Argued May 15, 2014.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, at Roanoke. (7:12-cr-00043-GEC-1). Glen E. Conrad, Chief District Judge.
Kari Elizabeth Jackson,
Dennis Jones, DENNIS E. JONES & ASSOCIATES, Abingdon, Virginia, for Appellant.
Jean Barrett Hudson, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellee.
Timothy J. Heaphy, United States Attorney, Roanoke, Virginia, Anne H. Lippitt, Third Year Law Student, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellee.
Before WILKINSON and THACKER, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge.
WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:
David Anthony Taylor appeals his convictions for two counts of Hobbs Act robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) and one count of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Taylor contends both that the government failed to introduce sufficient evidence to establish that his robberies affected interstate commerce and that the district court erred in prohibiting him from showing that the particular drugs he was seeking to steal did not affect interstate commerce. Pursuant to Supreme Court precedent supporting the broad ability of Congress to punish the disruption of interstate commerce and our own conforming decisions in United States v. Tillery, 702 F.3d 170 (4th Cir. 2012), and United States v. Williams, 342 F.3d 350 (4th Cir. 2003), we affirm his convictions.
Taylor was a member of the " Southwest Goonz," a group of robbers led by George Fitzgerald and based in Roanoke, Virginia. The Goonz focused on robbing drug dealers because they typically have drug proceeds in their homes and, because of the illegal nature of their activities, they are reluctant to report crime to the authorities. Taylor persuaded Fitzgerald to take him on several planned home invasions in order to steal drugs and drug proceeds, such as money and jewelry.
One of these break-ins was planned for the residence of Josh Whorley, where his girlfriend Latasha Graham and her two children also lived. Fitzgerald chose Whorley's home because he had learned that Whorley sold an exotic and high grade of marijuana, a belief that he communicated to Taylor and two other group members. The robbers expected to find both drugs and money there.
Their expectations were not unreasonable, because Whorley had both used and sold drugs in the past. Graham herself was a regular marijuana user. Additionally, Whorley's house had been broken into twice prior to the August 27, 2009 robbery, and a housemate had been held at gunpoint in the driveway.
Taylor and his associates robbed Whorley's house on the night of August 27. The four robbers kicked in the front door and held guns to Whorley and Graham while searching the house. During the robbery, Taylor hit Graham in the head with his pistol, groped her, and clawed the rings off her fingers. Whorley was also repeatedly struck by one of the robbers. The robbers demanded that Graham tell them where the money and marijuana were located. All ...