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State v. Cox

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

February 22, 2019


          Appealed from the Twenty First Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Livingston State of Louisiana Docket Number 34578 Honorable Charlotte H. Foster, Judge Presiding.

          Scott M. Perrilloux District Attorney Patricia P. Amos Assistant District Attorney Amite, Louisiana Counsel for Appellee State of Louisiana

          Robert W. Morgan Denham Springs, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellant William Gene Cox, Jr.


          GUIDRY, J.

         The defendant, William Gene Cox, Jr., was charged by bill of information with one count of possession of a schedule II controlled dangerous substance-hydromorphone (count 1), a violation of La. R.S. 40:967(C)(2), and one count of possession of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon (count 2), a violation of La. R.S. 14:95.1. He pled not guilty to both counts. Following a trial by jury, the defendant was found guilty as charged on both counts. On count 1, he was sentenced to five years at hard labor, and on count 2, he was sentenced to twenty years at hard labor.[1] The trial court ordered the sentences to run concurrently. The defendant now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his pre-trial motion to suppress. For the following reasons, we affirm the convictions and sentences.


         On August 20, 2016, [2] Sergeant Nick LoCicero of the Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office was conducting stationary traffic enforcement when around 7:15 p.m. he was approached by a man who identified himself as Rickey Boone. Boone was teary-eyed and appeared to have been pepper-sprayed. Boone told Sgt. LoCicero that he was involved in an altercation with William Cox, the defendant, at the defendant's residence after he went there in reference to a motorcycle that the defendant was supposed to return to him. The two became involved in a heated argument, and when Boone approached the defendant with a stick, the defendant pepper-sprayed him. Based on this account, Sgt. LoCicero believed that the defendant had acted in self-defense, but wanted to visit the defendant's residence to "get further details." Sgt. LoCicero was already familiar with the defendant's home because he had participated in searching it in 2014, which resulted in the seizure of illegal controlled dangerous substances and illegal firearms.

         While Sgt. LoCicero was speaking with Boone, another individual named Jerry Valentine arrived on the road. Both Boone and Valentine complained about narcotic distribution from the defendant's home and expressed concern about his well-being because of his drug use. They stated that they had tried to help him, but he "continue[d] to use drugs and take advantage of people." Sgt. LoCicero also received information from Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office Agent Carl Childers, who was investigating narcotic activity at the defendant's residence after he received complaints about the usage and sale of narcotics there. After speaking with Valentine, Sgt. LoCicero traveled to the defendant's home. At some point before entering the defendant's home, he also learned that a failure to appear warrant for a traffic offense had been issued for the defendant.

         When he pulled into the driveway, Sgt. LoCicero noticed a number of vehicle parts and "junked vehicles" on the property. The defendant was not home, but Jami Odom, the defendant's girlfriend, arrived. Sgt. LoCicero spoke to her about the fight between Boone and the defendant, and she stated that an altercation had occurred between the two after Boone approached the defendant with a stick. The defendant then arrived and gave Sgt. LoCicero a similar account of the incident. Sgt. LoCicero believed that the defendant had acted in self-defense, but asked the defendant if anything was "going on" at the house regarding illegal narcotic activity. Both the defendant and Odom insisted that they were no longer using drugs, and Odom repeatedly stated that they were attending a methadone clinic. Odom did, however, indicate that she was in possession of marijuana. When Sgt. LoCicero asked to walk through the house, the defendant and Odom agreed and "escorted [him] inside."

         Although the defendant was "adamant" that he was not using drugs and did not exhibit any impairment consistent with drug use, Sgt. LoCicero saw drug paraphernalia inside the house, specifically, shortened, cut straws with white powder residue and intravenous paraphernalia. He also saw ammunition and parts of weapons, which Sgt. LoCicero knew the defendant as a felon was prohibited from possessing. Sgt. LoCicero described all of these items as being "in plain view." Odom directed Sgt. LoCicero to the rear bedroom and gave him the marijuana she had placed there. Sgt. LoCicero then "presented [the defendant] with a search waiver at 8:23 p.m. -- Mr. Cox, as well as Ms. Odom -- and they signed giving me consent to search the residence." Sgt. LoCicero testified that he did not offer any inducements for them to sign the waiver or coerce them in any way to sign the form; he also informed them of their right to refuse. He believed that both were free of impairments or influences and understood that they had the right to refuse what they were signing.

         Sergeant Brandon Ashford then arrived at the scene, and he and Sgt. LoCicero conducted a search of the defendant's home. They recovered drug paraphernalia, ammunition, parts of weapons, and a number of different types of firearms. They also discovered oxymorphone, a schedule II controlled dangerous substance, in the master bedroom of the home inside an open safe. When asked about the firearms, the defendant accused Boone of planting them in his attic to "get him in trouble." The ammunition recovered in the defendant's workroom, however, was consistent with these firearms.

         At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the defendant testified and indicated that he recalled the events of that day only "somewhat" because he had been "doing some heroin" and was beaten with a stick during his altercation with Boone. He added that he might also have taken methadone that morning. He remembered returning to his home that day and seeing Sgt. LoCicero there, but did not remember inviting Sgt. LoCicero inside. He recalled "signing something[, ]" but was not wearing his glasses and did not know what he signed. He remembered, however, the following from that day: going to the methadone clinic; buying heroin from a dealer on Siegen Highway at a motel "between the Harley Davidson shop and the methadone clinic[;]" getting into an altercation with Boone over the motorcycle and using pepper spray on him; and going for a drive on his motorcycle after the altercation and refilling it with gas at a nearby Cracker Barrel. The defendant claimed he did not remember speaking to Sgt. LoCicero about his stash of Dilaudid in his home or what he told Sgt. LoCicero about the firearms found in his home.

         MOTION ...

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