466 F.2d 27 (6th Cir. 1972), 71-1959, United States v. Langley

Docket Nº:71-1959.
Citation:466 F.2d 27
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. William Byron LANGLEY, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:August 29, 1972
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 27

466 F.2d 27 (6th Cir. 1972)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


William Byron LANGLEY, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 71-1959.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

Aug. 29, 1972

Page 28

Edward D. Devine, Jr. (Court Appointed), Detroit, Mich., for defendant-appellant.

James Russell, Asst. U. S. Atty., Detroit, Mich., Ralph B. Guy, U. S. Atty., Terence V. Page, Harold Hood, Asst. U. S. Attys., on brief, for plaintiff-appellee.

Before PHILLIPS, Chief Judge, MILLER, Circuit Judge, and O'SULLIVAN, Senior Circuit Judge.

WILLIAM E. MILLER, Circuit Judge.

This is a direct appeal from the conviction of William B. Langley for having possessed chattels which he knew to have been stolen from an interstate shipment in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 659. 1 Appellant advances two issues on

Page 29

appeal, asserting that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence seized from his dwelling, and that the prosecution failed to establish the interstate nature of the allegedly stolen goods. 2

The following facts were adduced at trial and at the hearing on appellant's motion to suppress. Appellant does not challenge the facts relied upon by the Government as such but rather the legal conclusions and factual inferences drawn therefrom.

At approximately 3:30 A.M. on the morning of November 19, 1970, the police of Madison Heights, Michigan, received a call from a woman who reported that a large Avis Rental truck was parked in the driveway of a nearby house, 26574 Park Court, and that she believed a burglary to be in progress. At 4:10 A.M. a patrol car was dispatched to the premises. 3 Upon arrival, the policemen got out of their car; Officer Petit proceeded to the rear of the dwelling and his partner to the front. As reported, the Avis truck was parked in the driveway. Additionally, it was seen that "the windows of the house were all taped with newspaper and tape and the drapes pulled tightly shut." "Banging on the door" brought no response from within the house.

Officer Petit testified that, walking back from the rear of the house, he noticed that the vertically sliding door of the truck was open "approximately a foot, foot and a half." He further "observed . . . what appeared to be large packing crates on this truck." He testified that he "figured someone could be in this truck hiding." In order to investigate this suspicion he "pushed the door open the rest of the way, entered this vehicle to check for any occupants . . . ." Finding no one, Petit observed more closely the "five large packing crates" which were loaded near the rear of the truck. He made note of the markings on the sides of the boxes, testifying: "I took down all the numbers off the different boxes, on my pad, and I climbed out of the back of the vehicle." 4

Page 30

His immediate suspicions allayed, Petit proceeded to the front of the house where he found another officer 5 conversing with one of the neighbors. Petit listened to the conversation momentarily and then "went back to knock on the house to try to get some response." His subsequent observations were described thusly:

At this time, one window that would be on the northwest side of the home-the drapes on all the windows were taped up with newspaper or the drapes were heavily pulled-on one window the drapes had slightly parted down at the bottom I would say maybe an inch. I peered into this to try to see into the house. I saw a figure dart from the living room, towards the kitchen, which would be from the north-that would be from the west to the east, I believe.

And at the same time, I also observed a box sitting on the dresser, that was open. This box and so forth was very similar, the same as what I found in the truck in these large packing crates.

He returned to the back of the house to knock. Again there was no response from within. Petit went back to the window through which he had observed the crouched figure and, seeing no one, checked out the front of the house where "there were no signs of forcible entry."

At this point the police decided to "clear the scene" but continue to "watch the house." As the two police cars departed, a later model Ford arrived, stopping one house north of the house under investigation. Lieutenant Badgley conferred with its driver, who indicated that he did not live in the house, did not know its occupant, and, in fact, "didn't belong in the neighborhood."

Page 31

As the police cars drove off, Petit observed a party get out of the Ford. In order "to observe where this party was going" he circled the block. He saw the party disappear into the house, reappear, and begin work on the truck for a moment. Almost immediately he observed the truck pull out of the driveway and proceed down the street. He followed. When the truck exceeded the speed limit, Petit, "using the flashers and the siren of the police vehicle . . . pulled him over." The truck finally stopped; Petit proceeded to the driver's side and "requested the driver's license and registration for the vehicle of the driver." The driver produced his license but no registration. Petit asked for a "rental receipt or something" that would demonstrate that the driver had rightful possession of the vehicle. None was produced. Petit "asked him if he had anything in the way of a bill of sale or shipping orders for the equipment in the back of the vehicle." According to Petit, "he [the driver] stated to me that there was nothing in the back of the vehicle. He said the vehicle was empty and he was going to haul potatoes." Petit advised the party that he "would have to take him into the station for investigation of possession of this truck," placing him in effect under arrest. 6

Subsequent to Langley's arrest, a search warrant was issued authorizing search of the house in question, a one-story brick and frame residence, and adjacent two-car garage situated at 26574 Park Court, Madison Heights, Michigan. Prior to the application for this warrant, Petit had been apprised by Agent Lewis Vernazza of the FBI that a shipment of Autolite Automobile Electrical Points had been stolen. 7 Based on the information supplied by Agent Vernazza, the information obtained during investigation of the suspected burglary at 26574 Park Court, and finally on the conduct of Langley at the time of his arrest, an affidavit was filed by Officer Petit in support of his application to search Langley's dwelling. The affidavit

Page 32

described briefly the circumstances which led the police to investigate the house which Langley rented from his neighbor. Of special note is the statement:

C) Your affiant observed a large Avis rent-a-truck bearing 1970 Michigan license 2976CB with the rear sliding door open parked in the driveway of...

To continue reading