492 F.3d 930 (8th Cir. 2007), 05-4071, United States v. Ramon-Rodriguez

Docket Nº:05-4071, 06-1339, 06-1572, 06-2579.
Citation:492 F.3d 930
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Isabel RAMON-RODRIGUEZ, also known as Ramon Herrera-Cisneros, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Felipe Mendez, Jr., Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Cesar Daniel Gascon-Guerrero, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Pl
Case Date:July 05, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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492 F.3d 930 (8th Cir. 2007)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Isabel RAMON-RODRIGUEZ, also known as Ramon Herrera-Cisneros, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Felipe Mendez, Jr., Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Cesar Daniel Gascon-Guerrero, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Sergio Santamaria, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 05-4071, 06-1339, 06-1572, 06-2579.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

July 5, 2007

Submitted: March 14, 2007.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied in No. 06-2579 Aug. 9, 2007.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied in No. 06-1572 Aug. 22, 2007. [*]

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Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellant Ramon-Rodriguez was Wallace L. Taylor of Cedar Rapids, IA. Julian E. Tobey III of Davenport, IA, presented argument on behalf of appellant Mendez. Scott L. Bandstra of Des Moines, IA, presented argument on behalf of appellant Gascon-Guerrero, and John F. Fatino of Des Moines, IA presented argument on behalf of appellant Santamaria.

Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellee was John S. Courter, AUSA, Des Moines, IA. Shannon Olson, AUSA, Des Moines, also appeared on appellee's brief.

Before MELLOY, SMITH, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

Four defendants in a drug distribution conspiracy appeal their convictions and sentences resulting from a joint trial. Arguments on appeal include claims that: there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions; an attorney labored under a conflict-of-interest; a Terry stop was constitutionally unreasonable and evidence found as a result of the stop should have been suppressed; drug quantity calculations at sentencing were clearly erroneous; prior convictions were improperly used to enhance sentences; and a "willful blindness" instruction was improperly submitted to the jury while a "single vs. multiple conspiracy" instruction was not. We affirm the judgment of the district court. 1

I. Background

We present the facts in a light most favorable to the verdicts, drawing all reasonable inferences from the evidence that support the jury's verdicts. United States v. Cannon, 475 F.3d 1013, 1016 (8th Cir.2007). Details surrounding the investigation and events leading to the defendants' arrests were introduced at the joint trial of the four defendants largely through the testimony of officers engaged in investigation of the conspiracy. Co-conspirators who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government testified as to their respective roles and provided details about the workings of the conspiracy and the roles of the present four defendants within the conspiracy. In addition, defendant Felipe Mendez, Jr. ("Mendez"), testified, and a number of inmates housed with the defendants relayed statements the defendants had made while incarcerated.

Officers began investigating a suspected drug distribution conspiracy in December 2001. On January 2, 2003, officers stopped a white BMW containing twenty-two pounds of methamphetamine wrapped in eighteen packages. Walter Cruz DeJesus ("DeJesus") was driving the BMW, and his girlfriend, Jessica Johnson ("Johnson") was the passenger. DeJesus and Johnson were traveling from California to Iowa, and the BMW was registered in the name of DeJesus's mother-in-law. It was discovered that the registration for the BMW had only recently been transferred to DeJesus's mother-in-law and that it previously had been registered in another woman's name. The other woman was the wife of Mendez. DeJesus and Johnson stated that Mendez had enlisted the two of them to drive methamphetamine from California to Iowa and that they had made three to five prior deliveries with loads weighing between fifteen and twenty-five pounds each.

Later, in summer 2004, officers learned from confidential informants that a woman in Des Moines, Kathleen Boatwright

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("Boatwright"), was a supplier of methamphetamine. Officers used the confidential informants to make a series of controlled purchases of methamphetamine from Boatwright and her boyfriend, Cody Cannon ("Cannon"), using money with recorded serial numbers. After the controlled purchases, officers obtained a search warrant for Boatwright's home. Before officers executed the search warrant, one of the confidential informants encountered Boatwright at a store where she was seen purchasing a suitcase and where she told the confidential informant she would be traveling to California. The confidential informant believed the trip to California was for the purpose of obtaining methamphetamine. Officers decided to wait to execute the warrant.

