U.S. v. Owens

Decision Date11 September 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-1838,97-1838
Citation167 F.3d 739
PartiesUNITED STATES, Appellee, v. Dwayne OWENS, Defendant, Appellant. . Heard
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Miriam Conrad, Federal Public Defender, for appellant.

Deborah Watson, Attorney, with whom Donald K. Stern, United States Attorney, Theodore B. Heinrich, Assistant United States Attorney, and Allison D. Burroughs, Assistant United States Attorney, were on brief for appellee.

Before TORRUELLA, Chief Judge, BOUDIN and STAHL, Circuit Judges.

STAHL, Circuit Judge.

Following a twenty-one day trial, a jury convicted defendant-appellant Dwayne Owens on a number of serious charges including murder, racketeering, cocaine distribution, being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, and money laundering. In this appeal, Owens challenges his convictions on various grounds. After a careful review of the record and Owens's arguments, we affirm.

I. Prior Proceedings and Appellate Issues

On May 14, 1996, a grand jury returned a twenty-seven count indictment against Owens and others. Underlying this indictment was the government's allegation that, from 1988 to 1995, Owens ran a large-scale drug enterprise that obtained cocaine from suppliers in New York and Florida for distribution in Massachusetts. The government also accused Owens of possessing numerous handguns, resorting to violence and threats of violence to protect his drug interests, and of the murder of one Rodney Belle, who had double-crossed him in a drug deal.

Prior to trial, Owens moved to suppress the fruits of a search of his home at 26 Parsons Avenue in East Providence, Rhode Island and a search of an automobile in which he was a passenger, conducted on an interstate highway in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition, he requested a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 98 S.Ct. 2674, 57 L.Ed.2d 667 (1978) (holding that the Fourth Amendment entitles a defendant to a hearing if he establishes a prima facie case that a search warrant affidavit included knowingly or recklessly false statements). Although the district court denied Owens's request for a Franks hearing, it did conduct a six-day evidentiary hearing on the motions to suppress, concluding that most of the objected to evidence was properly seized.

When the case was submitted to the jury, Owens was the sole remaining defendant. He was convicted on all charges pertaining to the murder of Rodney Belle, conspiracy to murder Rodney Belle, violations of the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization ("RICO") Act, RICO conspiracy, interstate travel in aid of RICO, conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, being a fugitive from justice in possession of a firearm, and money laundering. The jury acquitted him on a number of other charges. The district court sentenced Owens to life imprisonment.

On appeal, Owens makes a number of arguments which fall into three main categories. First, he challenges the district court's denial of his motions to suppress. Second, he argues that there was insufficient evidence to support his RICO convictions. Finally, he contends that the court delivered a number of flawed jury instructions.

We discuss each issue in turn after setting forth in context the relevant underlying facts.

II. The Suppression Motions
A. Standard of Review

We review a district court's factual findings for clear error. See United States v. McCarthy, 77 F.3d 522, 525 (1st Cir.1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1093, 117 S.Ct. 771, 136 L.Ed.2d 717 (1997). Where specific findings are lacking, we view the record in the light most favorable to the ruling, drawing all reasonable inferences in support of the challenged ruling. See id. at 529. We review a district court's legal conclusions de novo. See United States v. Carty, 993 F.2d 1005, 1008 (1st Cir.1993). In the end, we defer to a district court's denial of a suppression motion, so long as it is supported by any reasonable view of the evidence. See id.

B. 26 Parsons Avenue Search
1. Background

In May 1995, Boston police notified East Providence police that a man known as Don Miley, alias Dwayne Owens, 1 was wanted for homicide in Boston, and that an accomplice of this man was cooperating with the police. This accomplice gave Boston police information about the suspect's drug trafficking activities and described his residence in East Providence. On May 18, 1995, East Providence Police Captain Joseph Broadmeadow submitted an affidavit in support of an application for a warrant to search Owens's home at 26 Parsons Avenue. 2 The warrant was granted and authorized police to search for "a black male, age 32, known as Don Miley, alias Dwayne Owens, alias [sic] with a date of birth of 6-9-63, also firearms, ammunition." The police executed the warrant on May 19, during Owens's absence from the residence, and seized extensive evidence including not only guns, ammunition, illegal drugs, and drug paraphernalia, but also personal documents, some of which were found in manila folders and envelopes.

