Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 349995 Honorable
Erin Leigh Waddell Garrett, Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT BY: CHAD IKERD COUNSEL FOR
EDWARD STEWART, SR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE
STEWART OWEN ERICA N. JEFFERSON CHARLES KENNETH PARR
ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS
WILLIAMS, McCALLUM, and THOMPSON, JJ.
WILLIAMS, C.J., dissents with written reasons.
Ardison appeals his convictions for possession with the
intent to distribute cocaine and for possession of a firearm
or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, and the
concurrent 20-year sentences that he received for his
affirm his convictions, vacate his sentences, and remand for
Belanger Jr. is an agent with the Shreveport Police
Department's street level interdiction unit. John Witham
is a narcotics agent with the Caddo Parish Sheriff's
Office ("CPSO"). On June 8, 2017, Belanger and
Witham were on patrol in the 1600 block of Oakdale Street in
Shreveport when they came upon a "trap house"
located at 1653 Oakdale. A trap house is a house where drug
dealers, who do not live at that particular home, gather to
ply their trade.
pulled up to the trap house, the agents saw one male,
defendant Roosevelt Ardison, standing in the driveway with a
small female child with him. Two older males were sitting in
chairs in the driveway. Ardison, who began walking toward the
street when the agents approached the men, complied when
Belanger asked him to step back into the driveway. Meanwhile,
Witham dealt with the other two men.
noting that Ardison was looking around and fearing that he
may be armed because of the number of drug and weapon arrests
that had been made at that location, decided to pat down
Ardison for weapons. When Belanger touched Ardison's back
and told him what he was doing, Ardison tried to pull away
forcefully and violently. Belanger pinned Ardison's arms
against his body. During the struggle, a 9mm handgun in
Ardison's waistband was exposed. Agent Witham
successfully retrieved the weapon, which contained eight
rounds in its magazine.
Belanger took Ardison to the ground, Ardison threw a black
object which turned out to be a sock containing a gram of
cocaine packaged in 11 individual bags. While being
interviewed by Belanger, Ardison admitted that the handgun
was his, but claimed that he was only holding the cocaine for
was charged by bill of information with: (1) violating La.
R.S. 14:95.1 by possessing a firearm or carrying a concealed
weapon as a person convicted of certain felonies; and (2)
violating La. R.S. 40:967(A)(1) by possessing a Schedule II
CDS with the intent to distribute.
filed a motion to suppress the gun and drugs on the ground
that the officers lacked justification to physically stop him
from walking away by grabbing him. His motion to suppress was
trial was held in this matter on March 5-6, 2018. Tim Mills,
a probation and parole specialist with Louisiana State
Probation and Parole, testified that he supervised Ardison in
connection with a November 28, 2000, guilty plea to
distribution of a Schedule I CDS. Ardison was sentenced to 15
years' imprisonment at hard labor for that conviction.
Ardison, who had a full-term parole date of December 23,
2017, was still under Mills' supervision at the time of
his arrest for the instant offenses.
was convicted by the jury as charged. The jury was unanimous
on the weapon charge, but not on the drug charge.
8, 2018, Ardison filed a motion for a post-verdict judgment
of acquittal and a motion for a new trial. Ardison appeared
for sentencing on September 12, 2018. The court denied the
pending motions before sentencing Ardison to 20 years of
imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole,
probation, or suspension of sentence on the firearm
conviction. On the conviction of possession with the intent
to distribute a Schedule II CDS, Ardison was sentenced to 20
years of imprisonment at hard labor, with two years to be
served without the benefit of parole, probation, or
suspension of sentence. The two sentences were to be served
concurrently. Ardison was given credit for time served.
September 27, 2018, Ardison filed a motion to reconsider
sentence in which he contended that his sentences were
constitutionally excessive and that the trial court failed to
adequately consider his age. The trial court denied the
motion on October 2, 2018.
has appealed, arguing that: (1) the trial court erred by
denying his motion to suppress; (2) the trial court failed to
adequately build a record with reasons justifying his
concurrent sentences of 20 years; (3) his sentences are
constitutionally excessive; and (4) his rights to due process
and a fair trial were violated by Louisiana allowing a
non-unanimous jury conviction.
motion to suppress the drugs and weapon, Ardison argued that
the evidence should be suppressed because the agents lacked a
reason or cause to stop him.
Belanger testified at the hearing on the motion to suppress
that he and Agent Witham were on routine patrol when they
stopped at a home in the 1600 block of Oakdale that was
well-known as a trap house. Belanger described a trap house
as a home where nobody in particular lives, but where drug
dealers set up shop. Belanger asserted that he had been at
that residence many times for narcotics activity, and he
considered it to be in a high crime area.
was standing in the driveway while holding the hand of a very
young girl. Two older males were sitting in lawn chairs.
Belanger noted that when they typically approached people
outside that residence, someone would throw away drugs or
weapons while running from the location.
Belanger and Witham exited their vehicle and approached the
three men, two of the men remained seated, but Ardison began
walking out to the street. Belanger "cut off"
Ardison's route and asked him to come back to the
driveway, which Ardison did. Belanger noted that Ardison
positioned the child between them and was acting in an
evasive and suspicious manner. Based on Ardison's
behavior and the nature of the location, Belanger began to
suspect that Ardison may be armed. By the nature of the
location, Belanger meant that it was a high crime and high
drug area, and usually someone was armed whenever officers
had gone to that particular residence. Belanger put his arm
to Ardison's back, told him to relax, and stated he was
going to pat him down. It was at that point that Ardison
began resisting. The weapon in Ardison's waistband was
revealed as the pair struggled.
if he had blocked Ardison's way, Belanger explained that
he walked around the back of Ardison and asked him to
"come back over here." Ardison, who complied by
changing direction toward the house, returned to nearly the
same spot in the driveway where he had been originally
noted that Ardison continued to act in an evasive manner as
he stepped left and right while standing in the driveway, and
that Ardison was looking around as if he was searching for an
escape route. Ardison kept placing the little girl between
them, and Belanger could not engage him in conversation.
Accordingly, based on his knowledge, training, and
experience, Belanger became suspicious that Ardison was
involved in criminal activity. Belanger testified that he
knew at that point that they needed to pat Ardison down,