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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today and one Friday

In UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. CHRISTOPHER EADS (SD Ind., Pratt), a 23-page opinion decided Friday, Sept. 6, Judge Williams writes:

At the age of twenty‐six, Christopher Eads was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography and tampering with a potential witness. The district court cautioned him about the perils of self representation in a criminal trial, but he chose to represent himself anyway. Eads stipulated that the images charged in the indictment constituted child pornography, but he claimed that he was being framed and that the images belonged to someone else. So over Eads’s objection, the district court allowed the government to introduce several photographs and short video clips of the child pornography discovered on Eads’s home computer to show he knowingly possessed and distributed these images. The jury also heard several telephone calls Eads made to his wife urging her to recant her earlier statements to police and to tell them that the pornography found on his home computer was not his. After a four‐day trial, the jury convicted Eads on all counts, and the district court sentenced him to 480 months’ imprisonment.

Eads now raises a litany of challenges to his convictions and sentence on appeal, but none have any merit. He claims that the district court abused its discretion in allowing him to represent himself at trial, but the court questioned him at length before allowing him to proceed pro se. And while we agree with Eads that the district court erred in not thoroughly explaining on the record why it admitted the evidence of child pornography, the images were not unfairly prejudicial and the additional evidence of his guilt was overwhelming. The jury was also presented with sufficient evidence of Eads’s attempts to corruptly persuade his wife to testify falsely, and so we will not overturn the jury’s guilty verdict on the witness tampering charge. Eads further claims that the district court should have granted him a new trial. But the district court held an evidentiary hearing on the matter and properly found no newly discovered evidence to support a new trial. Lastly, notwithstanding Eads’s protestations to the contrary, the district court carefully considered the factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) as they applied to Eads and his overall offense conduct before sentencing him. Therefore, we affirm the district court’s judgment in all respects.

In UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JOHN EDWARD SCOTT (ND Ind., Springmann), a 10-page opinion decided today, Sept. 10, Judge Lee (District Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation) writes:
While executing a search warrant, police found illegal drugs and a firearm in John Edward Scott’s home. Scott was subsequently indicted for two drug offenses and two firearms offenses. The affidavit submitted by the police to obtain the warrant described two controlled drug buys in which detectives used a confidential informant (“CI”) to purchase heroin from a Gerald Reynolds. On each occasion, after meeting with the CI, Reynolds drove alone to Scott’s house and returned to the CI with the requested heroin. The affidavit contained one sentence describing an audio recording of a conversation between Reynolds and Scott that occurred in Scott’s driveway during the first controlled buy.

Scott filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized in the search of his house, arguing that the recorded driveway conversation was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that the seized evidence constituted fruit from that poisonous tree. The district court denied the motion, and Scott pled guilty to possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). He was sentenced to 120 months of imprisonment followed by eight years of supervised release. As permitted by his plea agreement, Scott now appeals the denial of his suppression motion, arguing that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the driveway conversation and that, without the recorded conversation, the government lacked probable cause to obtain a search warrant for his house.

For the reasons given below, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence apart from the driveway conversation to establish probable cause for the search warrant. Thus, we need not reach the issue of whether Scott had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his driveway conversation with Reynolds and affirm the district court’s denial of Scott’s motion to suppress.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 10, 2013 01:00 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions