts but also had
emptied the trash folders to "make sure they were
course, the government sought and received warrants
authorizing the search of the five cell phones found at the
appellant's residence and the two e-mail accounts that he
had mentioned to his wife. The search of the e-mails
disclosed several exchanges between the appellant and
overseas pharmaceutical companies, in which the appellant, in
his own words, solicited "apvp (or similar
products)." In addition, he made inquiries as to pricing
and quantities and placed several orders.
to the issuance of the last of the warrants, the seized
amber-colored crystal was subjected to more sophisticated
laboratory testing. This testing was conducted at a Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) laboratory. It revealed, for
the first time, that the substance was
alpha-pyrrolidinohexanophenone (alpha-PHP) rather than
alpha-PVP. Although these substances were (and are) both
regulated as controlled substances - illegal bath salts - the
two have different chemical compositions.
time of the appellant's offensive conduct, alpha-PVP was
regulated pursuant to the Attorney General's authority to
designate controlled substances temporarily, as needed, in
order to "avoid imminent hazards to public
safety." 21 U.S.C. § 811(h); see
Schedules of Controlled Substances: Temporary Placement of 10
Synthetic Cathinones Into Schedule I, 79 Fed. Reg. 12, 938,
12, 938 (Mar. 7, 2014). On the other hand, alpha-PHP was (and
is) regulated as a controlled substance analogue, meaning
that it is "substantially similar" to a controlled
substance, 21 U.S.C. § 802(32)(A), and thus may be
regulated as such if intended for human consumption, see
id. § 813; see also McFadden v. United
States, 135 S.Ct. 2298, 2302 (2015) (explicating
relevant statutory scheme).
January 15, 2015, a federal grand jury sitting in the
District of Maine handed up a two-count indictment against
the appellant. Count one charged possession with intent to
distribute alpha-PHP, a schedule I controlled substance
analogue. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 802(32)(A),
813, 841(a)(1). Count two, which focused on the
appellant's instructions to his wife to delete certain
emails, charged obstruction of justice. See 18
U.S.C. § 1512(b)(2)(B).
appellant maintained his innocence and filed five separate
motions to suppress. Following an omnibus hearing, the
district court - ruling in an electronic order - deemed the
first suppression motion moot and denied the four remaining
motions. The appellant thereafter entered a conditional
guilty plea to counts one and two, see Fed. R. Crim.
P. 11(a)(2), reserving the right to appeal the denial of his
quartet of motions to suppress.
objection, the district court calculated the appellant's
guideline sentencing range as fifty-seven to seventy-one
months. The court then sentenced the appellant to a
concurrent five-year incarcerative term on each count of
conviction, to be followed by five years of supervision. At
the same time, the court dealt with the appellant's
admitted violation of his earlier supervised release and
imposed a 366-day incarcerative sentence for that violation.
The court decreed that the revocation-of- supervised-release
sentence would run consecutively to the concurrent sentences
imposed with respect to the offenses of conviction.
appellant moved to modify the judgment. Pertinently, he
sought to reduce his new term of supervision from five years
to three years. The court granted this entreaty in part,
reducing the supervised release term for count two to three
years (the statutory maximum for that count, see 18
U.S.C. §§ 3559(a)(3), 3583(b)(2)). This timely