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United States of America v. Shaquan Baptiste

August 25, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHAQUAN BAPTISTE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable J. Garvan Murtha United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

(Doc. 41)

Defendant Shaquan Baptiste has moved to suppress evidence of Oxycontin pills surrendered to law enforcement officers and statements she made while detained in connection with the warranted searches of a Chevrolet Suburban and fellow passenger. Ms. Baptiste is charged under 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(C) with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance. (Doc. 20.) Having considered Baptiste's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 41), the government's Response in Opposition (Doc. 45), the testimony of Officers Michael Morris, Mike Leonard, and D.E.A. Special Agent Thomas Doud at the suppression hearing on July 11, 2011, as well as post-hearing briefing (Docs. 79, 80), Ms. Baptiste's Motion to Suppress is denied for the reasons stated below.

I. Background

The following facts were adduced at the suppression hearing and are summarized in the parties' memoranda. Any factual disputes are resolved to the extent necessary. Fed. R. Cr. P. 12(d).

On June 15, 2010, Burlington Detective Michael Morris obtained Vermont state court search warrants authorizing searches of Ronald Lyons and the contents of a Chevy Suburban registered to Kimberly Baker. Mr. Lyons and Ms. Baker were suspected of transporting Oxycontin from New York to Burlington, and returning to New York with drug proceeds. These warrants were not immediately executed.

On June 24, 2010, in connection with the same investigation, Detective Morris and other officers executed a warrant to search a South Burlington apartment. Its occupant, Marissa Brassard, told them her Oxycontin suppliers in New York City were returning to Vermont later that day with a new supply. Officers recorded a telephone call to one of her suppliers, Terrell Jordan, who said someone named "Mello," would be arriving at the apartment that evening with a shipment. Officers suspected either Baker's Suburban or Baptiste's Lexus*fn1 may be transporting the supply.

Officers observed Baker's Suburban driving northbound on Interstate 89 at approximately 7:10 p.m. A Burlington police officer stopped it in South Burlington at 7:35 p.m., approximately 300 yards from Marissa's apartment. When back-up units arrived, officers, with weapons displayed, ordered the Suburban's four occupants, Kim Baker, Thierry Mathelier, Ronald Lyons, and Shaquan Baptiste, out of the vehicle. They were separated and placed in handcuffs. Officers moved the Suburban to a nearby Lowe's store parking lot, approximately 100 yards from the scene of the stop.

Officer Michael Henry testified that he stood with Ms. Baptiste in front of his unmarked car after she was cuffed. He told her she was in investigative detention and that a lead investigator would come talk to her. She gave her name and date of birth, and stated she had come to Vermont to discuss boyfriend problems with her boyfriend's cousin. Ms. Baptiste told Henry she was a reputable car dealer and was not involved in drug activity. Ms. Baptiste also stated she was pregnant and needed to urinate.

Officer Henry stayed with Ms. Baptiste, while other officers searched Lyons, detained Baker and Mathelier, and searched the Suburban. Lyons, who was questioned in a Burlington police vehicle, denied all involvement in drug activity. Mathelier, however, admitted he knew Terrell Jordan dealt in Oxycontin and that he had been asked by Jordan to travel to Vermont to stay with "Marissa," while Marissa sold pills. Mathelier told officers Shaquan Baptiste was romantically involved with Jordan.

Officer Henry testified he removed Ms. Baptiste's handcuffs approximately fifteen to twenty minutes after the Suburban was stopped. It is not clear how much time elapsed before Agent Doud approached them, but Doud testified he had a conversation with Baptiste after she was uncuffed that lasted approximately ten to fifteen minutes, in which she repeated much of what she had told Officer Henry. Officer Henry estimated he was with Ms. Baptiste for approximately forty-five minutes in all.

Doud testified he told Ms. Baptiste officers believed there was contraband either in the Suburban, or on or in some of its occupants, and that suspicion was cast on her. Baptiste denied possessing drugs and, Doud testified, "welcomed" an opportunity to be searched. Doud told her they would arrange for a female officer to do that, and if no drugs were found, they would apply for a warrant for a body cavity search. Ms. Baptiste responded there was no need for a warrant, that she would consent so long as the search was performed by a medical professional at a hospital. Baptiste repeated what she had told Officer Henry regarding discussing boyfriend problems with her boyfriend's cousin, stated Terrell was her boyfriend, that she suspected he was involved in drugs, but she made it a point not to mind his business. Doud testified Ms. Baptiste told him she needed to urinate and wanted to do so as soon as possible. Doud told her there was no female officer on the scene, that he needed a female officer to ...


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