US v. Lance Walker, No. 08-5073 (4th Cir. 2010)

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UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 08-5073 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. LANCE WALKER, Defendant - Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. William D. Quarles, Jr., District Judge. (1:08-cr-00306-WDQ-1) Submitted: November 4, 2010 Decided: December 2, 2010 Before KEENAN and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge. Affirmed in part; vacated and remanded in part by unpublished per curiam opinion. Michael P. Kushner, Brooklyn, New York, for Appellant. Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Debra L. Dwyer, Assistant United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. PER CURIAM: Lance Walker was convicted after a jury trial. He appeals his convictions for various drug and firearm charges and his resulting 480-month sentence. We affirm his convictions but vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing. I. Walker first challenges the December 17, 2007 search of his car. He asserts that the warrant lacked probable cause and that no rational officer could state any basis for issuing such a search warrant. The affidavit supporting the warrant recounted the investigation into the October 30, 2007 death of Marion Beckford, who was shot collect a debt from Walker. while allegedly attempting to Walker was positively identified at a photographic line-up, and text messages also tied Walker to the shooting. Further, the shooter drove a dark SUV. Investigation linked Walker to a Black Lincoln Navigator, and he was arrested in that car. The officer also averred that the firearm used in the shooting had not been found and that he believed Walker carried a weapon in his vehicle for safety. the basis of this affidavit, the magistrate judge issued On a search warrant for Walker s Navigator, permitting a search for evidence relating [h]andguns, to the ammunitions, murder CDS 2 of Beckford, [controlled including substances], photographs, directions, paperwork, personal papers and any and all microscopic evidence. Walker points out that there was no mention of CDS in the affidavit and argues that the source of the officer s belief that there reviewing relevant would the be a handgun propriety inquiry is of in the issuing whether, car a under was absent. warrant, search the In the totality of the circumstances, the issuing judge had a substantial basis for concluding that there was probable cause to issue the warrant. Illinois v. 462 Gates, U.S. 213, 238 (1983). The facts presented to the issuing judge need only convince a person of reasonable caution that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found at the place to be searched. 730, 742 (1983). standard. Id. Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. Probable cause is a flexible, common-sense [T]he nexus between the place to be searched and the items to be seized may be established by the nature of the item and the normal inferences of where one would likely keep such evidence. United States v. Anderson, 851 F.2d 727, 729 (4th Cir. 1988). We conclude that the affidavit provided probable cause to believe that firearms would be found in the car. Specifically, the shooter drove a dark colored SUV to the crime scene where he shot Beckford, Walker was identified as the shooter who emerged from the SUV, Walker was seen driving a 3 black Lincoln Navigator SUV, and the murder weapon had not been recovered. Probable cause can be inferred from the circumstances, and the warrant was not invalid for failing to produce direct evidence that a firearm was in Walker s car. See United States v. Lalor, 996 F.2d 1578, 1582 (4th Cir. 1993) (noting that test is whether it is reasonable to believe that the items to be seized will be found in the place to be searched ). The warrant s permission to search for CDS is more problematic. It is undisputed that the warrant s inclusion of CDS as an appropriate item to be seized was not supported by probable cause. faith on the However, absent a showing of pretext or bad part of the police or the Government, the invalidity of part of a search warrant does not require the suppression of all the evidence seized during its execution. See United States v. Fitzgerald, 724 F.2d 633, 636-37 (8th Cir. 1983). Thus, even if the portion of the warrant permitting seizure of CDS is invalid, the Fourth Amendment does not require the suppression of anything described in the valid portions of the warrant or lawfully seized []on plain-view grounds, for example-during their execution. Id. at 637; see also United States v. George, 975 F.2d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 1992) (holding that, where warrant as a whole is not invalid, a redacted warrant may 4 justify a police intrusion, permitting admission of items found in plain view). Here, the cocaine and marijuana were found hidden in the same place as vehicle s sunroof. door. a loaded pistol, in an area around the The heroin was found inside the driver s Thus, had the warrant not included CDS as an appropriate target of the search, the drugs would still have been found in plain view during the execution of the warrant to search for firearms. Walker does not argue that the error in the search warrant was the result of bad faith or pretext. Moreover, he does not contend that a proper search for handguns would not have uncovered district court the drugs. properly Accordingly, denied the we motion find to that suppress the with regard to the search of Walker s vehicle. II. Walker next contends that the district court failed to make any factual findings or legal conclusions regarding the items seized from his car on January 16, 2007. However, after the testimony at the suppression hearing, Walker did not make any argument regarding the January 16 search. Nonetheless, the court did find that the January stop and seizure were proper. In any event, the search of Walker s car was clearly proper as a search incident to arrest. 