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United States of America v. Arthur Sease

October 21, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ARTHUR SEASE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 06-20304-001--Jon Phipps McCalla, Chief District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cole, Circuit Judge.

RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION

Pursuant to Sixth Circuit Rule 206

File Name: 11a0281p.06

Argued: August 31, 2011

Before: COLE, ROGERS, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Defendant-Appellant Arthur Sease, a former Memphis police officer, appeals his convictions stemming from a conspiracy to stage drug buys for the purpose of seizing drugs and money for personal gain. The jury returned guilty verdicts against Sease on forty-four counts, including violations of 18 U.S.C. § 241 (conspiracy to deprive another of their civil rights under the color of law), § 242 (deprivation of civil rights under the color of law), and § 1951 (robbery and extortion under the color of official right interfering with interstate commerce), and the district court sentenced Sease to life plus 255 years in prison. Sease challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions, arguing that he did not violate the rights of the participants in the staged drug buys because there was probable cause to arrest the drug dealers and seize the drugs and money. We AFFIRM the convictions.

I. BACKGROUND

Arthur Sease was a Memphis police officer until he was fired by the department in late 2004. The jury found that Sease was the principal co-conspirator in a plan to acquire money and drugs from drug dealers for his own benefit and the benefit of his co- conspirators. Three other Memphis police officers-Antoine Owens, Andrew Hunt, and Alexander Johnson-as well as other associates and relatives of Sease, were involved in the conspiracy.

Sease's convictions are based on fourteen separate incidents. The incidents follow the same basic plan. Sease would arrange for a drug buy or a drug sell (using drugs taken in a previous incident) using a non-officer contact as the front person. As the deal was occurring, either Sease or one of his fellow co-conspirator officers would arrive at the scene to make a purported arrest and seize the money and drugs involved in the deal. The participants would then be released, and Sease and his conspirators would split the proceeds without reporting the incidents.

The first incident lays out most clearly the conspiracy's general operational plan that was followed in later incidents. In November or December 2003, Sease arranged for his cousin to set up a drug deal with Dejuan "Nard" Brooks. Acting outside of his assigned beat, Sease observed the deal in an unmarked police car while wearing plain clothes. When Brooks's SUV pulled up next to Sease's cousin's vehicle, Sease radioed for Owens to come to the scene in uniform in a patrol car. Owens approached the two vehicles with his weapon drawn and removed both Brooks and Sease's cousin from their vehicles. Operating under Sease's instructions to "make it look real," Owens roughed up Sease's cousin and placed him in the back of the patrol car. Meanwhile, Sease searched Brooks's SUV and found a bag containing a half-kilogram of cocaine, which Sease placed in the front seat of his unmarked vehicle. Owens also seized $11,000 from Brooks, then released him without an arrest. Once Brooks left, Sease's cousin was released from Owens's patrol car, and the drugs were dropped off at a South Memphis house, where they were later used to set up another drug sale. Owens, Sease, and Officer Johnson then split the $11,000 in cash.

On February 16, 2008, a federal grand jury returned a fifty-one-count indictment against Sease. ...


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