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United States v. Smith

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 19, 2015

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
Mario Ronrico Smith, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted, March 13, 2015

Page 924

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 925

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - St. Paul.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Amber M. Brennan, Nathan Paul Petterson, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

For Mario Ronrico Smith, Defendant - Appellant: Andrew Greenlee, Andrew B. Greenlee, P.A., Sanford, FL; Mark K. McCulloch, Brownstone Law, Winter Park, FL; Kyle A. O'Dwyer, Eden Prairie, MN.

Mario Ronrico Smith, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Terre Haute, IN.

Before WOLLMAN and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges, and WHITE,[1] District Judge.

OPINION

Page 926

WHITE, District Judge.

Mario Ronrico Smith (" Smith" ) was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine; using and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime; and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Smith filed pretrial motions seeking to suppress evidence and dismiss the case, which motions the district court[2] denied. A jury returned a verdict of guilty on all three counts. The district court denied Smith's motions for judgment of acquittal and for a new trial, and the court sentenced Smith to 280 months imprisonment followed by eight years of supervised release. On appeal, Smith argues that the officer lacked a reasonable suspicion to expand the traffic stop to a search. Smith also contends that the evidence at trial was insufficient for the jury to convict Smith. Further, Smith argues that the district court erred in admitting evidence of Smith's prior conviction and in allowing the government to present " expert" testimony at trial. We affirm.

During the late evening of December 4, 2011, Crystal Police Officer Timothy Tourville was on routine traffic patrol. At around 11:51 p.m., Officer Tourville observed a blue Dodge Charger speeding at 41 miles per hour in a 30 mile an hour zone. Officer Tourville initiated a traffic stop, approached the Charger, and asked the driver to provide a driver's license and proof of insurance. The driver provided a Minnesota driver's license identifying himself as Mario Ronrico Smith. Officer Tourville asked Smith what he was doing in the area, and Smith replied that he had " a girl down the road."

While speaking with Smith, Officer Tourville noticed a " slight odor of marijuana" coming from inside the car. Officer Tourville returned to the squad car, conducted a check on Smith's driver's license, and called for back up to assist him based on his detection of a marijuana odor. Officer Tourville returned to the Charger and informed Smith that he could smell marijuana coming from the car. He asked permission to search the Charger, and Smith stated that he would not consent because the vehicle belonged to his aunt. In an attempt to build a rapport with Smith and obtain Smith's consent to search the car, Officer Tourville asked Smith if he had a job. Smith responded that he worked for Prestige Autos performing detail work.

Officer Tourville spoke with Smith for about 1 1/2 minutes, then returned to his car to call for a K-9 unit to conduct a dog sniff outside the vehicle. Officer Tourville and the back up officer, Officer Mason Barland, waited for the K-9 unit, which arrived within a few minutes. As the K-9 unit approached, Smith sped away from the scene in the Charger. The K-9 unit arrived 17 minutes after the initial traffic stop and 11 minutes after Officer Tourville requested Smith's permission to search the Charger.

Smith led the officers on a high-speed chase that lasted several minutes. Officer Barland eventually moved close enough to perform a " PIT" maneuver, forcing the vehicle to spin out and stall. Smith then exited the vehicle, jumped over a fence, and ran across the Interstate highway. Officer Tourville pursued Smith on foot, but Smith escaped into a residential neighborhood. Officer Tourville retained possession of Smith's driver's license.

The Charger was towed to the police garage and placed in a secure evidence area. Search of the vehicle pursuant to a search warrant revealed two rectangular, brick-shaped packages ...


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