from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
KING, SMITH, and WILLETT, Circuit Judges.
WILLETT, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
convicted Lazandy Daniels of distributing crack cocaine,
aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute
crack cocaine, and conspiring to distribute powder and crack
cocaine. Daniels asserts three errors: (1) the district court
wrongly denied his motion to suppress evidence; (2) the
district court wrongly denied him the opportunity to
cross-examine an adverse witness in violation of the Sixth
Amendment; and (3) the trial evidence was insufficient to
convict him. We reject Daniels's arguments and AFFIRM his
story starts with Craig James, a cocaine dealer who made his
living transporting drugs and money between Houston and New
Orleans. The defendant, Daniels, met James through his
brother, Lindsey Daniels. Lindsey was a middle man,
purchasing cocaine from James and then turning around and
reselling it. As part of their partnership, Lindsey let James
use his New Orleans salvage yard for transporting drugs.
James would buy cars at auction in one city, store cocaine in
them, and transport the cars to the other city. He also used
this strategy to move money.
eventually caught up with Lindsey. But James continued to use
the salvage yard. Daniels started working more closely with
James, helping him unload the cocaine from the cars and pack
them with money before they returned to Houston. Sometimes
Daniels was around when James distributed the drugs, and he
would help James package the concomitant cash in cellophane.
Daniels even dabbled in the drug game himself: James
testified (and others confirmed) that he occasionally gave
Daniels small amounts of cocaine to sell.
helping James move cocaine, Daniels acted as James's
chauffeur. When James was in New Orleans, Daniels would
"[t]ake [James] to go get food, pick [him] up from the
airport, take [him] to [his] hotel room, things like
that." James said he asked Daniels to carry out these
tasks because Daniels "was a friend . . . . It
wasn't just all business. He was a friend. I trusted
4, 2015 State Arrest
2015, Daniels was arrested for selling crack cocaine outside
his house. While conducting surveillance as part of a
street-level narcotics investigation, New Orleans police
Sergeant Joseph Davis noticed a woman in a white SUV stop her
car, step out, and approach Daniels, who was standing on the
street. She handed something to Daniels, who went into his
house. Daniels came back out and handed her another object;
then she got back into her car.
Davis followed the SUV and radioed his fellow officers to
pull it over. While attempting to do so, Officer Jeraire
Bridges saw the woman drop a small item from her window. Once
the woman had pulled over, Bridges retrieved the dropped
item. It appeared (and was later confirmed) to be a plastic
bag of crack cocaine. The officers arrested the woman.
that day, New Orleans police officers arrested Daniels. The
officers found him sitting in a pickup truck outside his
house. The officers searched the truck and the house, finding
$2, 325 in cash in the vehicle, a video recording system
monitoring the residence, and what turned out to be cocaine
residue in a mug in the house. Daniels was charged in Orleans
Parish Criminal District Court with possession with the
intent to distribute cocaine.
2, 2015 Drug Enforcement Agency Arrest
December incidents were initially unrelated to Daniels's
May arrest-they arose out of the DEA's separate
surveillance spearheaded by Agents Justin Moran and
Christopher Johnson. Thanks to a confidential tip, the DEA
learned that James was coming to New Orleans in early
December to collect some money. Upon his arrival, James took
a taxi to the Super 8 Motel on Chef Menteur Highway and
rented a room.
testified that on December 1, 2015, a friend paid him an
evening visit, bringing James a duffle bag filled with
various drug paraphernalia, including a scale and cowboy
boots stuffed with a cutting agent. Daniels came by that
evening and the next morning to "check on" James.
Around noon, Daniels left to go to his brother's salvage
yard. He returned around 12:34 p.m. Before entering the
motel, he retrieved from his trunk a long, thin item that he
kept under his jacket. The concealed item was a roll of
cellophane for wrapping cash, but the surveilling DEA agents
thought it might be a weapon.
