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United States v. Alston

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 24, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
JUROTHER LEE ALSTON, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: September 20, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. N. Carlton Tilley, Jr., Senior District Judge. (1:17-cr-00446-NCT-1)

         ARGUED:

          Leza Lee Driscoll, LAW OFFICE OF LEZA LEE DRISCOLL, PLLC, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Terry Michael Meinecke, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Matthew G.T. Martin, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

          Before MOTZ, KING, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.

         Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Motz wrote the opinion, in which Judge King and Judge Diaz joined.

          DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge:

         Jurother Lee Alston, Jr., entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime, reserving the right to appeal the district court's order denying his motion to suppress. Alston now appeals that order. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I.

         We recount the facts related to the suppression motion in the light most favorable to the Government. See United States v. Norman, 935 F.3d 232, 235 (4th Cir. 2019).

         On December 11, 2017, Captain Raheem Aleem of the Durham County Sheriff's Office saw Alston run a red light. Driving behind Alston, Captain Aleem activated his blue emergency lights, but Alston failed to stop. Aleem watched Alston reach deep under the passenger seat of his car - so deep that he briefly disappeared from Aleem's view. Captain Aleem suspected that Alston was reaching for a gun. Looking back at Aleem and continuing to reach down, Alston slowly drove into a parked car and came to a stop.

         Captain Aleem, concerned that Alston might try to flee, pulled up next to Alston's car. When asked why he ran a red light, Alston explained that he was distracted. Aleem next asked why Alston was reaching deep under his seat, and Alston replied that he had dropped his cell phone. Captain Aleem was skeptical; he heard a woman's voice in an ongoing phone call with Alston over the car's speakers and noticed Alston holding his phone in his left hand despite reaching under the seat with his right.

         Aleem responded, "Bro, you mighty nervous, you got anything else in the vehicle that you shouldn't have?" Alston replied, "All I got is this little bag of weed." He held up a small bag of marijuana and, at Aleem's ...


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