U.S. v. Caruthers

Decision Date11 August 2006
Docket NumberNo. 05-5307.,05-5307.
Citation458 F.3d 459
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Ricky A. CARUTHERS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

ARGUED: Hugh M. Mundy, Federal Public Defender's Office, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Philip H. Wehby, Assistant United States Attorney, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Hugh M. Mundy, Michael C. Holley, Federal Public Defender's Office, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Philip H. Wehby, Assistant United States Attorney, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: MOORE and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges; POLSTER, District Judge.*

MOORE, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which POLSTER, D. J., joined.

McKEAGUE, J. (p. 476), delivered a separate concurring opinion.


MOORE, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-Appellant Ricky A. Caruthers ("Caruthers") appeals his conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). Caruthers argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to an investigative detention, because the stop was both unjustified in its inception and excessive in its means. He also contends for the first time on appeal that the district court erroneously enhanced his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"). Because the detention was justified by reasonable suspicion and was conducted in a reasonable manner, we AFFIRM the district court's denial of Caruthers's motion to suppress. We also AFFIRM Caruthers's sentence, because the district court did not err in applying the ACCA.

A. Factual Background

At approximately 1:15 A.M. on June 17, 2003, a central dispatcher with the Nashville police and fire departments received an anonymous emergency call. On the basis of this call, the dispatcher created a written report containing the following information: "Male black. . . . Red shirt, shorts, fired gun in the air, arguing with female at location, gun is in the suspect's pocket, fired the weapon once. . . . LO[cation], J.C. Napier." Joint Appendix ("J.A.") at 143-44 (Suppression Hr'g Tr. at 106-07) (Heath Test.). Officers Carl Stocks ("Officer Stocks") and Jonathan Mays ("Officer Mays") were dispatched to the intersection of Lewis and Lafayette Streets, the location of J.C. Napier public housing development, at approximately 1:20 A.M. They arrived on the scene about three to five minutes later.

The officers observed a black man wearing a red shirt (later identified as Caruthers) entering the parking lot of a nearby gas station; he was walking in the direction away from the J.C. Napier development. Nobody else was in the area. Officer Mays drove away in order to take a position at the opposite end of the alley behind the building. Officer Stocks pulled his cruiser alongside Caruthers, approximately two to three feet away. The cruiser's flashing lights were not on, and Officer Stocks did not have a weapon drawn. Officer Stocks remained in his vehicle's seat and said through the rolled-down window, "hey, man, come here a second," or "hey, man, come here, let me talk to you a second." J.A. at 48-49 (Suppression Hr'g Tr. at 11-12) (Stocks Test.). Caruthers then "took off in a hurried[] fashion around the corner of the business." J.A. at 49; see also J.A. at 50 ("He took off real quick, kind of in a semi-running [fashion] . . . ."). Officer Stocks exited his cruiser to give chase, momentarily losing sight of Caruthers. Officer Stocks followed Caruthers around the corner, where he saw Caruthers "kind of hunched down a little bit." J.A. at 50. Caruthers was "kind of against the wall of the business and he was kind of leaned over where kind of his knees were kind of bent a little bit, so he was kind of leaning toward the ground." J.A. at 51. Officer Stocks "told him to come here," whereupon Caruthers "turned around, put his hands up[,] and came walking back toward [Officer Stocks]." J.A. at 50. Officer Stocks "grabbed ahold of [Caruthers], escorted him to [the] patrol car, [and] placed him in the back seat." J.A. at 50. Officer Stocks did not tell Caruthers that he was under arrest, pat him down, or handcuff him before placing him in the patrol car, the doors of which were locked such that Caruthers would be unable to exit the vehicle without kicking out the window.

