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United States v. Henley

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

October 29, 2019


          Submitted February 5, 2019

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 2-15-cr-00199-001) District Judge: Honorable Mark R. Hornak

          Scott W. Brady Donovan J. Cocas Laura S. Irwin Office of United States Attorney Attorneys for Appellee

          Giuseppe G.C. Rosselli Attorney for Appellant

          Before: HARDIMAN, SCIRICA, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges.


          HARDIMAN, Circuit Judge.

         Dwight Henley appeals an order of the District Court denying his motion to suppress evidence. Henley preserved his right to appeal that issue by entering conditional guilty pleas to possessing a firearm and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). The question presented is whether the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania violated Henley's Fourth Amendment rights when it searched his house while he was on parole. Because reasonable suspicion supported the search, we will affirm.


         In March 2012, Henley was a parolee subject to supervision by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. A parole agent with over twenty years' experience, Joyce Douglass, was assigned to Henley. According to Agent Douglass, Henley first did "really well" on parole while living with his sister in a supportive environment, App. II 109, and Douglass had a "pretty decent relationship" with him. App. II 111. But Douglass observed a "change in attitude" as Henley "became more secretive" and engaged in conduct that led Douglass to ask her supervisor to search Henley and his home for evidence of drug trafficking. App. II 111.

         For starters, Douglass noticed Henley began associating with several former and current parolees suspected of drug dealing. Henley also violated his parole conditions by moving residences twice without the required prior notice. He moved out of his sister's home and into a home on Pine Alley in Clairton, Pennsylvania, that he reportedly bought for $1.00 from his brother Quienty, who was on parole as well. Henley later moved to a home on Park Avenue in Clairton he bought after reportedly selling the Pine Alley home for $800.00 to Jarron Bell, who himself was a parolee supervised by Douglass and was under investigation by the FBI for heroin trafficking. Douglass learned Henley was associating with Bell when she tried to visit Henley at the Pine Alley address, but was greeted by Bell, who pretended to be a guest even though he had bought the home from Henley. Henley admitted lying to Douglass about the property transfer to cover for Bell.

         Douglass's observations on other home visits likewise sparked concern. She observed motorcycle club attire and a photograph of Henley with the club, whose members included other parolees. She caught Henley in more lies and another violation of parole conditions. In late spring 2013, Agent Douglass twice attempted a home visit, but Henley had traveled without permission to the club's bike week at the beach. Henley falsely reported that he had gone fishing just outside the permitted area. In response, Douglass placed him on electronic monitoring for a month. On a March 2014 home visit, Douglass noticed Henley's front door had been kicked in. Henley informed her someone broke into his home, which raised a red flag because it suggested to Douglass that someone was looking for drugs, guns, or money. Finally, during an October 31, 2014 home visit, Douglass smelled the "really strong" odor of a "large amount of marijuana," which she called "skunk weed," coming from the enclosed porch. App. II 137-139.

         Another issue that troubled Douglass was Henley's apparent income in relation to his lawful employment. At the beginning of his parole, Henley changed employers twice, increasing his wage to $11.00 per hour at MPW Industrial Services. According to his boss, Henley "work[ed] as much overtime as he possibly could," App. II 121, "trying to better himself." App. II 110. But MPW later reported to Douglass that Henley chose to work less, rejecting available work he sought before and "all of a sudden, he just seemed to be working a couple days a week." App. II 121. Despite this reduced schedule, Henley paid several thousand dollars in fines, when previously he had paid little. Douglass also took notice that: (1) Henley owned three motor vehicles, a motorcycle, and a boat; (2) Henley appeared at the parole offices with a "fair amount of cash," though not enough in her estimation to document, App. II 191; and (3) "quite a bit of money" was spent to remodel and furnish Henley's Park Avenue home. App. II 132.

         In late December 2014, MPW terminated Henley's employment because he punched a co-worker, and multiple sources reported to Douglass that Henley's brother Quienty brought a handgun to the altercation. Yet Henley told Douglass that his employer fired him because he accidentally ate a marijuana brownie and failed a drug test.

         From October 2013 until early 2015, Douglass received reports that Henley was selling marijuana, that he was paying his subordinates with heroin, and that his associates, (including Bell) were selling drugs.

         On February 23, 2015, after receiving approval from her supervisor, Douglass and two other Pennsylvania parole agents (John Sartori, Jr. and Ronald Fine) entered Henley's home through an open door without a warrant, searched his person, and searched his residence. Officers found and seized the following indicia of drug trafficking: over $2, 000 in cash; over 800 grams of marijuana in a large plastic bag, a vacuum-sealed package, and several individual packages; scales; a marijuana grinder; a .45 caliber pistol and ammunition; and three cell phones. During the search, Henley made incriminating statements as well.

         A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging Henley with drug trafficking and firearm offenses. Henley moved under Rule 12(b)(3)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to suppress the evidence obtained from the search, contending it violated the Fourth Amendment. After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court denied the motion, holding the agents possessed reasonable suspicion necessary ...

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