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United States v. McCants

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

April 5, 2019


          Argued September 6, 2018

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. No. 2-15-cr-00551-001) District Judge: Honorable Esther Salas

          Leticia Olivera Louise Arkel Office of Federal Public Defender Attorneys for Appellant

          Mark E. Coyne Richard J. Ramsay Office of United States Attorneys for Appellee

          Brett G. Sweitzer Federal Community Defender Office Attorney for Amicus Appellant

          Before: HARDIMAN, KRAUSE, and BIBAS, Circuit Judges.



         Ibrahim McCants appeals his judgment of conviction and sentence. McCants argues he was wrongly convicted based on evidence that was found during an unconstitutional search. He also claims his sentence cannot stand because he was wrongly designated a career offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm.


         On the afternoon of June 28, 2015, a New Jersey woman dialed 911 to report an ongoing domestic dispute. Here's how the call went:

CALLER: Can I have the number to East Orange Police Department.
DISPATCHER: You need where?
CALLER: East Orange Police Department. It's [sic] emergency.
DISPATCHER: What's the problem?
CALLER: This guy is out here beating up his girlfriend. He's about to kill her.
DISPATCHER: Where's this at?
CALLER: It's on Grove Street in East Orange.
DISPATCHER: Grove and-where on Grove?
CALLER: Grove and, and, and like Williams Street.
DISPATCHER: What is he wearing?
CALLER: He's wearing a red hat, with braids and he's beating her up really bad right now I wanna break-I wanna break it up but, I don't wanna do nothing.
DISPATCHER: No-you don't want to do that. Stay-hold on a second, ma'am.

United States v. McCants, No. 15-551, 2016 WL 4705452, at *1 (D.N.J. Sept. 7, 2016). As the operator was preparing to dispatch police to the scene of the altercation, the caller repeated "he is beating her up really badly" and stated, "I think he has a gun." Id. The caller then hung up and the operator dispatched the call in this way:

Grove and William, Grove and William, right now from a caller, it's a male beating a female really badly, male has braids with a red hat . . . . Again, it's going to be Grove and William. Male, female. Male beating a female. Male has braids red hat-at this time, I am advising the caller not to intervene . . . . Now she is saying she believes he has a gun . . . . Red hat and braids. Alright, the caller disconnected.


         East Orange police were in the area at the time the call was dispatched and they found a man matching the description near 146 Grove Street within one minute. Officer Moses Sangster was the first to arrive on the scene. He "noticed a male with dreads and a red hat" walking north on Grove Street with a woman. App. 76. The couple was later identified as Appellant Ibrahim McCants and Chelsea Fulton. Two other officers- Stephen Rochester and Cory Patterson-also arrived on the scene within minutes after hearing the call. Before they approached the couple, Officer Rochester confirmed with the dispatcher that "the male actor involved had dreadlocks." App. 78. Officers Rochester and Patterson then "immediately engaged" McCants and frisked him due to the "nature of the call for service." Id. During the pat down, Officer Rochester found a loaded handgun inside a fanny pack McCants was wearing. The officers placed McCants under arrest and recovered distributable quantities of heroin.

         Several written police reports described the interactions between McCants and Fulton when the officers arrived at the scene. Officer Rochester reported that he observed McCants "speaking with a black female." Id.[1] Both McCants and Fulton confirmed in separate interviews they had been arguing, though Fulton said, "at no point did the argument get physical." App. 82. Officer Crystal Singleton and Detective Jaleesa Wreh reported that Fulton showed no signs of injury.


         A grand jury charged McCants with unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and possession with intent to distribute heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and (b)(1)(C). McCants filed a pretrial motion to suppress the firearm and drugs and requested an evidentiary hearing on the motion, arguing the officers did not have reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity before they frisked him. The Government opposed the motion, and the District Court denied it without oral argument. The Court found that the stop ...

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