D.D.C.: Manafort DC search valid: The person on the lease of a storage unit and with the keys had [apparent] authority to consent

The search of Paul Manafort’s storage unit was with the consent of the person on the lease and did not violate the Fourth Amendment. It was reasonable for the FBI to believe that the person with the keys had the authority to consent. The court analogizes cases where a co-conspirator had the key to a place and thus the authority to consent. United States v. Manafort, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103693 (D. D.C. June 21, 2018):

This case presents the factors that pointed towards common authority in Kim and Trotter without any of the complications. As in Kim, the third party here rented the storage unit in his own name; the defendant was simply listed on the lease as an additional authorized person; and the employee loaded items into the unit on his own. FBI Aff. ¶¶ 28-29. Neither the Ninth Circuit nor the Tenth expressed reservations based on the fact that the associates in those cases rented the units at the defendants’ direction; what was persuasive in each situation was the fact that each lessee could have exercised his right to enter the premises at any time, and that each had actually made use of his right of access by depositing material in the unit. Those facts are present here as well.

Most important, unlike the associates in Kim and Trotter, the employee in this case retained possession of a key. FBI Aff. ¶ 31. It was defendant Kim’s retention of the only key to the unit that led the Kim court to characterize Wee’s control over the premises as something other than “joint control for most purposes” under Matlock. 105 F.3d at 1582. But one can easily find joint control, and therefore, actual authority, on the facts present here. Moreover, the lessee of the unit here was not simply an “associate” hired solely for the purpose of facilitating illegal activity; he was and continues to be an employee of the business, which strengthens the finding that Manafort entrusted him with control over the unit.

Manafort likens the situation to a search of a hotel room authorized by a hotel employee, and he points to authority that holds that the mere fact that the employee has a key to a guest’s room does not establish that the employee had the right to admit others and intrude upon the guest’s reasonable expectation of privacy in his room during his stay. Def.’s Mot. at 7-8; Tr. at 12, citing United States v. Toan Phuong Nghe, 925 F. Supp. 2d 1142 (W.D. Wash. 2013). This precedent would have some force if the agents had gained entry through an employee of Public Storage, the owner and lessor of the storage facility on Holland Lane, which reserved its right to enter the unit under certain circumstances. See Lease ¶ 9 (“Right to Inspect and Repair”). But here, the third party who granted the FBI access to the premises was the lessee, the individual with the right “to use and occupy a space in the self-service storage facility.” Lease ¶ 1. Thus, he is more similar to the hotel guest himself than he is to the bellman or the person manning the front desk.

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