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United States v. Whisenton

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 2, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Ronnie Whisenton, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted April 16, 2014

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: John T. Davis, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Jennifer Winfield, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Eastern District of Missouri, Saint Louis, MO.

For Ronnie Whisenton, Defendant - Appellant: Adam Douglas Fein, Gilbert Chester Sison, ROSENBLUM & SCHWARTZ, Saint Louis, MO.

Ronnie Whisenton, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Saint Louis, MO.

Before WOLLMAN, BYE, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges. BYE, Circuit Judge, dissenting.

OPINION

Page 939

SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

Ronnie Whisenton pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § § 841(b)(1)(B) and 846. The district court[1] sentenced him to 60 months imprisonment. Whisenton appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.

I.

We recite the facts as the district court found and stated them in its order denying Whisenton's motion to suppress. See United States v. Ellis, 501 F.3d 958, 961 (8th Cir. 2007). On the morning of March 1, 2012, a task force of federal agents and local police officers (the agents) followed Adrian Renee Bollinger to a residence in St. Louis. The agents had been tracking Bollinger because of her suspected involvement in drug trafficking. Bollinger pulled into the residence's driveway and parked. Shortly after, a man, later identified as Whisenton, exited the house and entered Bollinger's car. The agents saw Whisenton and Bollinger bend down in the vicinity of an area of the car the agents knew contained a hidden compartment.[2] Whisenton remained in the car for a few minutes

Page 940

and then, carrying a grocery bag, returned to his house. Bollinger drove away from the house. Shortly after, local police officers stopped her for a traffic violation. Bollinger refused consent to search her car, but a canine alerted the officers to drugs in the car. The agents searched the vehicle and discovered approximately $73,000 in the hidden compartment.

That afternoon, the agents returned to Whisenton's house. The agents decided to utilize a " knock and talk" tactic[3] to gain consent to search the house. They requested a records check on the occupants of the house, which revealed that one of the occupants had a criminal record for guns and drugs. While setting up surveillance on the house, the agents saw a woman exit and walk toward a car. The agents approached the woman, who was wearing a correctional officer uniform, and asked her if they could search the house. The woman responded that she would have to ask her husband Whisenton, the owner of the house, who was in the shower at the time. Whisenton's wife entered the house, and about 30 seconds later, the agents knocked on the door. The agents later testified that when Whisenton's wife entered the house, they immediately feared for their safety because, as a correctional officer, she would presumably have access to a weapon. Moreover, the background check indicated that one of the ...


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