5 A police officer may search the passenger area of a vehicle incident to the lawful arrest of its occupant, even when the occupant has already been removed from the car and is under the control of the police. United States v. Milton, 52 Moreover, vehicle searches arrest recent occupants of F.3d are of 78, 80 permissible the (4th Cir. incident vehicle, 1995). to the accounting for situations where the officer does not make contact until the person arrested has left the vehicle. See Thornton v. United States, 541 U.S. 615, 621-23 (2004); Arizona v. Gant, 129 S. Ct. 1710, 1723 (2009) ( Police may search a vehicle incident to a recent occupant s arrest only if the arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. ). While Walker was being pursued by police officers, he exited his car and attempted to run. The police apprehended Walker and recovered the cocaine he had thrown from the car. The officers then searched the car. We find the warrantless search of Walker s car was proper incident to Walker s arrest. III. Walker claims joinder of the counts against him was not proper because the counts flowing from each of his three arrests were not related and there was nothing in the indictment 6 tying the stemmed arrests from with three one arrests another. in Walker s Baltimore, January 16, May 22, and December 17. that he was prejudiced by the convictions Maryland, in 2007: Walker further asserts joinder because the jury was permitted to hear about his involvement with other narcotics transactions. Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(a) provides that two or more offenses may be charged in the same indictment when the offenses are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a common or plan. refusal to grant court s scheme We a review de misjoinder novo motion the district to determine whether the initial joinder of the offenses was proper under Rule 8(a). United States v. Mackins, 315 F.3d 399, 412 (4th Cir. 2003). If joinder was proper, review of the denial of a motion to sever is for abuse of discretion under Fed. R. Crim. P. 14. Id. testimony, judicial impaneling resources, exception. Cir. States v. additional joinder jurors is the or rule wasting rather limited than the United States v. Hawkins, 589 F.3d 694, 700 (4th 2009). statute Because of the prospect of duplicating witness is Joinder of multiple unremarkable . Acker, 52 F.3d charges Id. 509, 7 514 at involving 702-03 (4th Cir. the same (citing United 1995) (courts routinely allow joinder of bank robbery charges against the same defendant)). We conclude permissible. that the joinder of the counts was In each arrest, all of which occurred within a twelve month period, Walker was apprehended with a distributable amount of drugs in his car, packaged in separate bags. In two of the arrests, Walker was found with ammunition or firearms, which are tools of the drug trade, and tally sheets, which supported the conclusion that Walker sold cocaine and marijuana. See United States v. White, 875 F.2d 427, 433 (4th Cir. 1989) (firearms arrest, are commonly Walker was used charged in drug with business). possession distribute CDS, among other charges. with After intent each to Accordingly, the arrests each involved conduct of the same or similar character. See United States v. Quilling, 261 F.3d 707, 714 (7th Cir. 2001) (noting that joinder is proper where counts were temporally related and charged under the same statute). Since joinder of the counts was proper, Walker must show that he was clearly prejudiced denial of his motion to sever. However, the overwhelming there was no prejudice. by the district court s See Acker, 52 F.3d at 514. evidence against Walker shows that Officers testified that, after each arrest, Walker was found in possession of contraband. Moreover, the district court gave a limiting instruction, informing the 8 jury that they must consider each count separately. Because joinder was proper and Walker cannot show clear prejudice, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to sever the counts. IV. Next, Walker asserts that the district improperly denied his motion to continue the trial. court [A] trial court s denial of a continuance is . . . reviewed for abuse of discretion; even if such an abuse is found, the defendant must show that the error specifically prejudiced [his] case in order to prevail. United States v. Williams, 445 F.3d 724, 739 (4th Cir. 2006). We find that Walker has failed to show either an abuse of discretion or prejudice. First, Walker s assertion that he twice moved for a continuance of trial is unsupported by the record. On August 8, 2008, the motions deadline, Walker filed a written motion to continue the motions deadline, not the trial. Walker did not move to continue the trial until September 10, five days before trial, and on that date, Walker moved for the continuance in a untranscribed telephone conference. Because Walker never filed a written motion to continue, the district court s reasoning for denial is not on the record. Given the timing of Walker s motions and his failure to ensure that his 9 motion to continue was heard on the record, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion. Moreover, even if there were an abuse of discretion, Walker has failed to even allege prejudice. V. Finally, Walker claims that his sentence was procedurally unreasonable because the district court failed to give sufficiently sentence. individualized reasoning for the chosen Walker s advisory Guidelines range was 420 months to life in prison. At sentencing, Walker argued for a 420-month sentence, contending that (1) he had never been convicted of a crime of violence, (2) he had never been convicted of a completed drug sale all his convictions were for possession with intent to distribute, (3) he had three small children, (4) the Government intimidated his witnesses, and (5) he could still contribute something positive to society. The court imposed a 480-month sentence without providing any reasoning. In evaluating the sentencing court s explanation of a selected sentence, we have consistently held that, while a district court must consider the statutory factors and explain its sentence, § 3553(a) it (2006), need or not discuss explicitly every reference factor on 18 the U.S.C. record, particularly when the court imposes a sentence within a properly 10 calculated Guidelines range. 339, 345 (4th Cir. 2006). United States v. Johnson, 445 F.3d But, at the same time, the district court must make an individualized assessment based on the facts presented. Moreover, reasons Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 50 (2007). the that district justify court a must sentence, state the even when defendant within the Guidelines range. 551 U.S. 338, 356-57 (2007). individualized sentencing a Rita v. United States, The reasons articulated by the district court for a given sentence need not be couched in the precise language of § 3553(a), so long as the reasons can be matched to a factor appropriate for consideration . . . and [are] clearly tied to [the defendant s] particular situation. United States v. Moulden, 478 F.3d 652, 658 (4th Cir. 2007). In United States v. Carter, 564 F.3d 325, 330 (4th Cir. 2009), we held that, while the individualized assessment of each defendant need not be elaborate or lengthy, it must provide a rationale tailored to the particular adequate to permit appellate review. § 3553 factors and purposes is case at hand and be Thus, a recitation of the insufficient. Likewise, a conclusory statement that a specific sentence is the proper one does not satisfy the district court s responsibilities. 328-29. adopted Id. at In addition, we cannot presume that the district court the sentence; an arguments appellate of one court of the parties may not guess 11 while at the imposing district court s rationale. lower sentence harmless error. than Id. at 329-30. he received, Because Walker requested a his claim is reviewed for See United States v. Boulware, 604 F.3d 832, 838 (4th Cir. 2010). Here, referencing the the court merely Guidelines range, Walker s arguments. imposed the a sentence statutory without factors, or Prior to imposing a sentence, the district court made some comments that illustrated the court s view of the case: (1) the court stated that it was going to ignore an outstanding murder charge in imposing sentence, (2) the court stated that it did not intend to impose a life sentence, (3) the court expressed its belief that Walker s witnesses were lying, and (4) the court expressed bewilderment at Walker s counsel s attempt to minimize Walker s culpability based on the fact that he had never been convicted of actually selling drugs. The court did not address any of Walker s other arguments. This reasoning, which was culled from the entire sentencing transcript so that some of the statements were made prior to hearing full argument, is insufficient as it does not reflect that the court specifically concluded that a Guidelines sentence satisfied the statutory sentencing factors. See United States v. Hernandez, 603 F.3d 267, 269 (4th Cir. 2010) (holding on plain error review that, where defendant asked for the sentence he received and the court stated only that a Guidelines 12 sentence was unreasonable). appropriate, sentence was not procedurally We thus conclude that the district court abused its discretion by failing to provide individualized reasoning for the sentence imposed. Accordingly, Walker s sentence should be vacated unless the court finds that the error was harmless. United States v. Lynn, 592 F.3d 572, 581 (4th Cir. 2010). To avoid reversal for non-constitutional, non-structural errors like [the one presented here], the party defending the ruling below . . . bears the burden of demonstrating that the error was harmless, i.e. that it did not have a substantial result. and Id. at 585. Government makes harmless, and no the injurious effect or influence on the (internal quotation marks omitted.) The argument record that does not any alleged conclusively error was show that explicit consideration of [Walker s] arguments would not have affected the sentence imposed. Id. Accordingly, we vacate Walker s sentence and remand for the district court to address Walker s arguments and give sufficient reasoning for its chosen sentence. Based on the foregoing, we affirm Walker s convictions and vacate dispense his with sentence oral and argument remand because 13 for the resentencing. facts and We legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the court and argument would not aid the decisional process. AFFIRMED IN PART; VACATED AND REMANDED IN PART 14
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