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United States v. Chaplain

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 21, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Emmanuel Chaplain Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: May 12, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Omaha

          Before RILEY, BEAM, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          BEAM, Circuit Judge.

         Emmanuel Chaplain was convicted of seven counts of interfering with commerce by means of robbery (Hobbs Act robbery) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951, three counts of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and (C), and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and 924(a)(2), and sentenced to 852 months' imprisonment. He appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and the district court's[1] jury instruction for Hobbs Act robbery. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Chaplain and Shane Seizys were involved in a spree of robberies in Omaha from June 19, 2014, until July 16, 2014, when they were arrested. During six of the eight violent robberies, both Chaplain and Seizys were wearing electric-monitoring ankle bracelets that tracked their location within 15 meters of each robbery location. Fifteen meters is the range of accuracy for the GPS unit. On June 19, 2014, Thomas Jones-Ross drove Chaplain and Seizys to a Jiffy Lube and parked several blocks away. Chaplain and Seizys entered the business with handguns and wore bandanas covering their faces. One man put a gun to the manager's face and ordered him to open the cash register while the other had a gun pointed at a customer. The manager gave them $850. They demanded that he open the safe, which was empty. The customer in the business at the time of the robbery described the robbers as two African-American males. The ankle bracelets assigned to Chaplain and Seizys placed them within 15 meters of the Jiffy Lube at the time of the robbery. Jiffy Lube, a nationwide franchise that receives its products from Pennsylvania, had to close for 90 minutes due to the police investigation.

         Jones-Ross then drove Chaplain and Seizys to Jensen Tire & Auto. They arrived a little before 6 p.m., after the store had closed and the cash had been deposited into a safe. Chaplain and Seizys entered the business with bandanas over their faces, put a gun to an employee's face, and asked about the safe. When the employee stated that he did not know where the safe was, Chaplain and Seizys confronted the manager. The manager opened the cash registers, but they were empty. They took the manager to his office and told him that they would shoot him if he did not give them the money from the safe. The manager was unable to open the safe. Both Chaplain's and Seizys's ankle bracelets placed them within 15 meters of the Jensen Tire & Auto at the time of the attempted robbery. Jones-Ross next drove Chaplain and Seizys to another Jiffy Lube. They entered the business with their faces covered, one by a bandana and the other by an "Airsoft" mask, and brandished a gun. They put the gun to the back of an employee's head and ordered the employee to open the cash register. They took $220 from the register. The safe was empty. The business was closed for the rest of the day, and the customers at the business at the time of the robbery were not charged for the services they received. Chaplain's and Seizys's ankle bracelets placed them within 15 meters of the Jiffy Lube at the time of the robbery.

         On June 23, 2014, Jones-Ross again acted as the getaway driver, driving his mother's vehicle, for Chaplain and Seizys to commit three more robberies. Like the previous three robberies, Chaplain and Seizys had guns and used bandanas and masks to cover their faces. At 6 p.m. Chaplain and Seizys entered a Subway restaurant where twelve customers were dining, brandished their guns, and ordered everyone to get on the ground. One of them demanded that an employee open the cash register and safe while the other kept his gun pointed at another employee. They grabbed between $400 and $500 at this location. The restaurant was closed for the remainder of the evening, losing six operating hours. The robbery was captured on surveillance video, and both Chaplain's and Seizys's ankle bracelets placed them within 15 meters of the Subway restaurant at the time of the robbery.

         Jones-Ross then drove Chaplain and Seizys to an O'Reilly Auto Parts store. As Chaplain and Seizys entered the store with their guns drawn, a customer was exiting the store. A customer inside the store stated that one robber wore a blue "NAVY" hoodie and a blue bandana. Chaplain and Seizys took between $100 and $150 from the cash register. Because the safe was on a time release, it could not be opened. Inventory for O'Reilly Auto Parts comes from distribution centers in Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota. It receives daily shipments from Iowa. The store was closed for a short period of time during the police investigation but reopened that evening for an hour. Again, ankle bracelets assigned to Chaplain and Seizys placed them within 15 meters of the store at the time of the robbery.

         From O'Reilly Auto Parts, Jones-Ross drove Chaplain and Seizys to a Kum & Go gas and convenience store. Chaplain and Seizys entered the store with guns drawn and their faces concealed with bandanas. One robber forced the clerk to open the cash registers while the other stood by the front door. They took $800 from the registers and demanded that the employees open the safe, but neither employee had the combination. The convenience store was closed for nearly two hours during the police investigation. A customer who was purchasing gas at the time of the robbery saw two men with bandanas over their faces enter the Kum & Go with guns. The customer left the store and noticed Jones-Ross's vehicle parked nearby. He reported the vehicle's license plate number to the police. Jones-Ross's vehicle stalled shortly after Chaplain and Seizys returned from the Kum & Go. All three men fled from the vehicle. The ankle bracelets placed Chaplain and Seizys within 15 meters of the Kum & Go at the time of the robbery and within 15 meters of the abandoned vehicle.

         Omaha police were called to the scene of the abandoned vehicle. It had a fictitious license plate taped over the front license plate. The fictitious plate was the same as the license place number called in after the Kum & Go robbery. Police found $31, coins, duct tape, a black bandana, black cloth gloves, a blue sweatshirt, a black face mask, and a box of latex or vinyl gloves. DNA was extracted from the black bandana and analyzed at the Nebraska State Patrol crime laboratory. Chaplain was the main contributor of DNA to the bandana. The blue sweatshirt in the car had the word "NAVY" on it, which matched the description given by the customer at O'Reilly Auto Parts and matched the sweatshirt seen in the Subway and Kum & Go robberies. Jones-Ross's girlfriend identified the sweatshirt as belonging to Seizys.

         On July 8, 2014, the Nebraska State Department of Corrections received notice that Chaplain had removed his ankle bracelet. He was placed on abscond status, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. On July 16, 2014, three men entered GameStop carrying a yellow and black bag and wearing hoodies with the hoods pulled over their heads, bandanas covering their faces, and gloves. The men ordered the clerk to open the registers and safe. She opened the registers, but the safe was on a ten-minute delay. The men held a customer at gunpoint and told him to empty his pockets. The men escaped with approximately $1, 400 to $1, 500, and as they were leaving the store, the last robber took Xbox One game cases from the display wall. The store surveillance camera captured the robbery. The store was closed for the remainder of the evening, losing three hours of business.

         Less than 30 minutes later, two men wearing bandanas entered a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant and demanded money. Employees emptied the registers. The two men took the money, ran between two houses, and met at a white Ford Mustang parked on the street. A witness saw three men at the trunk of a white Mustang changing clothes. KFC lost three hours of business as a result of the robbery. Inventory for the restaurant is shipped from Kansas City to Omaha twice a week. Officers arrived at the KFC shortly thereafter and searched the area. Police found three black males matching the description of the suspects walking together. Chaplain ran as the police car approached. Dilang Dat and Seizys were taken into custody. Dat had over $200 and the key to the white Mustang in his pocket. Seizys had approximately $240 in his pocket. Chaplain was later apprehended. Officers took Chaplain, Seizys, and Dat to a KFC parking lot. The GameStop clerk identified Chaplain by his voice and skin tone. A KFC customer also identified Chaplain by his voice. Police inventoried the white Mustang and found the following: a fictitious rear license plate, multiple Xbox One game display ...


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