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United States v. Hellems

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 4, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Roman D. Hellems, also known as Jest Roman Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: April 7, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge, and FENNER, [1] District Judge.

          SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

         Roman D. Hellems was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and sentenced to 120 months imprisonment. He now challenges three of the district court's evidentiary rulings at trial. Hellems also claims that the court violated his constitutional and procedural right to be present at trial. We affirm the district court[2] on all grounds and deny Hellems's appeal.

         I. Background

         The facts of this case begin with a physical altercation between three men. On the day of the altercation, Hellems called his adult son, DeAndre Brown, and asked to meet him at a park. DeAndre asked Rondale Brown, his brother, to accompany him. DeAndre and Rondale arrived first, followed by Hellems. Hellems then punched both men without provocation and a fight soon broke out.

         DeAndre later testified that Hellems had three guns on his person during the fight, but no shots were fired. An eye witness, Shirley Bolden, called for police as the fight continued. She later testified to seeing Hellems with three guns.

         Officer Matt Harkin responded to the call for police. Upon his arrival, Officer Harkin saw the three men near a Ford Explorer. On the ground near the Explorer was a Taurus .40 caliber pistol and a nine-millimeter magazine. Officer Harkin ordered the men to the ground, and DeAndre and Rondale both complied. Hellems jumped into the Explorer and fled the park.

         Officers Adam Lemek and Sidik Becirovic, driving in separate squad cars, chased Hellems through a residential area. During the chase, Officer Becirovic observed Hellems tossing a black object out of his window. As he drove by that object seconds later, he saw it was a black handgun. The chase continued for several minutes until Hellems stopped, jumped out of the Explorer, and ran into his house. A short while later, police arrested Hellems. Officer Becirovic returned to where he had seen the black handgun and recovered a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver.

         The next day, Officer Lemek received a report of a firearm located along the route of the previous day's chase. Along the street, near the sidewalk, he located a Hi-Point nine-millimeter pistol without its magazine.

         Later, Hellems was charged with felony possession of two firearms (the Taurus .40 caliber pistol and the .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Hellems invoked his constitutional right to represent himself. The court appointed standby counsel under the Criminal Justice Act.

         During a pretrial conference, the court asked Hellems if he would like to stipulate to element one of the charge-that he had a prior felony conviction-so that the jury would not hear the nature of his prior convictions. Hellems declined, stating that he "would like to invoke all [his] rights on the record [and] remain silent at this point in time."

         On the morning of the first day of trial, prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom and seated in the gallery. The district court began to explain the jury selection process when Hellems objected. Hellems proceeded to repeatedly interrupt the court, even after multiple instructions to remain quiet. The court advised Hellems that he would have an opportunity to speak later, and that courtroom procedures required him to remain silent for the time being. Hellems ignored the court and continued to loudly interrupt. The court warned Hellems that if he continued to speak he would be excluded from the courtroom. Hellems replied, "That's fine, " and continued to speak. The court removed the prospective jurors from the courtroom and offered Hellems one final opportunity to comply with its instructions. Hellems refused and continued his verbal outbursts. Finally, the court ...


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