United States District Court, D. Columbia
SHANTIA HASSANSHAHI, also known as SHANTIA HASSAN SHAHI, also
known as SHAHI, also known as SHANTIA HAAS, also known as
SEAN HAAS, Defendant: John Patrick Pierce, THEMIS PLLC,
USA, Plaintiff: Frederick Walton Yette, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S.
ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Criminal Division, Washington, DC.
Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration
CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.
Shantia Hassanshahi is charged with one count of conspiracy
to violate the International Economic Emergency Powers Act,
50 U.S.C. § 1705, and the Iranian Transactions and
Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. § § 560.203-204,
commonly referred to as the United States' trade embargo
December 2014, the Court denied a motion by Mr. Hassanshahi
to suppress certain evidence discovered during a forensic
examination of his laptop computer, holding, in relevant
part, that discovery of the evidence was sufficiently
attenuated from a search of a mysterious telephony database
that the Court assumed, for purposes of its analysis and at
the Government's suggestion, was unconstitutional.
See United States v. Hassanshahi, 75
F.Supp.3d 101 (D.D.C. 2014). Following the Court's
decision, Mr. Hassanshahi has argued, both orally before the
Court and in rounds of supplemental briefing in response to
orders of the Court, that suppression of the evidence is
warranted in light of both additional information concerning
the database that the Government provided after the
Court's ruling and the Second Circuit's recent
decision concerning a different government database in
ACLU v. Clapper, 785 F.3d 787 (2d Cir. 2015).
Court construes these arguments as a motion for
reconsideration of the Court's denial of Mr.
Hassanshahi's motion to suppress. For the reasons that
follow, and upon consideration of the briefs submitted by
both Mr. Hassanshahi and the Government, the Court denies
that motion and affirms its ruling on the motion to suppress.
Indictment against Mr. Hassanshahi alleges that, beginning in
or around March 2009, Mr. Hassanshahi engaged in a conspiracy
to export or cause the exportation of goods and technology
from Canada to Iran, as well as related services from the
United States to Iran, without first having obtained a
license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, in
violation of federal law. See Indictment ¶ 1,
ECF No. 7.
trial, the Government seeks to introduce evidence discovered
during a forensic examination of Mr. Hassanshahi's laptop
computer, which the Government seized from Mr. Hassanshahi in
January 2012 upon his arrival from the United States at the
Los Angeles International Airport (" LAX" ). The
Government's search and seizure of that evidence was the
result of an investigation that began at least as early as
August 2011. See Hassanshahi, 75
F.Supp.3d at 105-07. In August 2011, Homeland Security
Investigations (" HSI" ) received an unsolicited
e-mail from a source concerning an Iranian individual named
" Sheikhi" who was seeking to procure protection
relays for an Iranian power project. See
id. at 105. Later the same month, HSI requested a
search of a law enforcement database using a telephone number
it knew to be associated with Sheikhi. That search returned a
single telephone record of one call between the searched
telephone number and a California telephone number with an
818 area code that HSI later determined, through its
subsequent investigation, was registered to Mr. Hassanshahi.
See id. at 105-06. Over the course of the
next several months, HSI investigated Mr. Hassanshahi, which
ultimately led to the search and seizure of his laptop
computer at LAX.
Hassanshahi moved to suppress the evidence discovered through
the forensic examination of his laptop, asserting, in
relevant part, that HSI's search of the law enforcement
database constituted an unconstitutional search and that the
evidence should be excluded under the fruit of the poisonous
tree doctrine. See Def.'s Mot. Suppress at
18-30, ECF No. 28. The Court denied Mr. Hassanshahi's
motion, holding, in relevant part, that the exclusionary rule
did not require suppressing the evidence as " fruit of
the poisonous tree," because discovery of the evidence
was sufficiently attenuated from the purportedly unlawful
search of the database. See Hassanshahi,
75 F.Supp.3d at 108-18. The Court reached this holding based
on limited information concerning the database at issue,
because, in its opposition to the motion
to suppress, the Government refused to provide details
concerning the database and instead asked the Court to assume
arguendo that the database was unconstitutional.
See id. at 109. In its analysis, the Court
therefore proceeded on the assumption that the database and
HSI's search of the database were unconstitutional and
nevertheless concluded that the exclusionary rule did not
require suppression. See id. at 108-18.
Although the Court was unequivocal in its holding, it also
ordered the Government to provide the Court with more
information concerning the database. See
id. at 115 n.6.
