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United States v. Norton

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 20, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Larry J. Norton, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued March 28, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. No. 15-cr-2 - Theresa L. Springmann, Chief Judge.

          Before Easterbrook, Kanne, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

          After a six-day trial, a jury convicted Larry Norton of conspiring to distribute and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute large quantities of heroin and cocaine. The district court sentenced Norton to a mandatory life term of imprisonment. Norton now appeals his conviction, challenging the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a traffic stop and the district court's admission at trial of recorded statements made by a confidential informant. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Larry Norton handled cocaine and heroin distribution for a large drug conspiracy. During the conspiracy, Norton drove to Chicago, Illinois and Akron, Ohio to move drugs or drug proceeds. Customers would also pick up drugs at his home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

         Law enforcement recruited a member of the conspiracy to record conversations, and on October 2, 2014, the informant did so. During that conversation, the informant, Norton, and other members of the conspiracy sampled their heroin and discussed business strategy.

         The following month, the informant told federal drug task force officers that Norton planned to move $400, 000 of drug proceeds. The federal officers contacted Indiana State Police Officer Brad Shultz to plan a stop. They told Shultz to wait for them to identify the vehicle and make a traffic stop when they signaled him to do so.

         On the morning of November 7, Norton left his home and proceeded to the highway. T a s k force officers trailed Norton for about 20 miles. During that time, Special Agent Jeffery Robertson tried to measure Norton's speed by pacing him. He later testified that Norton was "close to the speed limit, but he was, as other cars were around us, he was over the speed limit. He was in the range of 70 to 75." (R. 121 at 94.)

         The federal officers identified Norton's vehicle to Officer Shultz. As Norton crossed into a construction zone, Agent Robertson told Shultz that Norton was driving 72 mph in a 55 mph construction zone. Agent Robertson then instructed Officer Shultz to make the stop.

         Officer Shultz testified that he used his radar gun to confirm that Norton was going 72 mph. He also checked Norton's speed by matching it with his own car's speed. After exiting the construction zone, Officer Shultz pulled Norton over.

         During the stop, Norton allowed Officer Shultz to search his car. As Officer Shultz inspected the vehicle, he found an unusual wire near the gas pedal and a shell casing. His drug sniffing dog also signaled to multiple parts of the vehicle. Officer Shultz did not arrest Norton, but he did impound the vehicle. And after obtaining a search warrant, law enforcement conducted a more thorough search, discovering $400, 000 in cash.

         Months later, law enforcement arrested Norton inside a house located a few miles north of the Mexican border. During the arrest, authorities also found a heat sealer, Norton's wallet, and $179, 000 in cash inside the home. Norton was indicted on one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with ...


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