On July 8, 2004, still within the permissible window of time for executing the warrant, the confidential informant told officers that Boatwright had returned from California with a Hispanic male the informant believed to be Boatwright's source. Officers then conducted surveillance of Boatwright's home in preparation for execution of the warrant. Officers observed a Hispanic male on the front porch of Boatwright's home and saw this man and a second Hispanic male leave Boatwright's home in a red Volkswagen Jetta. Officers then stopped the red Jetta and questioned and eventually arrested the two occupants of the car. While officers were processing the men from the Jetta, other officers executed the search warrant at Boatwright's home.

Mendez was the driver of the red Jetta, and defendant Sergio Santamaria ("Santamaria") was the passenger. Mendez told the officers he had a valid driver's license, but proceeded to hand the officers a California identification card bearing the name Anthony Gonzales. Officers saw a California driver's license in Mendez's wallet. The driver's license, like the identification card, had a picture of Mendez. The driver's license listed the name Felipe Mendez. Santamaria gave the officers an Iowa driver's license that bore his correct name. At the time of the traffic stop, officers were not certain of Mendez's and Santamaria's true identities, so they placed a call to Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") and obtained consent from Mendez and Santamaria to move them and the Jetta to a nearby police station. A subsequent criminal history check showed prior arrests and deportations for Santamaria in the name of Jaime Cabrera. The car was not registered to either of the men, and both men appeared to be in the United States illegally. Eventually, it was determined that Mendez and Santamaria were present illegally, and ICE entered detainers against them. The officers impounded the Jetta, conducted an inventory search of the Jetta, and searched the two men. The search of the Jetta revealed $4,800 in cash, $740 of which bore serial numbers used in the controlled purchases from Boatwright. It was also discovered that Mendez had three cell phones and Santamaria had two cell phones. Mendez also had the box top from a box of plastic baggies in his pants.

When officers executed the warrant at Boatwright's home, Boatwright, Cannon, and defendant Cesar Daniel Gascon-Guerrero ("Gascon-Guerrero") were present. Gascon-Guerrero was in a bathroom where officers found a small quantity of methamphetamine hidden in a dollar bill behind the toilet and a cell phone hidden atop a cabinet. A search of the rest of home revealed five ounces of methamphetamine, four grams of marijuana, two digital scales, drug notes, surveillance cameras, two loaded handguns, and ammunition. Officers also found, in the living room of Boatwright's home, a cardboard box of plastic sandwich bags missing a box top that

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matched the box top found in Mendez's pants.

After agreeing to cooperate, Boatwright testified that she met defendant Isabel Ramon Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") in late 2002 and soon began selling methamphetamine that he supplied. Boatwright believed Rodriguez obtained his methamphetamine from California because she observed on at least one occasion that he traveled to California when he ran out of drugs, and when he returned, he was again able to supply methamphetamine.

In February 2003, Rodriguez was arrested in Des Moines on manslaughter charges. At that time, Boatwright owed Rodriguez money for drugs she had received from him on credit. After Rodriguez's arrest, Boatwright received phone numbers for Mendez and Santamaria through Rodriguez. The number for Santamaria did not work, but the number for Mendez was accurate. Boatwright called Mendez to tell him of the arrest, and Boatwright was present when a man that Rodriguez had brought to Iowa from California used her phone to speak with Mendez. Boatwright then maintained contact with Mendez.

Eventually, Mendez sent Santamaria to Iowa, Santamaria provided methamphetamine to Boatwright, and Boatwright sold the methamphetamine. This continued until Boatwright gambled with the proceeds of her sales and was unable to pay Santamaria and Mendez. The two men cut off Boatwright's supply for awhile, but they eventually resumed their relationship with her. On at least two occasions, Boatwright traveled to California at Mendez's request and returned from California in a black Blazer provided by Mendez. Both times, the Blazer carried methamphetamine, and Mendez sent Gascon-Guerrero with Boatwright to ensure that the methamphetamine reached Des Moines. Both times, Mendez and Santamaria were with Boatwright in California and traveled to Iowa separately from Boatwright and the black Blazer. One of the trips to Iowa was the trip immediately preceding execution of the...

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