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United States v. Bradford

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

September 19, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
David L. Bradford, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued October 31, 2017

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 15-CR-30001 - David R. Herndon, Judge.

          Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Sykes, Circuit Judge

         A jury convicted David Bradford of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and related drug and firearms offenses. His appeal raises three claims of error. First, he contests the denial of his motion to suppress evidence recovered in a search of his home pursuant to a warrant. His chief complaint is that the warrant application relied on statements from a confidential informant but omitted information damaging to the informant's credibility. Second, he challenges the denial of his pretrial motion to exclude evidence that he used the firearms seized in the search or directed others to use them. Last, Bradford claims that the government failed to prove a crack-cocaine conspiracy. We reject these arguments and affirm.

         I. Background

         A grand jury returned a seven-count indictment against Bradford stemming from his drug-distribution operation in East St. Louis, Illinois. A jury convicted him on six of the seven charges: conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, see 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846; transfer of a firearm to a felon, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(1); two counts of distribution of cocaine base, see 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B), (b)(1)(C); possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, see id. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(D); and possession of a firearm as a felon, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (The jury acquitted on the remaining charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. See id. § 924(c).) We limit our account of the facts to the background necessary to understand the issues raised on appeal.

         Federal law enforcement opened an investigation of Bradford after he participated in a suspicious firearm purchase with his girlfriend Delenthegia Beard-Hawkins and their friend Danielle Smith. (The latter's first name might be misleading; Smith is a man.) In late February 2014, the trio went to an Illinois gun store where Bradford and Smith examined two .50-caliber Desert Eagle semiautomatic pistols. But it was Hawkins who ended up purchasing one. The gun cost about $1, 500, and because Hawkins did not have enough cash, Bradford pitched in a couple hundred dollars. Bradford also purchased a laser sight for another type of firearm. The clerk offered to ship the firearm to a gun store in Missouri where Hawkins lived so she could pick it up there.

         The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") received information about the transaction and launched an investigation. Agents learned that both Bradford and Smith were convicted felons, so it was illegal for them to possess a firearm. See § 922(g)(1).

         On March 4 ATF agents surveilled Hawkins as she picked up the Desert Eagle at a Missouri gun store and drove it to Bradford's home in East St. Louis, Illinois. When she arrived, Smith was on the front porch. Hawkins handed him the firearm, and when the two started walking toward the front door, agents arrested them. Bradford approached from around the corner, and he too was arrested.

         Hawkins told the agents that she had three firearms in her home-two handguns and an AK-47 rifle-and that she would sometimes bring them to Bradford's house and leave them there. She also admitted to being a regular marijuana user, making it illegal for her to possess a firearm. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3). Though she denied purchasing the Desert Eagle for Bradford, she reported that he kept a 9mm pistol under his pillow and that she had seen two other firearms and ammunition at his house in the days leading up to her arrest.

         All three were detained in the St. Clair County Jail on a 48-hour hold. Based on Hawkins's information, on March 6 ATF agents obtained a warrant to search her home and Bradford's. In Bradford's bedroom they recovered indicia of ownership of a Draco pistol (a box, an owner's manual, and a serial-number tag), as well as empty magazines, gun holsters, a gun lock, and miscellaneous firearm parts. They did not find any firearms or the laser sight Bradford purchased at the Illinois gun store. At Hawkins's home agents found a handgun, ammunition, and magazines, but they did not locate the second handgun or the AK-47 she said she kept there. The 48-hour hold expired that evening, and Bradford, Hawkins, and Smith were released. A few days later, Hawkins surrendered a Draco pistol to the ATF. As expected, the pistol matched the serial number on the tag recovered from Bradford's bedroom.

         Around this time the ATF obtained additional information from confidential informants that Bradford was selling crack cocaine. Smith was one of those informants; he began cooperating with the ATF after his arrest. Agents used Smith to conduct two controlled crack-cocaine buys from Bradford, recording both transactions. Smith called Bradford's cell phone and asked to purchase crack. On April 18 the two met at Bradford's house, and Smith purchased 23.8 grams of crack for $1, 400. Several days later Smith called Bradford and asked for more. On April 29 the two met again at Bradford's house, and Smith paid $2, 250 for 33.8 grams of crack.

         A few weeks after the controlled buys, Smith observed marijuana and various firearms in Bradford's home. Specifically, Smith reported to Special Agent Adam Ulery that on May 29 he observed an SKS rifle in Bradford's bedroom closet, a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber pistol and an XD .40-caliber pistol on Bradford's bed, as well as a Tommy-gun rifle under Bradford's mattress. Smith also reported that Bradford sometimes kept firearms in his white Cadillac. Ulery had observed a white Cadillac parked in front of Bradford's residence; it was registered in Bradford's name.

         Smith continued his cooperation, telling agents on June 8 that he observed Bradford carrying a Springfield XD .40-caliber pistol and saw marijuana packaged for sale at Bradford's house. He also reported that Bradford told him he had pistol-whipped a person named D-Bow in retaliation for stealing marijuana from him. Later that same day, Smith witnessed a firearms transfer at Bradford's residence; he reported that Bradford handed a bag containing several firearms to another person inside the home. Finally, Smith told the agents that earlier on June 8 he saw an SKS rifle and a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber pistol in Bradford's bedroom.

         On June 9 Agent Ulery applied for another warrant to search Bradford's home. He swore to the facts we've just recited and noted his experience investigating the use of firearms in drug-trafficking crimes. He explained that a confidential informant had supplied information about Bradford's drug dealing and the firearms he kept in his home, and also that the informant had participated in two recorded crack buys from Bradford. He described these facts in some detail, and he also stated that the informant "ha[d] proven reliable in this and in other criminal investigations over the last three ...

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