William Spann v. Ed Carter, et al
OPINION filed: The district court s judgment is AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Raymond M. Kethledge (authoring), Circuit Judge; Helene N. White, Circuit Judge and Avern Cohn, U.S. District Judge (Eastern District of Michigan, sitting by designation).
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 16a0270n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
WILLIAM A. SPANN,
ED CARTER, et al.,
May 17, 2016
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE MIDDLE
DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
Before: KETHLEDGE and WHITE, Circuit Judges; COHN, District Judge.*
KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judge. Professional hunter William “Spook” Spann sued his
former employee and several officers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights during an investigation into
his hunting practices. The district court dismissed Spann’s suit for failure to state a claim upon
which relief could be granted. We affirm.
Spann leads hunting parties on properties around his home in Dickson County,
Tennessee, and formerly hosted a hunting program, “Spook Nation,” on the Pursuit television
network. In 2012, he pled guilty to a federal misdemeanor after shooting a so-called “monster
buck” in Kansas without the proper license and then transporting the buck’s antlers across state
lines. See 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(A). The federal district court in Kansas sentenced Spann to
three years’ probation and ordered him not to hunt anywhere in the United States for the next six
The Honorable Avern Cohn, Senior United States District Judge for the Eastern District
of Michigan, sitting by designation.
No. 15-5894, Spann v. Carter
months. See United States v. Spann, 963 F. Supp. 2d 1198, 1200 (D. Kan. 2013). Spann did not
obey the order. Instead, a month later, on the opening day of Tennessee’s turkey-hunting season,
a friend of Spann’s posted a photo on Spann’s Facebook profile.
Spann was dressed in
camouflage alongside several other men and a dead turkey. A member of the group commented
on the photo, “We had a blast on this hunt with Spook. Can’t wait to do it again.”
Officers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (“Wildlife”) and the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service had anticipated Spann’s premature return to hunting. The day before turkey
season began, the officers installed several cameras around Spann’s properties in Tennessee.
These cameras recorded Spann over the following months as he placed scratch feed to bait
turkeys, accompanied guests to hunt turkeys, and left the properties with dead turkeys in hand.
In June 2013, Spann’s probation officer told the district court in Kansas that Spann had violated
the terms of his probation. The court ordered that Spann spend 30 days in custody during nights
and weekends and barred him from hunting anywhere in the world until August 2014. Spann,
963 F. Supp. 2d at 1212. Then, in February 2014, Tennessee charged Spann with several state
crimes. In connection with the state investigation, Wildlife officers executed a warrant to search
Spann’s home and seize his cell phone.
Spann thereafter brought this suit, alleging that the Wildlife officers and his former
cameraman violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they installed cameras on his property,
and that the same officers violated the Takings Clause when they seized his property from a local
taxidermist. The district court held that Spann had failed to state a claim for which relief could
be granted. We review that determination de novo. See Long v. Insight Commc’ns of Cent.
Ohio, LLC, 804 F.3d 791, 794 (6th Cir. 2015).
No. 15-5894, Spann v. Carter
Spann argues that he pled two different violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. First,
he points to his allegation that the defendants “set up several cameras on three of Mr. Spann’s
private farms without search warrants and without a basis to obtain search warrants[.]” The
Fourth Amendment guarantees that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and
no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and
particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. The Amendment’s guarantee is specific to “persons, houses, papers, and
effects,” and thus prohibits warrantless trespasses to a home and its “curtilage,” i.e., the land that
immediately surrounds a home. See Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 180 (1984). In
contrast, “no expectation of privacy legitimately attaches to open fields[,]” so officers do not
need a warrant to search the undeveloped areas of a farm, even a “highly secluded” one. Id. at
174, 180; see also United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 953 (2012). Here, Spann alleged that
officers trespassed without a warrant on his “private farms,” where he purported to have “an
expectation of privacy[.]” Yet he has failed to allege how the “private farms” he uses for hunting
are any different from other open fields that fall outside the Fourth Amendment’s protection.
And turkey hunts typically do not take place within a home’s curtilage. See United States v.
Carloss, --- F.3d ---, 2016 WL 929663, at *7 (10th Cir. Mar. 11, 2016). That the officers here
used cameras does not transform their surveillance into a search requiring a warrant. See United
States v. Vankesteren, 553 F.3d 286, 291 (4th Cir. 2009).
Spann also alleges that Wildlife officers obtained a warrant in June 2013 to search
Spann’s home for his cell phone, but failed to execute it. Over six months later, in February
2014, they obtained a new warrant based on the same information, by which time, Spann says,
No. 15-5894, Spann v. Carter
the probable cause was “stale.” To obtain relief, Spann would need to allege facts tending to
show that, at the time the defendants executed the warrant, there was no longer a “fair
probability” that the evidence sought in the warrant “would still be found” in the place to be
searched. United States v. Spikes, 158 F.3d 913, 923 (6th Cir. 1998). Here, the warrant
authorized a search for Spann’s cell phone at Spann’s home address. The usual place to look for
a person’s cell phone is in that person’s home. See United States v. Grupee, 682 F.3d 143, 14647 (1st Cir. 2012). Spann does not allege any facts to suggest that rule was less applicable to his
phone in February 2014 than in June 2013. Spann therefore failed to state a plausible claim that
the defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Spann also argues that he stated a claim against the Wildlife officers under the Fifth
Amendment’s Takings Clause. Spann alleged in his complaint that the officers “seized all
computers, children[’]s electronics, cameras and footage” from the home of Spann’s other
cameraman, and that they “seized property belonging to Mr. Spann from Jones Taxidermy
without lawful authority, without a search warrant . . . [and] without compensation[.]” But the
Takings Clause does not prohibit the uncompensated seizure of evidence in a criminal
investigation, or the uncompensated seizure and forfeiture of criminal contraband. See Acadia
Tech., Inc. v. United States, 458 F.3d 1327, 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2006). Here, Spann concedes that all
the property in question was taken in connection with criminal investigations. See Spann Br. at
20-21. His complaint thus does not state a claim.
The district court’s judgment is affirmed.
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