United States v. Ocean-Avent, 21-4264

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. KALID KORON OCEAN-AVENT, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket Number21-4264
Decision Date28 December 2022

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,

KALID KORON OCEAN-AVENT, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 21-4264

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 28, 2022


Submitted: September 19, 2022

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at Greenville. James C. Dever III, District Judge. (4:20-cr-00017-D-1)


Paul K. Sun, Jr., Kelly Margolis Dagger, ELLIS &WINTERS LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.

Michael F. Easley, Jr., United States Attorney, David A. Bragdon, Assistant United States Attorney, Joshua L. Rogers, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Before NIEMEYER, THACKER, and RUSHING, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.

Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.



In the early morning hours of January 16, 2020, Kalid Koron Ocean-Avent ("Appellant") fled from law enforcement in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and was apprehended when he crashed the vehicle he was driving and attempted to flee police on foot. After the crash, the police discovered a loaded gun in the area between the vehicle's two front seats. Appellant was found guilty by a jury of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and § 924. He timely appealed his conviction. We affirm.

Appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict him because the United States (the "Government") failed to prove that he constructively possessed the firearm found in the vehicle. Reviewing de novo, United States v. Smith, 21 F.4th 122, 139 (4th Cir. 2021), we disagree. "Constructive possession is established if it is shown that the defendant exercised, or had the power to exercise, dominion and control over the item." United States v. Moye, 454 F.3d 390, 395 (4th Cir. 2006) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted). There was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Appellant knew about the gun, which was found along with his cellphone in an open compartment within his reach, and had a motive for carrying it because he was driving in an area known as a hub for gang activity. We have previously concluded that a defendant who "had both knowledge of and the ability to control" a gun, as well as a compelling reason for doing so, constructively possessed the gun. See United States v. Moody, 2 F.4th 180, 193 (4th Cir. 2021).


Similarly, "if a factfinder determines that a driver had dominion and control over a vehicle, that is sufficient to establish constructive possession of contraband hidden in that vehicle." Moody, 2 F.4th at 191 (emphasis deleted). Appellant did not dispute at trial that he was the driver of the vehicle. And his strange behavior at the time the officers first tried to make contact with him -- attempting to cover his face with his arm so that he could not be identified and driving away once one of the officers made eye contact with him -suggests that Appellant utilized the vehicle to flee precisely because he had knowledge of the contraband inside. We have concluded that similar facts pointed to constructive possession of a vehicle and its contents. See United States v. Branch, 537 F.3d 328, 343 (4th Cir. 2008) ("Branch's nervousness, lack of truthfulness, and the presence of drugs and cash also support a reasonable inference that Branch both exercised control over the car and was aware of its contents, including the firearm."); United States v. Herder, 594 F.3d 352, 359 (4th Cir. 2010) ("[T]he evidence shows that Herder engaged in highly...

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