Government complied with the Court's order by providing a
declaration from Robert Patterson, an Assistant Special Agent
in Charge at the United States Drug Enforcement
Administration (" DEA" ), which the Government
initially filed ex parte and under seal and later
filed publicly in redacted form. See Decl. Robert
Patterson (" Patterson Decl." ), ECF No. 49-1
(publicly-filed redacted version). In this declaration, Mr.
Patterson explained that the database at issue "
consisted of telecommunications metadata obtained from United
States telecommunications providers pursuant to
administrative subpoenas served upon the service providers
under the provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 876."
Id. ¶ 4. The referenced statutory provision
authorizes the Attorney General to issue administrative
subpoenas in " any investigation" relating to his
drug enforcement function. See 21 U.S.C. § 876.
Mr. Patterson provided further detail concerning the metadata
stored in the database:
This metadata related to international telephone calls
originating in the United States and calling [REDACTED]
designated foreign countries, one of which was Iran, that
were determined to have a demonstrated nexus to international
drug trafficking and related criminal activities. This
metadata consisted exclusively of the initiating telephone
number; the receiving telephone number; the date, time, and
duration of the call; and the method by which the call was
billed. No subscriber information or other personal
identifying information was included in this database. No
communication content was included in this database.
Decl. ¶ 4. Mr. Patterson further stated that the DEA
database " could be used to query a telephone number
where federal law enforcement officials had a reasonable
articulable suspicion that the telephone number at issue was
related to an ongoing federal criminal investigation"
and that the standard had been met with respect to the search
that returned Mr. Hassanshahi's telephone number.
Id. ¶ 5. Mr. Patterson also stated that use of
this particular database was suspended in September 2013 and
that " information is no longer being collected in bulk
pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 876." Id. ¶
status conference before the Court on January 29, 2015
following the filing of Mr. Patterson's redacted
declaration, counsel for Mr. Hassanshahi sought permission to
renew his motion to suppress based on the new information
concerning the DEA database. The Court directed the
Government to provide briefing concerning two issues: first,
whether information obtained by one law enforcement agency
for one purpose may lawfully be shared with another law
enforcement agency for another purpose; and second, whether a
remedy of suppression existed for a non-constitutional
violation of law. The Government submitted a brief on these
issues, and Mr. Hassanshahi filed a brief in response, to
which the Government filed a reply brief. See
Gov't's Response to the Court's Directive from
the Jan. 29, 2015 Status Conference (" Gov't's
Feb. 25 Brief" ), ECF No. 51; Def.'s Response to
Gov't's Filing (" Def.'s Apr. 13 Brief"
), ECF No. 53; Gov't's Reply to Def.'s Response
(" Gov't's Apr. 29 Brief" ), ECF No. 58.
2015, the Second Circuit decided ACLU v. Clapper,
holding that a counterterrorism telephony metadata program
maintained by the National Security Agency (" NSA"
), which this Court discussed in its denial of the motion to
suppress, exceeded the program's statutory authorization.
See ACLU v. Clapper, 785 F.3d 787 (2d Cir.
2015). The parties have also submitted briefs concerning the
effect, if any, that the Second Circuit's decision might
have on the issues presented in this case. See
Def.'s Brief re Effect of ACLU v. Clapper
(" Def.'s June 22 Brief" ), ECF No. 68;
Gov't's Response to Def.'s Brief ("
Gov't's July 10 Brief" ), ECF No. 74; Def.'s
Reply (" Def.'s July 29 Brief" ), ECF No. 77.
Although the Federal Rules do not specifically provide for
motions for reconsideration in criminal cases, the Supreme
Court has recognized, in dicta, the utility of such
motions." United States v. Ferguson, 574
F.Supp.2d 111, 113 (D.D.C. 2008); see also
United States v. Dieter, 429 U.S. 6, 8, 97 S.Ct. 18,
50 L.Ed.2d 8 (1976) (per curiam) (noting " the wisdom of
giving district courts the opportunity to promptly correct
their own alleged errors" ). Courts in this District
have, therefore, entertained motions for reconsideration in
criminal cases by importing the standards of review
applicable in motions for reconsideration in civil cases.
See, e.g., United States v. Trabelsi, Crim.
No. 06-89 (RWR), 2015 WL 5175882 at *2 (D.D.C. Sept. 3,
2015); United States v. Slough, 61 F.Supp.3d 103,
107 (D.D.C. 2014); United States v. Cabrera, 699
F.Supp.2d 35, 39 (D.D.C. 2010); United States v.