2:00 p.m., James's brother-in-law, Joppa Jackson (whom
the DEA agents recognized from previous narcotics
investigations), came to the motel in his pickup truck. James
left Daniels in the motel room and got into the pickup, which
never left the parking lot. After a bit, James got out of the
truck with a bag of money, repayment for cocaine James had
minutes later, Daniels and James left the motel to dine at a
restaurant for a couple hours. The pair returned to the motel
room in the late afternoon. At around 6:40 p.m., Leon
Jackson, James's other brother-in-law, arrived. When Leon
exited the motel, DEA Agent Demond Lockhart approached him to
perform an investigatory stop. Agent Lockhart searched
Leon's bag and vehicle and hit the jackpot: several
thousand dollars. The Knock-and-Talk
interviewing Leon Jackson, the DEA agents decided to do a
"knock-and-talk," (when officers knock on a door,
contact the resident, and ask to search the residence). As he
approached the room, DEA Agent Michael Greaves could smell
marijuana. Agent Greaves knocked on the door, and James asked
who was there. Greaves initially pretended that he had hit
James's car. James did not open the door. Greaves then
announced that he was with the police and asked James to open
the door so they could talk.
knocking for two minutes, Greaves heard Moran, who was
standing to his left by the motel-room's window, say that
he could hear the toilet flushing. Greaves, inferring that
James was destroying evidence, decided to kick down the door.
DEA Agent Kevin Treigle searched the bathroom, finding
Daniels seated on the toilet, fully clothed, with the seat
room, the officers found a long roll of cellophane, a plastic
bag filled with cutting agent, a black duffle bag with lots
of cash, much of which was wrapped in cellophane, a digital
scale, and crack cocaine. They seized approximately $286, 000
and approximately six ounces of crack cocaine.
was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 5
kilograms or more of powder cocaine and 28 grams or more of
crack cocaine; one count of distributing crack cocaine on May
4, 2015; and one count of possessing with intent to
distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine on December 2,
moved to suppress the motel-search evidence, arguing that no
exigency supported the warrantless search. The district court
conducted a suppression hearing. Several DEA agents testified
regarding the knock-and-talk and resulting search.
Pertinently, DEA Agent Francisco Del Valle testified that he
had heard the toilet flush while Agent Greaves was knocking
on the motel-room door. Daniels had the opportunity to
cross-examine each of the Government's witnesses.
also attempted to subpoena Agent Moran to have him testify at
the hearing. At the time, Moran was under investigation for
misconduct, and he asserted his Fifth Amendment rights.
Although the court did not require Moran to testify, it
allowed Daniels's counsel to explain what he wanted to
district court denied Daniels's motion to suppress,
holding that he didn't have standing to challenge the
motel-room search because there was no evidence indicating he
intended to stay overnight. And even if Daniels had standing,
the Fourth Amendment's exigency exception permitted the
search. The flushing sounds gave the officers "probable
cause to believe that there was evidence of criminal activity
in the room, and that the evidence was being destroyed."
preparation for trial, the Government filed a motion in
limine to preclude Daniels from attacking the credibility of
its witnesses based on Agent Moran's alleged misconduct.
The Government asked the court to prohibit Daniels from
"[i]nflaming the [j]ury" by referencing the
investigation during trial, arguing that it was irrelevant.
The district court granted the motion, finding Moran's
alleged misconduct "unrelated to the matter at
case went before a jury. The Government called twelve
witnesses, among them Agents Greaves and Treigle (the New
Orleans police officers involved in the May 4 arrest) and
Daniels's alleged co-conspirators, Joppa Jackson and
James. At the close of the Government's case in chief,
Daniels moved for judgment of acquittal, which the court
denied. Daniels submitted several exhibits to the jury, but
he did not testify in his own defense or call any witnesses
to testify. The jury found Daniels guilty of all three
counts. The court sentenced Daniels to 240 months'
imprisonment as to all three counts, to be served
concurrently, and ten years of supervised release. Daniels
district court had jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231.
And we have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
Daniels challenges the district court's denial of his
motion to suppress the evidence from the motel-room search.
"When a district court denies a motion to suppress
evidence, we review the factual findings for clear error and
legal conclusions . . . de novo." And we may affirm
the decision below "on any basis established by the
record." The burden is on Daniels to prove,
"by a preponderance of the evidence, that the evidence
in question was obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment
exclusionary rule allows a defendant to suppress the
evidentiary fruits of a violation of his Fourth Amendment
rights" to be free of unreasonable searches and
seizures. Although "searches and seizures
inside a home without a warrant are presumptively
unreasonable, " an officer may search a person's
property if "'the exigencies of the situation'
make the needs of law enforcement so compelling that [a]
warrantless search is objectively
reasonable." A valid exigency exists when an officer
believes that evidence is being destroyed- although an
officer "may not rely on the need to prevent destruction
of evidence when that exigency was 'created' or
'manufactured' by the conduct of the
police." In other words, an officer may not
"engag[e] or threaten to engage in conduct that
violates the Fourth Amendment" in order to create an
exigency justifying warrantless entry.
without deciding the issue of standing, we will first address
whether there was an exigency justifying the
search. To do ...