While these events were unfolding, Officer Mays, who had taken his position at the opposite end of the alley, proceeded to drive up the alley toward Officer Stocks and Caruthers. Officer Mays arrived on the scene as Officer Stocks placed Caruthers in the patrol car. A "few seconds" after placing Caruthers in the cruiser, Officer Stocks "went back to where [he] saw [Caruthers] standing hunched over and found the loaded weapon laying on the ground in plain view." J.A. at 50-51 (Stocks Test.); see also J.A. at 90 (Mays Test.). The pistol was "[e]xactly where [Caruthers] was leaned down." J.A. at 51 (Stocks Test.). In the pistol's chamber was a round with a crimped tip. Officer Stocks removed Caruthers from the cruiser and patted him down, discovering a bullet in his pants pocket. Officer Stocks arrested Caruthers, placing him in handcuffs. Officer Mays immediately found five more rounds in the back seat of Officer Stocks's cruiser. All of the bullets had crimped tips identical to the one in the pistol's chamber.

The entire encounter — from when Officer Stocks first saw Caruthers to when Officer Mays recovered the ammunition from the back of the patrol car — lasted three or four minutes.

B. Procedural Background

After Caruthers was indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924, he moved to suppress the ammunition and statements.1 The district court denied the motion, holding that there was reasonable suspicion for Officer Stocks to conduct an investigative detention of Caruthers. The district court also held that Caruthers had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the pistol because he had abandoned it and that the discovery of the pistol and the bullet supplied probable cause to arrest Caruthers.

Pursuant to an agreement with the government, Caruthers entered a conditional guilty plea, explicitly reserving his right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. With respect to the sentence that ultimately would be imposed, Caruthers waived his right to appeal certain issues. The waiver provision provided in relevant part:

The defendant is aware that 18 U.S.C. § 3742 affords a defendant the right to appeal the sentence imposed. Acknowledging this, the defendant knowingly waives the right to appeal any sentence within the maximum provided in the offense level as determined by the Court or the manner in which that sentence was determined on the grounds set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3742 or on any ground whatever, in exchange for the concessions made by the government in this plea agreement. Such waiver does not apply, however, to claims of involuntariness, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, or if the Court departs upward.

J.A. at 183 (Plea Agreement ¶ 13). The agreement also included provisions raising the possibility that the ACCA would apply. The district court accepted Caruthers's plea.

At sentencing, the court found, on the basis of Caruthers's three burglary convictions and one drug conviction, that Caruthers was an armed career criminal and calculated a sentencing range of 180 months (the statutory minimum for armed career criminals under § 924(e)) to 210 months (the ceiling for an offense level of 30 and a criminal history category of VI under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines) in prison. The district court imposed a sentence of 180 months in prison and five years of supervised release.

Caruthers now appeals the denial of his motion to suppress. He also argues for the first time on appeal that his burglary convictions are not "violent felonies" within the meaning of the ACCA. Therefore, Caruthers contends, his fifteen-year sentence exceeds the statutory maximum of ten years (as set forth in § 924(a)(2)) for an unenhanced § 922(g)(1) conviction.

A. Fourth Amendment
1. Standard of Review

"When reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error and its conclusions of law de novo." United States v. Henry, 429 F.3d 603, 607 (6th Cir.2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). In so doing, we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the government. United States v. Rodriguez-Suazo, 346 F.3d 637, 643 (6th Cir.2003). "With regard to Terry-stop analysis in particular, `[a]lthough the standard of review on the ultimate reasonable suspicion inquiry is de novo, the district court is at an institutional advantage, having observed the testimony of the witnesses and understanding local conditions, in making this determination. Accordingly, "due weight" should be given to the inferences drawn from the facts by "resident judges."'" United States v. Foster, 376 F.3d 577, 583 (6th Cir.) (alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Townsend, 305 F.3d 537, 542 (6th Cir.2002) (in turn quoting Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 698, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996))), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 1012, 125 S.Ct. 635, 160 L.Ed.2d 478 (2004).

2. Merits

We recently reviewed the relevant analytical framework for assessing an investigative detention under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968): "In evaluating the constitutionality of a Terry stop, we engage in a two-part analysis of the reasonableness of the stop." United States v. Davis, 430 F.3d 345, 354 (6th Cir.2005). "We first ask `whether there was a proper basis for the stop, which is judged by examining whether the law enforcement officials were aware of specific and articulable facts which gave rise to...

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