Sunia, 643 F.Supp.2d 51, 60-61 (D.D.C. 2009); United
States v. Libby, 429 F.Supp.2d 46, 46-47 (D.D.C. 2006).
With respect to motions for reconsideration of final
judgments, courts have adopted the standard of review for
motions filed under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. See Slough, 61 F.Supp.3d at 107
n.1 (citing cases). With respect to interlocutory decisions,
courts in this District have also adopted the standard from
civil cases that reconsideration of an interlocutory decision
is available " as justice requires." See
Trabelsi, 2015 WL 5175882 at *2; Slough, 61
F.Supp.3d at 107; Sunia, 643 F.Supp.2d at 60-61.
Court's denial of Mr. Hassanshahi's motion to
suppress was an interlocutory decision, and, therefore, the
Court follows the lead of other courts in this District and
applies the " as justice requires" standard. "
[A]sking 'what justice requires' amounts to
determining, within the Court's discretion, whether
reconsideration is necessary under the relevant
circumstances." Cobell v. Norton, 355 F.Supp.2d
531, 539 (D.D.C. 2005). In making this determination, the
Court considers whether it " patently misunderstood a
party, has made a decision outside the adversarial issues
presented to the Court by the parties, has made an error not
of reasoning but of apprehension, or where a controlling or
significant change in the law or facts [has occurred] since
the submission of the issue to the Court." Singh v.
George Washington Univ., 383 F.Supp.2d 99, 101 (D.D.C.
2005) (internal quotation and citation omitted).
Court is also guided by several generally applicable
principles. " 'Motions for reconsideration are
committed to the sound discretion of the trial
court.'" Trabelsi, 2015 WL 5175882 at *2
(quoting Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of
Energy, 319 F.Supp.2d 32, 34 (D.D.C. 2004)). Also,
" [t]he moving party bears the burden 'to show that
reconsideration is appropriate and that harm or injustice
would result if reconsideration were denied.'"
Id. (quoting United States v. Hemingway,
930 F.Supp.2d 11, 13 (D.D.C. 2013)). Moreover, a motion for
reconsideration is " not simply
an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon which a
court has already ruled." New York v. United
States, 880 F.Supp. 37, 38 (D.D.C. 1995); see
also Singh, 383 F.Supp.2d at 101 ("
[W]here litigants have once battled for the court's
decision, they should neither be required, nor without good
reason permitted, to battle for it again." ).
Hassanshahi and the Government advance a variety of arguments
in connection with Mr. Hassanshahi's motion for
reconsideration. These arguments can be grouped in two major
issues for the Court to consider: first, whether Mr.
Hassanshahi may seek suppression of the laptop evidence by
challenging the statutory validity of the DEA database, as
opposed to its constitutionality; and second, whether the new
information disclosed by the Government concerning the
database and the Second Circuit's decision in
Clapper require the Court to reverse its prior
decision and suppress the evidence on constitutional grounds.
The Court addresses these issues below.
Mr. Hassanshahi's Statutory Challenge
original motion to suppress the laptop evidence, Mr.
Hassanshahi argued that the evidence should be suppressed on
constitutional grounds. See Def.'s Mot. Suppress
at 18-30. After the Court rejected that argument and denied
the motion, the Government disclosed that the DEA obtained
the information contained in the database from U.S.
telecommunications service providers pursuant to
administrative subpoenas that the Government asserts were
authorized by 21 U.S.C. § 876. See Patterson
Decl. ¶ 4. In light of this disclosure, Mr. Hassanshahi
takes the position that the evidence should be suppressed not
only on constitutional grounds, but also on statutory
grounds, arguing that the DEA's collection and
dissemination of the data violated 21 U.S.C. § 876. The
Government takes the position, through several distinct
arguments, that Mr. Hassanshahi is unable, as a matter of
law, to challenge the statutory validity of the database and
seek suppression of the evidence as a remedy. The Court
addresses the Government's arguments in turn.
Mr. Hassanshahi's Ability To Raise A Statutory
Government argues that Mr. Hassanshahi cannot challenge the
statutory validity of the DEA database for two reasons.
First, the Government argues that Mr. Hassanshahi cannot
challenge the DEA's collection of the metadata contained
in the database from telecommunications service providers,
because he lacks " standing" to challenge
administrative subpoenas directed to third
parties. Second, the Government argues that Mr.
Hassanshahi cannot challenge the DEA's dissemination of
that information to HSI, because it is a longstanding rule
that one law enforcement agency may share information it has
collected for one purpose with another law
enforcement agency for a different ...