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Erickson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 29, 2017

Jeremiah Edward Erickson, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Vanderburgh Circuit Court The Honorable David D. Kiely, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 82C01-1511-F3-6956

          Attorney for Appellant Matthew J. McGovern Anderson, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana George P. Sherman Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Robb, Judge.

          Case Summary and Issues

         [¶1] Following a jury trial, Jeremiah Erickson was convicted of dealing in a Schedule IV controlled substance, a Level 3 felony, and the trial court sentenced him to fourteen years in the Indiana Department of Correction. Erickson now appeals, raising three issues for our review, which we consolidate and restate as: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence, and (2) whether Erickson's sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character. Concluding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence and Erickson's sentence is not inappropriate, we affirm his conviction and sentence.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On September 23, 2015, while on assignment in Mexico City, Mexico, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") received information from a confidential informant ("CI") that a package containing 250 Roxicodone pills was being delivered to him in Mexico City via Evansville, Indiana. At the time, the special agent was investigating a source of illegal pharmaceutical drugs emanating from a person they believed to be located in India. The CI negotiated with the target in India and learned his shipment would be sent from Evansville. The CI provided the special agent with the package's tracking number, and shortly thereafter, she contacted the United States Postal Inspector's Office to inquire into the package's whereabouts. The Postal Inspector confirmed the tracking number was valid and informed her the package was currently in transit in Louisville, Kentucky. The special agent then requested the package be detained in Louisville and contacted the DEA's office in Evansville.

         [¶3] After alerting the local law enforcement authorities about the package, the special agent obtained the CI's written consent to search the package and forwarded it to the DEA's office in Evansville and to the Postal Inspector's Office in Louisville. A search of the package revealed 120 pills in blister packs labeled "Oxycodone." Transcript, Volume II at 45, 47. Further analysis of the pills revealed they were not Oxycodone, but were pills containing acetaminophen and tramadol.[1] The return address on the package listed "Johnny Tramoan" of "18 Surainos Blvd., Evansville, IN" as the sender; the package also listed a phone number. Tr., Vol. II at 14.

         [¶4] An investigation conducted by Detective James Budde of the Vanderburgh

         County Sheriff's Office revealed the name and return address listed on the package were fake; however, the phone number was not. In two recorded conversations, Detective Budde, while pretending to be the CI's associate, called the phone number to inquire about the package. In the first recorded phone call, Detective Budde informed the person on the phone that he was sent to Evansville to set up another purchase of 1, 000 pills. During this call, the person on the phone referred to a "Dude from India, " "blisters, " and the fact the pills were "supposed to be blue." Tr., Vol. III at 63, 65. In the second recorded call, Detective Budde arranged a meeting to pick up the 1, 000 pills and the person on the phone referred to himself as "Jeremiah" or "Johnny or Jerry." Id. at 68. Erickson later appeared at the scheduled meeting. During this meeting, he admitted to sending the package and asked Detective Budde, who was still acting in an undercover capacity, to relay to the CI that he was not aware the pills were fake when he sent them. Erickson was arrested shortly following this arranged meeting.

         [¶5] On November 11, 2015, the State charged Erickson with dealing in a Schedule IV controlled substance, a Level 3 felony. On March 30, 2016, Erickson filed a motion to suppress evidence, which the trial court denied following a hearing. Erickson also filed a motion, pursuant to Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b), requesting notice of any crimes, wrongs, or other bad acts the State intended to put forth at trial. At trial, Erickson objected to the admission of both recordings of the phone calls Detective Budde made, alleging he had not been given proper notice of their use and their admission was in violation of the Indiana Rules of Evidence. The trial court overruled his objection and the recordings were admitted into evidence and published to the jury. The jury found Erickson guilty as charged and the trial court sentenced him to fourteen years in the Indiana Department of Correction. Erickson now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

          I. Admission of Evidence

         A. Standard of Review

         [¶6] A trial court has broad discretion in ruling on the admissibility of evidence. Turner v. State, 953 N.E.2d 1039, 1045 (Ind. 2011). We review its rulings for abuse of discretion, which occurs only if the decision was clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances. Id.

         B. Admission of Drug Evidence

         [¶7] Erickson first argues the search of the package violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although Erickson originally challenged the admission of the evidence through a motion to suppress, he now challenges the admission of that evidence at trial. Therefore, the issue is appropriately framed as whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence. See Carpenter v. State, 18 N.E.3d 998, 1001 (Ind. 2014). However, the ultimate determination of the constitutionality of a search or seizure is a question of law we consider de novo. Id.

         [¶8] The Fourth Amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . ." U.S. Const. amend. IV. A warrantless search or seizure is per se unreasonable, and the State bears the burden to show that one of the "well-delineated exceptions" to the warrant requirement applies. Holder v. ...


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