Owens's motion to suppress the fruits of this search argued (1) that the warrant application failed to establish probable cause and the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply; and (2) that the police exceeded the scope of their search. As an adjunct to his suppression motion, he also moved for a Franks hearing.

The district court granted in part and denied in part Owens's suppression motion, ruling that the warrant application established probable cause to search for firearms and ammunition, and that even if probable cause to search did not support the warrant, most of the items seized were admissible under the "good-faith exception" recognized in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984) (holding that evidence seized in reasonable good-faith reliance on a search warrant, which is later found defective, may be admitted at trial). As to the scope of the search, the court determined that certain evidence was properly seized because it was in plain view and immediately apparent as evidence of a crime or as evidence that would help lead to the apprehension of Owens, whom the officers reasonably believed was a fugitive. Although the court granted Owens's motion with respect to some items seized during the search, ruling that these documents were not immediately apparent as relevant evidence, in the end, it admitted most of the seized items, including the drugs, drug paraphernalia, and certain personal documents. The court denied Owens's request for a Franks hearing, finding that Owens failed to make a substantial preliminary showing that Officer Broadmeadow's affidavit contained any deliberately false or recklessly false statements.

2. Discussion

On appeal, Owens renews the two arguments made in his motion to suppress. He also contends that the district court improperly denied his request for a Franks hearing. We disagree.

a. Probable Cause and Leon 's Good-Faith Exception

Assuming arguendo that the warrant for 26 Parsons Avenue was not supported by probable cause, we agree with the district court that the executing officers reasonably relied in good faith on a facially valid warrant. We therefore need not assess the constitutionality of the warrant and simply hold that the district court committed no error in denying the motion to suppress. See Leon, 468 U.S. at 925, 104 S.Ct. 3405 (courts have discretion to consider the issue of officers' good faith without first addressing Fourth Amendment issue).

There are four exclusions to the Leon good-faith exception: (1) "when the magistrate ... was misled by information in an affidavit that the affiant knew was false or would have known was false except for his reckless disregard for the truth;" (2) "where the issuing magistrate wholly abandoned his [detached and neutral] judicial role;" (3) where the affidavit is "so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable;" and (4) where a warrant is "so facially deficient--i.e. in failing to particularize the place to be searched or the things to be seized--that the executing officers cannot reasonably presume it to be valid." Id. at 923, 104 S.Ct. 3405. Owens contends that the 26 Parsons Avenue search implicates the first and fourth exclusions.

i. False Information in Affidavit

According to Owens, the affidavit improperly misled the magistrate in three respects. First, it claimed that the Boston police had a murder warrant for Don Miley when in fact the murder warrant identified the suspect only as Dwayne Owens. Second, it misstated that business records indicated Be Be's Barbecue was "owned and incorporated by Don Miley" when Don Miley was only listed in corporate documents as Vice President. And third, its statement that phone number 436-6658 was located at 26 Parsons Avenue improperly omitted that the number listed was in the name of Johnny Stephens, not Don Miley. 3

Owens's claims fail because he cannot establish that these misstatements were either knowingly false or reckless. At most, Broadmeadow's errors resulted from negligence, and "[a]llegations of negligence or innocent mistake are insufficient." Franks, 438 U.S. at 171, 98 S.Ct. 2674.

Moreover, even if any of the misstatements were knowingly false or reckless, we do not see how they were material. See United States v. Vanness, 85 F.3d 661, 662-63 (D.C.Cir.1996) (warrant valid under Leon because false statement not material). The affidavit's statement that a warrant existed for "Miley," rather than "Owens," was immaterial because the affidavit also indicated that the subject known as "Miley" used the alias "Owens." Nor can the statement that Miley was named in business records as owner rather than Vice President be characterized as material because, in either event, the suspect was linked to Be Be's Barbecue. Cf. State v. Groff, 323 N.W.2d...

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