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United States v. Wooden

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

December 19, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
William Dale Wooden, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville. No. 3:15-cr-00012-1-Thomas A. Varlan, District Judge.

         ON BRIEF:

          Michael B. Menefee, MENEFEE & BROWN, P.C., Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Luke A. McLaurin, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: GILMAN, KETHLEDGE, and READLER, Circuit Judges

          OPINION

          CHAD A. READLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         While at home on a cold November morning, William Wooden heard a knock at the door. Upon opening it, Wooden was greeted by a man asking to speak with Wooden's wife. Wooden went to get her. And he allowed the man to enter the home, to stay warm while waiting for Wooden to return.

         But Wooden's humane gesture soon became his undoing. As from there, things began to unravel. Wooden picked up a firearm. The man at the door turned out to be a plainclothes police officer. And the officer knew that Wooden was a convicted felon who could not lawfully possess a firearm. Wooden was thus taken into custody.

         Wooden was later convicted and sentenced on a felon-in-possession charge. On appeal, Wooden asserts two challenges to that result. With respect to his conviction, Wooden contends that the officer's presence in his home violated the Fourth Amendment, meaning that much of the evidence used against him should have been suppressed. And as to his sentence, Wooden challenges the fifteen-year term of imprisonment imposed by application of the Armed Career Criminal Act. Finding no error in the district court's Fourth Amendment or sentencing analyses, we AFFIRM the decision below.

         BACKGROUND

         Along with two uniformed officers, Conway Mason, an Investigator for the Monroe County (Tennessee) Sheriff's Department, set out early one chilly November morning to track down Ben Harrelson, a fugitive wanted for theft. The officers had previously seen Harrelson's vehicle parked outside the home of William Wooden and Janet Harris. Believing Harrelson might be hiding inside, the officers approached the home. Mason, who was not in uniform, went to the front door, and the two uniformed officers dispersed around the home.

         Mason knocked on the door. When Wooden answered, Mason asked to speak with Harris. Mason also asked if he could step inside, to stay warm. According to Mason, Wooden responded "Yes. That's okay"-which Mason took to mean he could come inside.

         Mason, along with a second officer, entered the home. As Wooden walked down the hallway, the officers saw him pick up a rifle. When the officers told him to put the weapon down, Wooden did as instructed. Mason knew Wooden was a felon, meaning he could not possess a firearm. So the officers took the rifle and handcuffed and searched Wooden. During the search, the officers discovered a loaded revolver holstered on Wooden.

         Harris gave the officers permission to search the home. The officers did not find Harrelson. But they did find a third weapon, a .22 caliber rifle. After waiving his Miranda rights, Wooden admitted that he possessed all three firearms as well as ammunition.

         Federal prosecutors subsequently filed an indictment charging Wooden with being a Felon in Possession of Firearms and Ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Wooden in turn moved to suppress the evidence discovered during the search of his home. In his motion, Wooden argued that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by entering his home without a warrant or his consent. The district court, however, denied Wooden's motion on the basis that Wooden consented to the officers' entry. At his subsequent jury trial, Wooden was convicted as charged.

         The probation office prepared a presentence report in which Wooden was classified as an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (or ACCA), given that he had three or more prior violent felony convictions. The basis for the classification was Wooden's prior Georgia convictions: a 1989 aggravated assault, ten 1997 burglaries, and a 2005 burglary. Wooden objected to the classification. He argued that neither the aggravated-assault nor burglary offenses qualify as violent felonies under the ACCA. He ...


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