559 F.2d 420 (5th Cir. 1977), 76-3575, United States v. Clark

Docket Nº:76-3575.
Citation:559 F.2d 420
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Patricia F. CLARK, a/k/a
Case Date:September 19, 1977
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 420

559 F.2d 420 (5th Cir. 1977)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Patricia F. CLARK, a/k/a "Pat" and Mrs. John Clark, William

Scott Martin, a/k/a David McCarthy, and John N.

Satre, a/k/a John Sallatery, Defendants-


No. 76-3575.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 19, 1977

Page 421

Joseph S. Oteri, James W. Lawson, Martin G. Weinberg, Boston, Mass., David J. Fine, Cambridge, Mass., for defendants-appellants.

William T. Moore, Jr., R. Jackson B. Smith, Jr., U.S. Attys., Elizabeth C. Chalker, Augusta, Ga., Henry L. Whisenhunt, Jr., Asst. U.S. Attys., Savannah, Ga., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Before GEWIN, RONEY and HILL, Circuit Judges.

JAMES C. HILL, Circuit Judge:

John Satre, William Martin and Patricia Clark appeal from judgments of conviction entered against them after a non-jury trial in the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Each was convicted of one count of conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute, approximately 1,225 pounds of marijuana (hashish) in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Defendants Satre and Martin were also convicted of one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana (hashish) in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).

All the issues raised focus upon the legality of a warrantless search of a pickup truck with an attached camper top (camper truck) and a subsequent search, pursuant to a warrant, of another automobile, a boat, and a dwelling. Specifically, the question for decision is whether or not the district judge committed error in denying the defendants' motions to suppress the contraband. We affirm.

This type of case must stand or fall on its particular facts. We examine the facts derived from the transcript and the findings of fact of the trial court. Almost all the facts are uncontested. Those that are contested are immaterial to the result we reach.

Our inquiry begins at a time two years prior to the challenged searches and seizures. At this early date, Jerry Minchew, the Park Superintendent of Crooked River State Park, Camden County, Georgia became suspicious of the activities of defendant Satre. Satre had been one of a number of individuals who had rented a cabin at the Crooked River State Park. During this earlier stay, he had purchased an expensive boat from a local resident and a few days later had left the boat with another local resident to sell "for what he could get out of it." Minchew testified that while he felt the boat was worth over $1,500, the boat was sold for only $600. Minchew speculated that Satre was involved in the trafficking of drugs.

Minchew remembered Satre when he and four other persons returned to the State Park on December 30, 1975. On this visit, the group rented two cabins from December 30, 1975, to January 10, 1976. Minchew testified that during this period he received complaints from other cabin occupants concerning the noise and late night activities of the group. Minchew's attention was directed towards the vehicles driven by the group. One car bore Idaho license plates; the other vehicles bore Florida tags. Minchew thought this to be suspicious since all the group except defendant Martin had stated that they were from Colorado. Martin stated he was from Boston, Massachusetts. Minchew testified that the Florida license tags did not bear an "E" signifying a rental vehicle.

On January 10, 1976, the group checked out of the cabins and left the park. Yet, on

Page 422

the evening of January 11, 1976, the car bearing the Idaho license plates returned to the Park. Defendants Martin and Pascoe 1 were the occupants of the car. Martin told the Superintendent that he had driven about 50 miles down the road when he discovered that he had forgotten a piece of luggage for which he was returning. Minchew stated that he thought it strange that Martin had left the Park over 24 hours earlier yet stated that he had traveled only 50 miles. Martin retrieved the suitcase and departed.

On the evening of January 13, 1976, defendant Satre reappeared and asked if he could rent one of the cabins the group had previously occupied. When informed that the cabins were unavailable, Satre stated that "he would rather have one down in the bushes."

Before Satre departed for the secluded Cabin Number Six, Minchew observed water pouring from the stern of the boat being towed by Satre. Satre told Minchew that he had just returned from water skiing in Tampa, Florida. Minchew testified that his suspicions were aroused since it was "real cold weather" and it would be unusual for a boat to be dripping water after a 250 mile drive.

The critical facts which led to the seizure of the contraband occurred later on the evening of January 13, 1976. At approximately 10:00 p. m., Minchew drove by Cabin Number Six and observed that the car with the Idaho plates, the car that had returned for the forgotten luggage, had again returned to the Park. Minchew then contacted the Camden County Sheriff's Office and requested that an officer be dispatched to check into the activities of the occupants of Cabin Number Six.

At approximately 11:00 p. m., Officers Barber and Dudley arrived and ascertained the license...

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