Argued December 11, 2014.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. (1:13-cr-00048-CMH-1; 1:13-cr-00048-CMH-2; 1:13-cr-00048-CMH-3; 1:13-cr-00048-CMH-4). Claude M. Hilton, Senior District Judge.
Melinda VanLowe, LAW OFFICE OF MELINDA L. VANLOWE, Fairfax, Virginia; Lawrence Hunter Woodward, Jr., SHUTTLEWORTH, RULOFF, SWAIN, HADDAD & MORECOCK, PC, Virginia Beach, Virginia; Alfred Lincoln Robertson, Jr., ROBERTSON LAW OFFICE, PLLC, Alexandria, Virginia; Abram John Pafford, PAFFORD, LAWRENCE & CHILDRESS, PLLC, Lynchburg, Virginia, for Appellants.
Rebeca Hidalgo Bellows, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.
Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Patricia T. Giles, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.
Before AGEE, DIAZ, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges. Judge Floyd wrote the opinion, in which Judge Agee and Judge Diaz joined.
FLOYD, Circuit Judge:
Four masked men committed a string of robberies around Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia, in December 2012. During the third and final robbery, the thieves took $60,411.15 from a credit union. They also unwittingly took three GPS tracking devices embedded in the cash. The GPS devices led police to the four appellants in this case: Keith Reed, Stanley Winston, Anthony Cannon, and Tobias Dyer (collectively, " Appellants" ). Appellants were ultimately convicted at a jury trial for multiple offenses. In this consolidated appeal, Appellants challenge the admission of certain evidence and claim that there is insufficient evidence to convict them for any of the charged crimes. For the reasons stated below, we affirm their convictions.
At trial the government proffered evidence, viewed in the light most favorable
to the government's case, that supports the following narrative. United States v. Hassan, 742 F.3d 104, 139 (4th Cir. 2014).
At approximately 8:04 p.m. on December 7, 2012, three African American men entered the premises of VVM, Inc., a business that sells cell phones and international phone cards in Alexandria, Virginia. When the men entered, a VVM employee was serving a customer. The men--wearing ski masks and brandishing firearms--ordered the employee and customer to the floor and demanded that they not move. After unsuccessfully trying to breach a closed Western Union office that shared the premises with VVM, the men grabbed approximately $800 from the VVM cash register. They then fled in a Jeep driven by a fourth accomplice. Police recovered a Jeep the next morning, approximately a half mile from the VVM store. The Jeep, which had been reported stolen, was damaged from a punched-in ignition, and the last four numbers of its license plate matched those provided by a witness to the VVM robbery.
Camera footage of the robbery, along with witness testimony, revealed that two of the robbers who entered VVM were tall (approximately six feet), while the third was shorter (approximately five feet, six inches). Two of the appellants--Cannon and Dyer--are six feet tall, while Winston is shorter at approximately five feet, six inches. Moreover, all the appellants are African American.
Cell-phone records show that Appellants had called each other numerous times throughout the day of the robbery. There were no calls between them after 6:00 p.m., however, implying that they were together by that point. Phone records also show Appellants had traveled to Alexandria by 6:30 p.m., were near VVM at 8:00 p.m., and had returned to their hometown of Washington, D.C., by 8:13 p.m. (just after the robbery), where they remained for the rest of the night.
Two days later, on December 9 at approximately 6:30 a.m., three masked men brandishing firearms entered a Shoppers Food Warehouse in Alexandria, while a fourth man waited in a Jeep outside. The robbers who entered the store were African American, and again two of them were tall while the third was shorter. One tall robber climbed a wall into a manager's office, while the other two ordered employees and a customer to the ground while the robbers took money from cash registers. The robbers fled the store with $15,695. Later that day, some of the appellants used their phones to take pictures of stacks of cash and themselves celebrating at a club. Police found a stolen Jeep, which was also damaged from a punched-in ignition, a week later in D.C. In the Jeep's trunk, officers recovered cash tills containing receipts from the Alexandria Shoppers Food Warehouse.
Phone records again show that Appellants (primarily Dyer and Reed) made numerous calls to each other during the day of the robbery--this time in the early morning from midnight to 5:21 a.m. These records also show that although Reed, Cannon, and Dyer were all in D.C. before 5:30 a.m., at least Reed and Cannon were in Alexandria and near the Shoppers Food Warehouse by 6:15 a.m.--only 15 minutes before the robbery.
Two weeks later, on December 22 at approximately 9:50 a.m., three masked men entered a Navy Federal Credit Union (" the Credit Union" ) in Arlington, Virginia,
while a fourth waited in a Jeep outside. Once again, two of the robbers were tall, the other short. The short robber demanded money near the Credit Union's main entrance. The tall robbers--one of whom had a semi-automatic handgun with a drum-style magazine--jumped over the teller counter. One robber filled a trash can with money from the teller drawer, while another went to the Credit Union's vault, where he took money and cash bags. The robbers fled with $60,411.15 and--unbeknownst to them--three GPS tracking devices hidden in the cash. A stolen Jeep matching the description of the escape vehicle was found later, again damaged with a punched-in ignition. In addition, ...